The team at Inti Creates were the minds behind some of the greatest Mega Man games ever released, including Mega Man 9 and 10 and the Mega Man Zero games. Inti Creates has, of course, kept themselves busy since Mega Man with the Gunvolt franchise and Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. With these titles, they repeated their massive triumphs on Nintendo handhelds on the Nintendo Switch. This now culminates in the success of Dragon Marked for Death. Inti Creates blends excellent music, visuals, and gameplay into a cooperative action game that ends up being one of the most difficult yet rewarding games to come to the Nintendo Switch.
From zero to hero
In Dragon Marked for Death, you play as one of four humans that are of the Dragonblood Clan. You’ll be faced to do a myriad of quests to build up your respect in the village. You eventually stand up against the Divine Family, an aristocratic cult that exiled you due to dragon blood flowing through your veins. This dark fantasy setting and story setup is realized with incredible pixel art and animation that suits it wholeheartedly.
The game feels like the lost spiritual successor to the Mega Man Zero games. There’s quite the distinction though. Inti Creates takes the formula of co-op fantasy action titles such as the classic Guardian Heroes and Dragon’s Crown and utilizes the team’s impeccable skills to make the sidescrolling action enjoyable.
Again reminiscent of the Zero games, the quests consist of convoy missions, rescue missions, or open-ended levels that culminate in a boss battle. They are likewise challenging due to their time limit and the relentless skill required in taking down enemies. The first level took me about four tries until I finished it. Fights require you to manage health throughout an overwhelming gauntlet of enemies leading up to a boss, and they also require you to quickly complete the level to a point that you must learn every intricacy of their design. Ultimately, however, having to internalize attack patterns makes for satisfying gameplay.
If you’re finding fights difficult, you may find the game easier with a helping hand, as I eventually began to finish levels without any deaths with even just a second player. The quests in Dragon Marked for Death are aided by coherent level design and are replayable for a couple reasons. One, difficulty adjustments can be made to match quests with your party’s current level. Two, the various characters play vastly differently. Overall, the depth of combat keeps the game from feeling repetitive.
An unconventional pricing scheme
Before you jump into Dragon Marked for Death, know that while the game features four characters, the model of purchase might be slightly confusing. The game comes in two separate $14.99 packs that both feature the full game but only provide two of the four playable character types. The Frontline Fighters Pack contains the Empress and the Warrior. The Empress is the most balanced character, wielding a sword in her left hand and having a right hand that is a transmogrified dragon that breathes fireballs and can also be used mid-combo as a heavy sword. The Warrior is a much tankier character, meant to take damage while also building up slow and powerful attacks; he’s useful for supporting friends with his area-of-effect healing abilities.
The other pack, Advanced Attackers Pack, includes the Shinobi and the Witch. The Shinobi’s traversal mechanics and combos are incredibly powerful despite his being a glass cannon. The Witch requires the player to memorize long strings of button presses in order to cast spells to either attack or heal, making her the most difficult to learn; she might be best utilized with a full multiplayer party, at least until the player grasps the magic mechanics. Keep in mind, this only affects the digital versions of the game. As the physical copies include both packs and remaining DLC options.
An overall polished experience
It’s important to note that while Dragon Marked for Death has a variety of different multiplayer options, none support cooperative play on a single system. There’s the ability to play over the internet or a local connection with separate systems for each player, but no option for split-screen. This may be a deal-breaker for some looking for a primarily couch multiplayer experience, but due to the low cost of entry for players, it shouldn’t be a deterrent.
Apart from the game’s price structuring, there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had with Dragon Marked from Death. The opportunity for these industry veterans to be at the top of their abilities and create a magnum opus is a blessing to the creators and those that end up playing this game. This team has been breathing new life into many franchises with great attention to detail, and it’s about time that they’re able to make their first step into their own truly fresh and original franchise. As such, Dragon Marked for Death is one of the most rewarding sidescrolling games I have played ever, and it’s easily recommended due to its immense polish.
A review code was provided by the publisher.