A demo for the upcoming Nintendo Switch game, Dragon Marked For Death, was available at Tokyo Game Show 2018.
The demo consisted of one stage for single player mode, and three for multiplayer, and all four playable characters were available.
Inti Creates is known for having worked on the Mega Man Zero and ZX series and its influence is even more apparent here than their previous foray into 2D platforming, Azure Striker Gunvolt, in terms of both gameplay and aesthetic (with art being handled by Nakayama Tooru, who had previously worked on the Zero/ZX series).
Each of the four playable characters has their own unique and extremely different move set, making it so that selecting a different characters make it as if you are playing a completely different game.
The Empress is the most orthodox, with a familiar-looking three-hit slash combo with her sword and an arm cannon. She also has a slow but hard-hitting Dragon Sword special that can also be tacked on to the end of the three-hit combo, can fire out a stream of huge fireballs that continue for as long as she has energy by charging her cannon, and a grappling hook for traversing specific points.
The Shinobi was by far the most fun character to play as, with double-jump, dash and air dash, gliding, and Mega Man X/Zero-esque wall-climbing abilities. Though he lacks in firepower, he more than makes up for it with movement capabilities far beyond the other characters’.
The Warrior and Witch were distinctly odd to play as in single player, as their abilities are, at least in the demo, clearly balanced around multiplayer: The Warrior’s defining trait is a barrier that nullifies enemy attacks, and this seems to be primarily for protecting other players. The Witch is practically helpless at default, and has to chant incantations- The player does this by hitting the R button and then inputting specific sets of commands- to prepare spells to be cast. However she cannot move while chanting, and it seems clear that she’s meant to be the sort of character that stays in the back, supporting other players.
The single player stage has you go through a simple stage with moving platforms and obstacles requiring you to find keys, that nevertheless does a decent job of showing how the player characters work. It is especially notable that different characters have completely different ways of getting through the stage: The Shinobi has no trouble traversing any terrain with his double-jumps and air dashes, but the Empress has to use her grappling hook to swing to certain areas, the Warrior has to push blocks out of the way, and the Witch has to use magic to levitate to get closer to platforms. The boss of the stage is a horse monster named the Equus that charges at the player, kicks up icicles, and starts casting large area-of-effect ice spells once low on health.
The multiplayer stage we saw had four players cooperate to get through a puzzle-free stage with loads of platforms that culminated with a battle against a giant Goblin Prince.
The game is extremely satisfying when you play as the Empress or Shinobi, and is still fun with the Warrior. Gameplay is however clearly flawed when in single player as the Witch- Her spells take too long to cast- Some take six to eight face button presses after hitting R- And the payoff is miniscule: For example, a homing shot which takes six button presses to chant would do damage equal to roughly one-eighth of the life bar of an enemy that the Empress would be able to kill in a single combo. While she can activate an ability that makes it so that a spell can be used infinite times once prepared, this uses up her special bar which drains far too fast, and also you have to chant the spell after activating the ability (whatever spell you have prepared before activating the ability is cancelled). Multiplayer is reminiscent of Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, but in the demo stage we saw, each of the players went their own way before meeting up before the boss, and then ganged up on the boss and killed it before it did anything worthy of note. The Shinobi’s wall climbing animation also looks incomplete- he does not seems to be kicking off of the walls as much as just jumping upwards while bouncing off of them.
We also asked the booth staff if the game would feature individual stages or be an interconnected world like Metroid, Castlevania, or Mega Man Zero 1, and got confirmation that the game is comprised of individual stages.
While the demo was far too simple to get a true idea of what the final product will be like, the good parts are overwhelmingly good, and there is definitely enough latent potential for it to become one of Inti Creates’ best games yet.
Dragon Marked For Death will be released outside of Japan on the Nintendo Switch on 13th December 2018, and in Japan on 31st January 2019.