dragon marked for death

Inti Creates is a developer with an interesting output. Mega Man Zero was a fun series, albeit hard as fuck. I loved their Mighty Gunvolt 8-bit throwbacks. The mainline Gunvolt was pretty fun, and had some unique stuff I really liked. Mega Man 9 is…it’s a game I have complicated feelings on. Bloodstained would probably be a cool game if my PC’s fan didn’t start sounding like a helicopter taking off if I play the game for more than five minutes (seriously, only Bloodstained and Elden Ring do this. Not Guilty Gear, not Resident Evil 8, not KOF XV, nothing else.). Sweet Fuse is my second favorite dating sim on the PSP. They do tend to have more hits than misses, and only one of those misses wasn’t really their fault (Mighty No. 9).

In addition to all of these games, Inti Creates also made a multiplayer Action-RPG with character classes and loot mechanics. It’s called Dragon Marked For Death, and until I was gifted a copy earlier this week, I had no idea it even existed. That’s a shame, as this game rules.

Most people would compare this sort of game to something like Diablo, Monster Hunter, or Castlevania: Harmony of Despair; games where you get together in a party of other players with an art style best described as “even more gothic Disgaea,” fight a bunch of minions, a big boss at the end, and get a bunch of items, hoping that you got the one particular item with a 3% drop rate that you were looking for, then do it over and over again. A particularly addictive sub-genre, even though it sounds boring as fuck on paper. The thing about Dragon MFD (because I am not typing out the whole title every time) is that even though most missions fall under “kill the big guy,” there is a surprising amount of variety to these missions. There are vastly different locales, ranging from the typical fantasy forest, to Sengoku-era Japan, to large castles, to the inside of a large monster, each with new enemy and boss types within them. They all have different objectives as well, like the dreaded escort mission, finding an item, activating switches and locks, needing to convince ghosts that they are actually dead by showing them their bodies, purifying a poisoned water supply, and lots of other things that involve me using a comma in between them. Every time you think that you’ve seen the extent of Dragon’s variety, there’s always something new.

It also doesn’t hurt that Dragon is also really fun to play. The way characters move gracefully from section to section: dashing on the ground, dashing in the air, double jumping, swinging with a grappling hook, floating, wall jumping. Getting adequately leveled and tearing through low-level enemies like a lawnmower, before you show off your memorization skills and avoid every hit the boss delivers. Cool thing is, unlike certain other Inti Creates games (Gunvolt), bosses don’t have bull shit full-screen attacks that kill you immediately. There is a real sense of style to playing Dragon that rewards you for paying attention. This is a game made by the Mega Man Zero team, and it shows.

Other than being really fun and a game that you can mindlessly spend hours in grinding away to make numbers get bigger, I think that I dig Dragon because it’s like a 32-bit game transplanted into the modern era. This game looks, sounds, plays, and animates like one of those criminally unloved games on the Playstation and Saturn that you could only read about in the back of a gaming magazine. The kind of game that you only ever heard about on message boards from the one guy who could get access to imports we couldn’t play because American executives have completely liquefied brains (taking this parenthetical aside to once again say GO FUCK YOURSELF BERNIE STOLAR).

I wanted to talk about this game, not just because I really enjoyed the week of it that I have played, but because I felt like I needed to raise awareness of Dragon Marked For Death. Here’s the problem: NOBODY IS PLAYING THIS FUCKING GAME ONLINE. Maybe it’s different on the Switch, but here on PC, it’s a ghost town. I was able to get some multiplayer sessions in with some friends who also owned the game, and it was great. A game like this should not be some unknown title with a dead multiplayer element. Dragon is something that is certainly enjoyable solo, but becomes so much better when playing with three friends. Monster Hunter is understandably getting all of the attention, and there’s still a dedicated playerbase for Phantasy Star Online, but there needs to be a bigger spotlight on Dragon MFD.

Even if you’re only going to end up playing with randos, playing Dragon MFD gave me those old warm and fuzzy feelings of Summers playing Metal Gear Peace Walker and Resident Evil 6 with other people. In a better world, this would be similar: the kind of game you throw on when there’s nothing to do, and you don’t feel like going out because it’s a hundred degrees outside, so you set up a quick run of some Dragon MFD levels and maybe meet a couple of cool weirdos along the way.

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