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Video Game / Dragon: Marked for Death

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They bear the mark of the Astral Dragon...

Dragon: Marked for Death is a Dark Fantasy 2D Action RPG developed and published by Inti Creates for the Nintendo Switch, and released on Steam on April 21, 2020. Notably, the game prominently features most of the key staff from the Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX series that Inti Creates is famous for developing, and is explicity designed to feel familiar to their most famous titles.

In ancient times, a brutal war raged between Celestial Primatus and the Astral Dragon Atruum in the realm of the gods. Atruum was dealt a mortal blow by Primatis, the forces of the Astral Dragon were quickly wiped out. Atruum, whose body had plunged to the earth below, offered the blood from his dying body to a small clan of humans to save their lives, transforming them into the Dragonblood Clan, humans who bear the mark of the dragon on their bodies and worship Atruum as their guardian deity.


In the present-day, the descendants of the Dragonblood Clan live a quiet, peaceful existence in a hidden village due to being ostracized by other humans. However, this peace is disrupted when the Medius Empire invades their village and lays waste to it, killing many and destroying their sacred home while kidnapping the village oracle, Amica. Swearing revenge against Medius, the remaining members of the Dragonblood Clan take up arms and set out to rescue Amica and exact vengance on those who done them wrong.


Dragon: Marked for Death contains examples of:

  • Ambidextrous Sprite: The characters' sprites are mirrored, which is particularly jarring for characters with scars on one side of their face or Fashionable Asymmetry.
  • Ancient Tomb: Several of the levels set in the Magic Kingdom of Litus take place in the buried and boobytrapped tomb of an ancient sorcerer-king.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The Golden Ending has the protagonist and Amica continue adventuring together, with Amica encouraging them to fight to protect the innocents and bring peace to the lands.
  • All There in the Manual: Inti Creates' Twitter page has a lot of background information and concept art that reveals details about the setting and characters.
  • Arm Cannon: The Empress' Dragon Scar takes the form of one, though it can transform into a massive blade.
  • Bad Boss: The Pagnas royal family are notorious for sending their troops on suicidally dangerous missions without proper support or numbers. Most of the missions the player takes for Pagnas are actually given by the knights themselves, who are willing to employ dragonbloods and bandits just to have someone other than themselves dying. They still die by the truckload anyway, though.
  • Big Storm Episode: The levels set in the Lanza Channel take place in the middle of a hurricane.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: This game is just as violent as the Japanese release of Mega Man Zero but perhaps more-so given the characters and enemies are flesh and blood beings.
    • The game opens with the genocide of the Dragonblood clan members, complete with the blood of one Dragonblood villager spurting out courtesy of one of the Divine Knights.
    • The cutscene where the Ogre Prince eats a victim's corpse is noticeably visceral as a closer look upon dropping the corpse has the body explode into blood, guts, and gore in great detail.
  • Bonus Boss: Several levels have bonus bosses that can offer extra rewards if defeated. Several of these bosses are necessary to defeat in order to unlock the penultimate mission "Soul Vessel". There are also "Named Monsters", superpowered versions of other bosses, found only in two specific quests on the highest difficulty (these two drop crafting materials for powerful weapons) and in the postgame Cavern of Torment.
  • Boss-Only Level: The final story mission "Marked for Death" is just a showdown between you and the Final Boss, no other enemies. Assuming you count Atruum using Amica's body as a vessel and Atruum himself as two separate beings.
  • Boss Rush: The 2.1.0 Patch added one in the form of a level called "Cavern of Torment". The 3.1.0 patch adds another straighter example with the new quest called "Ancient Gods" in which you only fight the bosses with no other enemies.
  • Build Like an Egyptian: The two areas of the Magic Kingdom of Litus are an ancient tomb and a massive tower, though the architecture is largely Egyptian-inspired with a hint of Magitek.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": "Horses" are mounts that look more like a cross between a kangaroo and a velociraptor.
  • Character Select Forcing: Due to being geared towards coop the game is difficult to beat in single player — especially with characters who lack speed, mobility, and defensive options. The Shinobi's speed and maneuverability let him run circles around most bosses, and the Warrior's shield and healing powers let him block and recover from attacks. Prior to being her short sword moveset being patched in, the Empress was middling in terms of damage dealing and lacked evasive powers.
  • Charged Attack:
    • The Empress can charge up power in her arm by holding the A button. Depending on how long you hold A, you'll either get a small single shot, a large single shot, or a concentrated stream of small shots that rack up a ton of damage. The higher the charge level, the more MP it costs to cast it.
    • The Empress' short-sword moveset lets her charge up a dash attack, enabling her to pass through enemies.
    • The Warrior can charge up his melee attack to deliver devastating slashes, though this leaves him vulnerable to attack.
    • The Witch has to charge up her magic to cast higher-level spells, but the charge only holds for a short period of time.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: Missions completely lack checkpoints, so if you run out of revives at any point (including on the mission's boss), you need to start the mission over from scratch.
  • Clockworks Area: Surprisingly enough, the Dragonblood Village is an area where holes in the wall reveal gears and clockwork mechanisms.
  • Combat Resuscitation: The characters can be revived up to four times after running out of HP.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts:
    • The Empress' sword doesn't deal a lot of damage, but she attacks very quickly and deals extra hits if her agility is boosted.
    • The Shinobi specializes in this — when he locks on to an enemy with his Dragon Kick ability, mashing the attack button will cause him to perform a Blade Spam attack that can rack up major amounts of damage.
  • Deflector Shields: The Warrior has the ability to project a barrier around himself. While he can't attack while it's active, it covers teammates and heals them simultaneously.
  • Developer's Foresight: In the battle with the Ogre Prince, he's supposed to destroy the ground twice over to bring you to a bottom floor, which conveniently sets up a cutscene rescuing his prisoners at the bottom post-fight. If you are powerful enough to utterly demolish him before he can break both floors, they collapse anyway so the player can continue properly.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Witch and Oracle in a nutshell. Both have great support capability as well as powerful offensive magic, but they require an intricate series of button presses to dish out their magic and are vulnerable all the while in exchange. The Oracle is downplayed, though, because she also has a decent physical attack she can fall back on.
  • Doomed Hometown: The game opens with the Dragonblood Village being razed by the Divine Knights.
  • Enchanted Forest: Cadena Forest is a monster-infested coastal forest with plenty of half-flooded littoral caves, poisonous flora, and a two-headed dragon-like monster lurking in its depths.
  • Endgame+: All post-game content takes place immediately before your audience with the Divine. That "Marked for Death," the quest immediately after said meeting is accepted from the inn like any other quest is a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation. Similarly, clearing the Dragonblood Bandit DLC questline will take you back to immediately after receiving the letter for Rivalis, leaving that final quest as seemingly just another Bad End.
  • Escort Mission: Some of the missions will have the Dragonblood Clan heroes accompanying NPCs while fending off hordes of monsters.
  • Excuse Plot: The characters' backstories are completely absent from the game so as to make them interchangeably relevant to the main story — save the Damsel in Distress and go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge; and the setting's rich world-building is mostly told through IntiCreates' Twitter page and a Japan-exclusive artbook.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The mission "Infernal Labyrinth" sends the player to the eponymous labyrinth to find out why Asura are suddenly infesting the region. It turns out to be a long lost weapon that once belonged to the Astral Dragon's followers in ancient times, and when you hand it over to the knights, their commander declares that he intends to use it to exact revenge on the Pagnas royal family for their tendency to send their knights off on impossible suicide missions. Of course, the weapon still hasn't lost its Artifact of Doom properties, and the closing narration mentions that, sure enough, a horde of Asura descended upon the rebels and tore them apart before the rebellion could even get started.
  • Fantastic Racism: Most humans generally do not like the Dragonblood Clan, since they were shunned by the Divine Family for worshipping the Astral Dragon. A pair of villagers whom you save from being eaten by orcs refuse to give thanks and scurry off after seeing the Dragon Scar on your body. Even most of the characters who are friendly to the protagonist are Innocently Insensitive and/or invoke You Are a Credit to Your Race.
  • From Zero to Hero: The protagonist starts off reviled and looked down upon by almost everyone due to being a member of the Dragonblood Clan, but over the course of the game wins the respect and admiration of most people.
  • Giant Enemy Crab:
    • The Battle Crab enemies — which come in poison and ice variants — are giant crabs that spit bubbles as their main form of attack, and can burrow under the ground.
    • Hermit Kings frequently appear as mini-bosses and even outright bosses, and are exactly what their name indicates — even more giant hermit crabs that also come in poison and ice variants.
    • The Twin Dragon is actually a crab-shaped Asura (and the biggest crab of all) with extendible pincers in the shape of dragon heads, though the main body of the creature itself is never actually fought.
  • Ghibli Hills: The starting levels - Sica Village and the surrounding forest — are inside the Kingdom of Medius' zone of divine purification, but are still infested with Primal Beasts and monsters such as ogres and goblins.
  • God and Satan Are Both Jerks: Ancient carvings come across progressively throughout the game make the point very succinct that the matter between Primatus and Atruum really isn't one of "God" or "Satan" at all, really. They fought to see who would own the world, Primatus won and became God, Atruum lost and became Satan; all decided by victory versus loss. Both of them are from the onset equally bad for humanity, but Primatus became relatively better over time,note  whereas Atruum, despite being personally tended to by his worshippers, came to care only about absurdly apocalyptic vengeance.
  • Guide Dang It!: The way you actually progress through the story requires you to complete eight bonus objectives in a very specific set of missions. The way this is presented, with a flag appearing next to a quest on the quest list, would imply every such level works this way, leading you to try and explore every single mission for hope of clearing it with a blue flag. These bonus objectives can run the gauntlet from just talking to a specific character to fighting a Bonus Boss. For specifics...
    • In "The Ogre Fort", speak to the old lady who talks about how her son went missing under the monster attack and asks you to find out what happened to him. Past her you'll find a pair of goblins who mention a "sparkly", and killing them will drop a pendant that belonged to the woman's son. Returning to her and presenting it will have her sadly thank you for at least getting revenge for him.
    • In "Sea of Tumult", head into the ship's interior and use the key on the bottom level to free the trapped first mate Bandero. Once you defeat Cthulhu, talk to him again so that he can provide exposition on the Magic Kingdom of Litus.
    • In "The Frigid Nest", ignore moving deeper into the mountain to investigate the monster nest and instead up the mountain for a Bonus Boss encounter with a Divine Knight, which canonically would be the first time you fight one in the game.
    • In "Undying Dragon", talk to Eterno after he gives you the request to kill the Twin Dragons to listen to his musing on Who Wants to Live Forever? and drop The Reveal that the Divine King talked to him about achieving immortality.
    • In "Unearthed Royalty", find and activate the necessary switches to open the path to the Final Boss Preview with Vasith, and defeat him in order to read an ancient mural on the relationship between Atruum and Primatus.
    • In "The Castle That Burns", burn through a part of the castle floor in order to reach the Bonus Boss battle with Minister Sumahiko, who will exposit about how the Divine Family of Medius duped this section of the Dragonblood clan into a rebellion that they used to justify their own genocide of the Dragonblood Village.
    • In "Calamity's Portent", clear out the seven lesser gates of Asura before fighting the Asura Goblin in order to hear a message from Amcia's spirit pleading with the Dragonblood to not give into hatred and vengeance but fight to be something better.
    • In "Truth in Heaven", locate and read the mural that notes the heavy similarities between Atruum and Primatus and how once humanity lived without so-called "gods".
  • Haunted Castle: Ensys Castle, in the southern region of Medius, is a derelict castle littered with the butchered bodies of adventurers who came to hunt the monsters that roam its corridors; and is home to a powerful and savage werewolf.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Dragonblood Village was this before the Divine Knights razed it, being in an isolated location at the bottom of a waterfall-surrounded caldera.
  • Hub City: The capital city of Medius acts as the game's Hub Level, with the slums serving as the starting point from which quests can be accepted. After a certain number of quests are completed, the upper level of the city is unlocked — allowing for better items and equipment to be purchased.
  • Important Haircut: The Empress used to have long hair, but after swearing revenge she cuts her hair short.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: The various regions of the continent formed from Atruum's corpse have enormous divine weapons protruding from them. The Japanese-themed eastern Nation of Marlayus (Atruum's wings) has a giant hammer with a palace built on top, the icy northern Federation of Pagnus (Atruum's head and neck) has a giant axe-head in the middle of a lake (Atruum's eye), the capital city of the central Kingdom of Medius (Atruum's chest and arm) is built around a giant twin-bladed sword, the desertified southern Magic Kingdom of Litus (Atruum's hips) has been pierced by a staff, and the southwestern island Republic of Hasta (Atruum's tail) is impaled by a giant spear.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Beating a level on the highest difficulty level has a chance of netting very powerful weapons and armor, with one such example being the Vorpal Sword, a very rare drop from beating Atruum. The Random Number Generator is not in the player's favor in this regard, however, though it can be influenced to an extent by the Luck stat.
  • Island of Mystery: The Republic of Hasta, formed from Atruum's tail, is a series of monster-infested islands. The main city is constructed around the divine weapon purifying the region, and can be seen in the background of Cadena Forest.
  • It's All Upstairs From Here: The levels set in Uos Tower involve the protagonist scaling an ancient tower so massive that the rest of the continent can be seen from its top.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: Cthulhu is a massive jellyfish/octopus-like sea monster fought as a boss in "Sea of Tumult", with the rest of the level taking place in its innards.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Labyrinth of Fire, added in the "Dragonblood Bandit" DLC, is a volcanic maze of monster-infested tunnels in the southern region of the Northern Federation of Pagnus, said to have been Atruum's throat when the Astral Dragon still lived.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: The eponymous "Luck" stat increases the chances of acquiring rare items... though not by much.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The Warrior can raise his shield to conjure an energy barrier and defend himself from attacks.
  • Multiple Endings: The game has a total of four endings for each character, depending on how the final boss is beaten:
    • If the player used the Dragon Sphere that appears at the end of the first round, they will get an ending where Atruum uses the protagonist's body as a catalyst to be reborn more powerful than ever, kills Primatus, and conquers the world.
    • If the player doesn't use the Dragon Sphere that appears at the end of the first round, they will get an ending where Atruum falls into a deep slumber, leaving the Dragonblood Clan bereft of their supernatural powers and locked in a neverending war with the equally-powerless Divine Knights.
    • If the player beats the final boss without using the Dragon Sphere or Reviving, they will get an ending where Atruum falls into a deep slumber, vowing to return when he has regained enough power to destroy Primatus. To prevent further conflict, the protagonist absorbs the remnants of Atruum's power into themselves — turning the surviving members of the Dragonblood Clan into normal humans — and as a result is transformed into a dragon identical to the one that appears when they use a Dragon Sphere.
    • If the player beats the game on single-player mode using each character and a weapon obtained by beating the final boss they will get the Golden Ending, where the protagonist absorbs Atruum's power but is stopped from transforming into a dragon by Amica; and they escape the Divine Knights with the help of the allies the protagonist made during their adventures.
  • Nintendo Hard: The game isn't a slouch when it comes to difficulty, and asks you to not only beat the game with each character, but also tough your way through higher difficulty runs as well, reaching a point where statistically it was nigh-impossible for certain classes to hope to beat the game solo. This has been patched since launch, but to compensate the gamebreaking excesses of damage output were patched out, so you're getting challenged one way or another.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The supposedly immortal Twin Dragon fought in "Undying Dragon" and "Twin Dragon's End" is actually a giant crab-like monster with two draconic heads in place of pincers.
  • One Game for the Price of Two: In a sense. The game is split into two $15 packs that each contain two characters; one pack gets you the Empress and the Warrior, while the other pack gets you the Shinobi and Witch. Buying one pack allows you to buy the other as DLC. Alternatively, you can just purchase the physical edition for $30 that contains both.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The bandits Yulutury, Gallus, and Alba. Despite being referred to in-game as bandits they don't seem to do any raiding, stealing, or other bandit-like activities. They're actually just mercenaries.
  • Promoted to Playable: Both Amica the Oracle and Rivalis the Bandit were made fully playable characters with their own unique movesets and gameplay mechanics in the 3.0.0 patch, though they have to be unlocked first, the former by simply beating the game and the latter by completing their quest line.
  • Rare Random Drop: Some bosses drop unique weapons and equipment — especially at the highest difficulty levels — although the drop rates for these rare boss items are abysmal even with the luck stat boosted to maximize efficiency.
  • Red Herring: In "They Come From Hell" one of the priest NPCs notes that the malevolent presence undoing the seal on the Asura Gate — which would unleash a horde of powerful demons on all the kingdoms — has a similar presence to the protagonists, theorizing it's a member of the Dragonblood Clan who was killed by the Divine Family and is seeking revenge. Right up until the boss gate, it's implied that Amica has been killed by the Divine Family and is the one responsible, but it's revealed to be Jinryu — the boss of "The Castle Burns".
  • Remixed Level: Each level set in a specific area is the exact same as the others, with changes such as previously blocked-off areas being accessible or vice-versa. Higher difficulty levels also sometimes remix enemy and chest locations.
  • Repeatable Quest: Quests can be completed repeatedly and at higher difficulty levels, awarding a set amount of money but increasingly greater amounts of EXP and a better chance of receiving more powerful and rare items.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: While revenge is also a primary motivation, the Dragonblood's major goal is to rescue Amica from the Divine Family by any means necessary, up to and including killing and devouring the souls of anyone dumb enough to stand in the way. Atruum would much rather they forget this part and just go on a full-on killing spree.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After Vasith and the Legion of Divine Knights attempt genocide against the Dragonblood Clan and abduct Amica, the remaining members tap into the power of their Dragon Scars to seek revenge. Inti Creates' Twitter page reveals specific details about the people each character seeks to avenge.
  • Royal Rapier: The Empress' weapon is referred to as a rapier, though she actually wields a variety of swords.
  • RPGs Equal Combat: While the game is mostly an action-platformer, characters earn EXP by fighting enemies, and can level up various stats.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: While the other playable characters presumably existed alongside each other prior to the start of the game, the game's story treats whichever class was picked as the sole survivor of the Dragonblood Village genocide.
  • Shifting Sand Land: The Magic Kingdom of Litus was once a powerful civilization ruled over by a sorceror-king, but all that remains of it now is ruins half-buried beneath a scorching desert.
  • Shmuck Bait: In the first phase of the final boss fight, a Dragon Sphere appears as has in the past, which is eyebrow-raising in that Atruum was the one granting you this boon, and he's at present the one you're fighting. This, coupled with the fact that the form possessing Amica is itself an embryonic Atruum in a huge Dragon Sphere altogether is an unspoken warning to not take the Dragon Sphere. Get suckered into taking Atruum's power here, and— well...
  • Shout-Out: Following an ongoing tradition to have Azure Striker Gunvolt references in most games developed after Gunvolt, first-print copies will include a DLC code to get four weapons based on the series, including a greatsword based on Luxcalibur, a Grimoire, a one-handed sword based on a Glaive, and a dagger that trails white feathers like the ones that come from Gunvolt himself.
  • Skill Point Reset: You can reset your skill points gained from leveling up and change your "Dragon Contract" between the five elements that each give unique properties at the Astral Dragon shrine by using Dragonite. The level-up skill points and the "Dragon Contract" changes are separate processes, so if you intend to change both at the same time you need to spend two Dragonite pieces. The total amount of Dragonite in your possession is shared across all your playable characters, and is mainly obtained from completing certain in-game missions given by townsfolk or having it drop from a boss chest.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Most of the levels set in the Northern Federation of Pagnus take place deep in the snowcapped mountains and glaciers of the Tarpol Mountains.
  • Some Dexterity Required: The Witch has a unique spellcasting system that requires combinations of face button inputs, upwards to over twenty inputs, that differ per element / type alongside whatever modifier you apply to a spell. In the middle of a fight, this makes her vulnerable if you're not used to doing such a thing quickly, but mastery results in absolutely absurd damage output compared to the other characters on top of healing support on a dime.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX, but in a different way than Azure Striker Gunvolt. Whereas Gunvolt is loosely inspired by Zero and ZX in theme and gameplay, Dragon: Marked for Death looks, plays, and feels like a Zero or ZX game if you replaced all of the futuristic elements and Power Copying with medieval fantasy and multiple character classes.
  • Super Mode: The Warrior is normally a Mighty Glacier, but has the ability to go Berserk, which turns him into a Glass Cannon by exchanging his defence for raw attack power.
  • Title Drop: The name of the final story mission is titled "Marked for Death".
  • Tower of Babel: Uos Tower in the desert ruins of the Magic Kingdom of Litus is an ancient Egyptian-themed level set in an ancient magitek tower containing divine secrets.
  • Turns Red: Bosses will deal more damage and receive a defense buff when their HP reaches a low-enough point, at which time a Dragon Sphere will spawn to give the player character a Super Mode of their own.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Every character has a special healing item which heals them for 90% of their HP but everyone else only gets 30% from it, implied to be their favorite food. This is raspberry bread for the Empress, monster steak for the Warrior, plum rice balls for the Shinobi, apple pie for the Witch, beef sandwich for the Bandit, and sweet pastry for the Oracle.
  • Womb Level: "Sea of Tumult" and "Dangerous Wine" take place in the monster-infested innards of Cthulhu.
  • Wutai: In contrast to the mostly-Medieval European Fantasy setting of the rest of the game, The Kingdom of Marlayus is very much themed after feudal Japan — complete with samurai and ninja.
  • You Are Too Late: The protagonist's main mission is to rescue Amica after she's abducted by the Divine Knights, completing quests in order to gain an audience with the Divine King. In "Soul Vessel", the protagonist finally confronts the Divine King and demands to know what he's done with Amica. Instead, the Divine King sends them plunging into the depths of the castle's dungeons and makes them fight Vasith after they make their way back up to the throne room. Once Vasith is defeated, it's revealed he was actually an animated suit of armor containing Amica — whose soul the Divine Emperor sacrifices in an attempt to become a god.