Mark of the Ninja Remastered title screen

Ninja has to be one of the most overused words these days. Oh, he’s a coding ninja, she’s a fitness ninja, I’m a gaming ninja, they’re a Fruit Ninja. Sorry to break it to you: none of you are ninjas. Even Hattori Hanzo. He’s just an overused Robin Hood type character that has muddled up fact and fiction. Now Hattori-kun… he’s something special.

The real ninjas you don’t know about. That’s kind of the point of a ninja. Unless you’re the white ninja from Enter the Ninja – in that case, you have to let everyone know you’re coming. You’re special, you’re worth it, you’re a plumb. So if we don’t know about ninjas, why do we know of ninjas? Thankfully some gurus (another misused word) have recreated that with their – based on a true story – Mark of the Ninja Remastered.

Hiding in the shadows

Is Mark of the Ninja Remastered any good? Hell yeah, it is. It’s brilliant. While I can put it down, I’d happily play-through this if I have a few hours spare. The controls are great, the difficulty quite naturally progresses at the right pace, it looks good and best of all – I‘m a ninja. In the game that is.

Guns don’t kill people, ninjas do. However, that wasn’t their primary goal as they were masters of stealth, espionage and good at watercolours. Focusing on their stealth abilities, Mark of the Ninja Remastered means that you need to hide in the shadows and, ideally, get through each stage without being seen. And boy is that hard.

Triggered an alarm and everyone know alert

Sleight of hand – boom: a shuriken

You navigate your ninja through the darkness, avoiding the sight of the guards and their guard dogs. An ickle bit like Serial Cleaner, methinks. There aren’t any alarms you’ll trigger off going through the lit-up areas but it will make you visible and in reality, you don’t want to be seen. That is if you’re a real ninja.

The ninja has an arsenal of trickery up their sleeves that can cause a distraction. From throwing a ninja star at a light or unleashing a monkey playing the tambourine (that doesn’t exist), you can distract your would-be-killers and then sneak under, over or around them. Alternatively, if you’re a knucklehead, you could go through them. But expect a fight and your ninja isn’t exactly a tank.

Up close and personal - the ninja attacks

The mark of a ninja – a mystic tattoo

The plot is simples: you’re a ninja and you implement stealth to overthrow the baddies. You don’t have a name because if it was disclosed and people found out that you play as an insurance broker named Colin, 1) it doesn’t sound as dynamic (sorry, Colin) and 2) if you did actually know Colin’s name, he would kill you.

He’s pretty easy to spot though as he is covered in a mystic tattoo – the mark of the ninja – that gives him power, slightly paranoid, good with numbers and also make him stand out like a horse in a wetsuit. That’s why he wears a black suit to cover up. And to hide his weapons that I kill people with. Insurance is a risky business.

The gameplay is also simple. And that’s a good thing. Like another well-known stealth game, Hitman, there are multiple ways to approach the level. Mark of the Ninja Remastered is a 2D game so not the same open-world like the aforementioned Hitman, but it does give you free rein to some degree on how to approach the level.

A bit tart

A gentle nudge on how to be an assassin

As above, you can sneak around causing distractions or you can attempt to go balls out and attack the enemy head-on. Not recommended and again, if you’re a ninja, you need to be a bit more subtle. Levels can are horizontal or vertical scrolling as you attempt to scale the enemy complex through a series of tunnels, climbing rooftops and jumping from plant pot to plant pot.

It’s quite common for game developers to make these sort of games pretty difficult. Like that term, I hate but will one day embrace: metro-vania or the other one: perma-death. The latter makes sense and if you are familiar with my NES Online comments, games of yesteryear were quite unforgiving. Mark of the Ninja Remastered isn’t like that and at times, gives you a little nudge on how to do a level.

This isn’t a tooltip or a dotted line to follow for the best outcome – rather, it gives you an indication where an alarm system is and how/or why guards are seeing you so often. Surprisingly this doesn’t ruin the fun or the difficulty and allows you to be a bit more strategic. Y’know, like a ninja.

Hanging by a thread - ninja style

Beautifully presented, like a ninja?

I started out with praise for Mark of the Ninja Remastered, and I’ll finish on it too. It really is a great stealth game but omitting the ‘stealth’, it really is a great game full stop. It’s beautifully presented (I haven’t touched upon them, but I love the cutscenes – I’m a cutscenes whore), the flexible approach to each level and it’s difficulty is spot on and overall, Mark of the Ninja Remastered is perfectly at home on the Nintendo Switch – be it in portable mode on docked.

I haven’t played it on any other platform so I couldn’t say if you would need this as well as the other versions, but if you don’t have it, it’s a must buy in my little eyes so jump on over to the eShop and grab it. Or I’ll get ya.

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