Mark of the Ninja is a Stealth BasedPlatform Game developed by Klei Entertainment (the developers of Shank) and released on Xbox LIVE Arcade, and later on Steam. The player takes on the role of a Ninja of the Hisomu Clan who must track and slay the man responsible for the decimation of his clan through modern cityscapes, employing all his stealth abilities and quasi-magical feats granted to him by a mystical tattoo.Published by Microsoft Studios, the game was released on September 7, 2012, and a DLC was released on August 16, 2013.
Tropes used in this game:
100% Completion: Aside from the main mission, there is plenty of stuff to collect and do, all of which are required to buy every available upgrade as well. The game is designed for multiple playthroughs; fortunately, you can restart from the last checkpoint (which rarely force you to redo more than the room you restarted in) if you trigger an alert or screw up one of the special actions.
To earn honors, you must:
Collect three hidden scrolls per stage.
Do three special actions per stage. Normally, they are Self Imposed Challenges like "break 20 lights", or not breaking any lights until a certain point and sometimes trickier stuff like getting guards to shoot each other.
Score high enough to get three honor marks.
A Day in the Limelight: The Special Edition DLC level stars Dosan, the main hero's mentor who oversees the use of the ink. In this level, the bandits guarding the ink find out what it does and try to steal it, so Azai sends in Dosan to give them a little "reminder" of who's really in control.
A-Team Firing: Zig-zagged: on normal conditions enemies can fire even if they are close to you, on each side, with no harm; however, everything changes if they are in a panic.
Action Commands: Used whenever the player character performs a Stealth Kill or picks a pocket. Failure to execute this properly will result in a much messier and nosier incident, resulting in fewer points and potentially alerting others.
However, failing the quick-time event against Elites will make them retaliate, even if you had stunned them previously.
Agony of the Feet: Caltrops will naturally cause this to any poor schmuck who steps on them.
Air-Vent Passageway: Loads of them, to the point of Benevolent Architecture, and guards rarely ever check in them on their own; mostly if they detect a noise coming from the air vent or caught a glimpse of the Marked Ninja running into one.
And Your Reward Is Clothes: Each mission has three "honors", challenging optional tasks that can be completed. Complete three honors of each category and you will unlock a costume.
Path of the Ninja: The starting outfit. Grants no advantages nor disadvantages.
Path of the Mark:Earned after freeing Dosan in A Shattered Stronghold, grants the Marked Ninja the ability to use a short range teleport allowing him to bypass seemingly impossible traps.
Path of Might: Increases health and makes stunning enemies with attacks easier, and stealth kills will also heal the Marked Ninja. However, the focus will no longer stop time.
Path of Hunter: Grants the ability to always perform perfect stealth kills (action command will be removed and the Marked Ninja will never fumble an execution). On the other hand, items will not be restocked on checkpoints, only on Hisomu stations.
Path of Silence: Running will make no noise and you will be able to carry two distraction items, but you will not be able to use the sword or any attack items.
Path of Nightmares: This will give the ability to terrorize enemies that either witness an assassination or find a dead body killed by the Marked Ninja, and also works for knocked out dogs, but Elites will not be frightened and will raise the alarm. The Marked Ninja will only be able to use one attack item and no distraction items.
Path of Wisdom: Available only to people with the Special Edition DLC. Dosan in his prime. Trades the sword killing for a Non-Lethal K.O. tackle and room for more quantities of items, but removes the Farsight and causes the Focus to lose the time-stopping trait.
Atomic F-Bomb: Whenever you spook a mook, they'll be prone to yell cuss words.
Amusingly enough, this overlapped with Cluster F-Bomb with the bandits of Tabriz (before an update which removed the voice clip) who would shout "die, motherfucker, die!" while spraying bullets around in panic.
Awful Truth: Those who accept the mark are called "the severed" and shunned by their own companions thereafter. Marked ones are nothing but dignified human tools which must be quickly disposed of after finishing their tasks before they go completely insane from the ink's side effects.
Awesome, but Impractical: The No Enemies Killed bonus. While it is impressive to finish a level without ever killing an enemy, the effort is generally not worth the reward if you're going for a high score, as extensive killing is actually worth way more points.
Path of Might is this embodied. It grants the ability to stun enemies quicker, which also means you'll have to fight them head-on, most likely causing them to ring the alarm in a game where fighting more than one enemy head-on is plain suicidal.
Back Stab: Stealth Kills, which the player can execute to an unaware enemy.
The Elites (mostly) live up to their boasts: trying to stealth kill one before stunning will result in a Neck Lift, and the same will happen if you fail the quick-time event even if they are stunned. In fact, even with the Hisomu Poison Dart, which normally induces enemies into a state of sheer panic, they will never get terrorized. They'll still commit suicide, though.
Dosan didn't even use a sword when he was young. He didn't need one. Bonus points as he never received the mark, but still was able to put a small army of bandits armed to the teeth on the line, after they threatened to turn on the Hisomu clan, on his own.
Bad Boss: Karajan. During a cutscene with his guard captain, it's revealed that he wasted the cash meant to buy a shipment of advanced armor for his troops on expensive booze apparently once owned by Otto Von Bismarck. When Corporal Kelly implies his men got killed because of it, all Karajan has to say is, "Then this was more expensive than I thought."
Blessed with Suck: The marks given to people in the Hisomu clan, and the game never tries to hide what it will do eventually. Enhanced reflexes enough to stop time while focusing and a myriad of other benefits would be great weren't for the "go insane after getting it" thing.
Booby Trap: Present all over the place in Tabriz. While these can seriously hurt an incautious player, a canny one can turn them into an opportunity to get points for some indirect kills even with Path of Silence.
Chiaroscuro: Lit background and characters are in full colour, but shadowed areas or people are white and black, while the ninja uniquely gets a bit of red from his Power Tattoo.
Deadly Upgrade: The eponymous mark, with a "murderous insanity" variant of this trope.
Deadpan Snarker: Ora has some shades of this if you play sloppily: if you trigger multiple alarms before you make it to the first target on the map on the second level, she flat out says: "If you planned to trip every alarm, you should go back and make sure, since you might've missed one or two".
Death from Above: One of the unlockable stealth kills can be performed when hanging from a ledge or a wall, or in midfall.
Disaster Dominoes: Put on the Path of Nightmares outfit and guards will freak out and start shooting at every dead body they see. One dead guard can spook a few others, who shoot their buddies, they freak out and eventually maybe half of them have killed the other half and are so itchy that they can be easily persuaded to shoot each other some more with a single dart.
Downer Ending: Neither of the endings feels "correct" or "right".
The "Seppuku" ending has you kill Ora, your Deadpan SnarkerMission Control who had never been anything but loyal to you, despite not being real, and you do this by stabbing through yourself, committing suicide. While this adheres to the laws of the Hisomu, the clan will also degrade as Azai is left in charge and phases out the old ways for advanced technology and weapons.
The "Kill Azai" ending sees the Marked Ninja run his master through and take the title of clan leader for himself, and Ora, an extension of your consciousness, implies that you'll go on to purge the clan and start it from scratch. The last scene of this ending is of the character turning into the "marked demon" from the background story, possibly indicating he's gone completely insane from the ink's poison.
Driven to Suicide: The upgraded Hisomu Poison Dart will make enemies blow their brains out, out of sheer terror after a set period of time (or in case of dogs, just makes them drop dead).
The Marked Ninja can choose to do so in one of the endings, staying true to his vow of ending his life before going completely insane.
Elite Mook: First we get a Giant Mook aptly named "Elite" that cannot be stealth killed unless you stun them first, either with items or clever usage of the environment.
Later, Stalkers, Hisomu ninja women equipped with Karajan's high-tech that see in the dark, leap around and use grapple points like the Marked Ninja, and instantly detect you from within your normal stealth kill range and can't be stealth killed unless stunned even from behind obstacles.
Eaten Alive: The Ravenous Insects. The victim will die screaming, albeit, thankfully, in seconds.
Evil Mentor: Azai has some shades of this. As revealed in the story and the scrolls you collect, he purposefully attacked the Hessian group first and got himself captured by them after he found out what kind of technology they possess: he was forced to do this since the plant from which the special ink used in the Marks was made from had died out and the last of it was used to give the main character his Mark, and without it or the technology the clan wouldn't be able to survive in the modern world. The main character is none too happy about having to go on a suicide mission just to capture some enemy technology when he thought his mission was about justified revenge for Karajan's initial assault on the clan in an attempt to wipe them out.
Face-Heel Turn: An extremely rare example where the main protagonist does it and you get to see his point of view.
Face Death with Dignity: Neither Ora nor Azai put up a fight when facing the Marked Ninja's final judgment. They just bow their heads and quietly accept it.
Flash Step: The Path of the Mark replaces your distraction item with a skill called Mark of Serenity, which allows you to teleport short distances to any place you can throw an item.
Fog of War: A rare non-strategy game use of this trope. You can't directly see anything that your ninja is unable to see. Guys behind doors or on different floors become invisible, but you do see visible indicators of the sound of their footsteps so you can get an idea where they are, and later a type of sixth sense that lets you see through walls.
Taken Up to Eleven in New Game+, which vastly increases the fog of war so you can't even see anything your ninja has his back to.
Foreshadowing: In the final level, the ninja will hallucinate further, seeing ghastly images on the walls, watching him. One of these is of a young girl, who morphs into a monstrosity when you get close. It heavily resembles Ora, foreshadowing her identity as a hallucination brought on by the mark.
Friend or Foe: Guards who become terrified will go into a panic, backing away and reflexively shooting at the next thing to make a noise, even if that noise is another guard barging into the room to see what's wrong. The player can exploit this by making a distraction noise between a terrified enemy and another, causing them to shoot each other in fearful confusion.
Gasmask Mooks: Found in the areas with poisonous gas, as can largely be expected. They also have night vision goggles by default.
Glass Cannon: You and the enemies. Both can kill each other very quickly and even the most common kind of mook can be surprisingly agile while giving chase.
Grievous Harm with a Body: While it doesn't deal damage directly, the player can hide in the shadows and throw dead bodies at guards to cause them to panic.
The Guards Must Be Crazy: Mooks, especially at the beginning, have terrible vision, have short attention spans, and are easily distracted and spooked.
Heroic Build: Under his garbs, the Marked Ninja is pretty ripped.
Heroic Mime: The protagonist never speaks once. Aside from a grunt of pain should he commit seppuku at the end.
Honor Before Reason: Potentially mixed with Wrong Genre Savvy. According to Ora, Corporal Kelly counts on the protagonist invoking this trope. Whether or not the Marked Ninja does so, is up to the player. Of course, this doesn't prevent him from trying to fight the Marked Ninja with two snipers in the same room...
Ora: He expects you to engage him like a glorious samurai. I guess he doesn't know much about ninja.
Heroic Sacrifice: People from the Hisomu clan willingly accepts their marks while fully aware of their eventual effects, just so they can perform a daunting task in order to greatly benefit the clan.
In-Series Nickname: The Marked Ninja is referred to as "The Champion" by Azai. But in truth they are known as "The Severed" by everyone else.
In the Hood: The Marked Ninja, mainly. The hood is often confused as his hair.
Interface Screw: The ending sequence of the game is a solemn moment as the ninja walks through a water-color-esque world, using all the same visual cues (hearing cones, fear signals, etc.) There's also the implication that the Marked Ninja has fully succumbed to the effects of the plant's toxins, then reaches a moment of clarity before either killing Azai or Ora.
Martial Pacifist / Technical Pacifist: Path of Silence enforces this tactic by removing all of the lethal equipment of the Marked Ninja. "Indirect Kills" via the environment or luring enemies into deadly traps does not count towards the Marked Ninja's kill count.
Dosan, the protagonist of the Special Edition DLC, is definitely one. He uses his bare hands in order to perform non-lethal takedowns, and the last part of his chapter greatly encourages you to solve the situation by scaring the enemies rather than killing them all.
Meaningful Name: Corporal Kelly is named after Ned Kelly, the Australian bush ranger "who is something of a Robin Hood figure."
"Hisomu" means "hide" or "lurk" in Japanese.
Mega Corp.: Hessian Services, against whom the player spends most of the game fighting. Exactly what business they are in is unclear, but it is implied that they are a high-tech weapons manufacturer who employs a lot of mercenaries.
Mooks but No Bosses: Somewhat justified. Corporal Kelly is merely a Palette Swap of Elite Guards and Count Karajan is too frightened to even put up a fight. Azai might be just too old to fight an extremely well-trained ninja with the power of the ink.
Mrs. Exposition: Ora. She normally comes by, says something relevant, and goes away until you reach a certain point of the stage.
Muscles Are Meaningless: The Marked Ninja is slim and pretty skinny compared to almost any other enemy, but given that his weapon of choice is a very sharp sword combined with stealth attacks...
New Game+: Once the game is beaten, the player may begin a New Game Plus, which increases the difficulty by making footstep noise, dog's smell radius, and Stalker's detection radius invisible, also greatly decreasing your field of vision and making you unable to see behind you and making all enemy attacks a One-Hit Kill. Thankfully, the upgrades you unlocked thus far carry over.
Nonstandard Game Over: In The Trail of Shadow, raising an alarm or killing the courier before he gets to the tracking device will instantly kick you back to the last checkpoint.
At the end of The Fall of Hessian Tower, if you let the time run out in the final segment, the screen will go white and you'll only hear the sound of an explosion.
Notice This: Air vents mostly. You'll see one reflecting the light (or lack of) most times, and they are extremely handy to avoid detection.
Offscreen Teleportation: Ora is always right behind you, even when it's logically impossible for her to take the same route as you. At one point, she says she'll find another route and catch up with you, (and while there are two routes after she says this, both become inaccessible when you collapse the grapple platforms before them) but it's usually ignored. One extremely rare example where this is eventually explained.
One-Hit Kill: Sniper soldiers/bandits needs only a single bullet to send the Marked Ninja to the grave.
If you terrorize an enemy, any shot that hits their allies will kill the schmuck instantly, even if happens to be an Elite Mook. Except revolver and shield mooks; they need to hit about three shots before downing one of their own.
If you start a New Game+, every type of guard can take you out with just one hit or bullet, even if it happens to be a stray bullet from a guard you had spooked.
Dosan: One man striking from the shadows would seem like an army.
Pacifist Run: Possible in most missions. One achievement even requires doing this on one level and another requires a Stealth Run as well.
You gain an achievement for doing a Ghost Run, called "Ghost", for managing to go through an entire level undetected and without killing any guards. This can be profoundly difficult without the Path Of Silence outfit, which allows you to run without generating noise, and lets you carry two stealth items.
With the DLC-exclusive Path Of Wisdom outfit, you can do a more Metal Gear Solid-style pacifist run by knocking everyone out with non-lethal takedowns. And, yes: Using this ability does count for both the "Mercy" and the "Ghost" achievements.
Reality Ensues: Go ahead and try to run into fights like other kindsof ninja game. Heavily armed mooks with assault rifles, sniper rifles, and shotguns and later with laser beams will make real short work of you.
Sequence Breaking: The Mark of Serenity allows the player some pretty creative ways to bypass obstacles that they would need to find other ways around. However, since it is only available near the end of the game, such options are primarily only presented when replaying old levels.
Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Terrorizing a guard will make them freak out so badly that they'll fire at the first thing that causes the slightest noise, instantly killing any unlucky guards in the line of fire.
Shield-Bearing Mook: Comes equipped with a flare pistol which he will use upon hearing any suspect noise in darkened areas. Shield Bash ensues if one gets too close, but if he panics he will drop it.
Sincerest Form of Flattery: This game is like a love letter to every stealth game made in the past fifteen years, but done in a genre (2D platforming) that's almost never seen this type of gameplay before. Where to begin?
Smoke Out: As a ninja, you predictably get access to smoke bombs. They can be thrown to block enemy's lines of sight, as well as to disrupt laser sensors. Upgrades also cause enemies exposed to the cloud to choke and cough like it was tear gas. Gas Mask Mooks are immune to this additional effect though.
Speed Blitz: The ninja can do a limited version of this on stunned enemies: it involves quickly blurring around the target while making rapid slashes and seems to be slightly quicker than other forms of stealth kills, and if more than one stunned enemy is grouped close enough together, he can kill off all of them simultaneously.
The Joys Of Torturing Mooks: Invoked. To be able to get the maximum possible score, you need to terrify guards, which makes them shoot wildly at anything that causes noise and freak out when you pop out in front of them while also stopping them from thinking straight enough to just sound the alarm on you immediately.
Wearing the Path of Nightmares costume makes soldiers panic upon finding a dead body instead of raising the alert, easily leading into a chain reaction where a large group of mooks ends up shooting each other to death while you stand there as your score rises.
There are also numerous achievements that involve things like terrorizing mooks with corpses you hang from grapple points or scaring them so that they stumble backwards and fall to their deaths.
Through the Eyes of Madness: That girl who helped you from the beginning to the end? She never existed. Notice how nobody addresses her directly in any of the cutscenes or asks about her, and how she just basically leaps off the level into the background whenever enemy soldiers approach her during scripted events.
The main character also hallucinates the normal ninja found in the final stage as the mooks found in earlier stages, who revert to their normal form when you kill them: this also comes with a hint of Your Mind Makes It Real, which Ora states to be reason why their nonexistent guns have the same range and lethality as the actual mooks' despite the fact that the ninjas aren't carrying any.
Unskippable Cutscene: Cutscenes per se are skippable, but you can't skip Ora's instructions during a mission no matter what.
Vague Age: In the DLC where you play as a younger Dosan, it's stated that Azai was already the leader of the Hisomu clan. However, the DLC is set fifty years prior to the main story. For reference, compare Dosan to Azai.
Villainous Breakdown: Corporal Kelly. Unlike others, he doesn't panic, but becomes really infuriated after the Marked Ninja bested everything Kelly threw at him, to the point he issues a challenge against him.
Count Karajan. He starts out full of confidence that his men and defense systems will protect him, but come A Blade at his Neck and he gets progressively more panicked as he realizes the ninja is in his stronghold breaching his best defenses and elite troops to his room. After the Marked Ninja starts breaching his last line of defenses, he goes as far as trying to bribe him, and then he tries to buy his forgiveness by giving up high-tech equipment to Azai. When the Marked Ninja finally gets to him, he's shown with the "terrorized" indicator over his head, and he's so out of it that he won't realize the Marked Ninja is in his safe room until he decides to make the killing move.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Mark grants supernatural abilities, but it will eventually drive a person insane. Apparently. The tattooist who paints the Mark claims that no one has ever lived long enough to find out.
As it turns out, the Mark does drive people insane and causes hallucinations. For instance, a Marked person might even dream up a Deadpan Snarker ninja girl who tags along on missions.
Wutai: A curiously modern take on the trope. The early and late stages of the game take place in a Far East city which is never named but is presumably in Japan, with plenty of skyscrapers in the background and functional subway tunnels underground. However, everything has a very "shrine" kind of aesthetic to it. For example, modern buildings might have roofs and terraces that make them look vaguely like pagodas.
X-Ray Vision: The Mark of Farsight, a part of the ninja's Power Tattoo added midway through the story, allows him to sense enemies through walls, and see the flow of electronics through switches and triggers. This ability is a permanent addition to his repertoire, but can only be used while stationary.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: An interesting take on this trope: the Marked Ninja took a vow to kill himself once he completed his task, as the ink will eventually drive him into madness, but he gets suspicious of Azai's true motivations and refuses to do so until he finds out the truth.