Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 07/29/02 | Genre: Action
When I saw The Mark of Kri at E3 2002, I was amazed to see an action game that was trying to bring something new to the genre. Sony had this title tucked away in their booth and they weren't trying to stir up much fuss about it. They used this same sort of strategy with last year's sleeper hit--ICO--and the sales were ultimately harmed because of it. I am in no way trying to compare The Mark of Kri with ICO. It is just disturbing to see the use similar marketing strategies because both titles are worthy to receive more coverage.
So what exactly is The Mark of Kri? This is a title developed by San Diego Studios--who are made up of former Disney animators. Immediately, you can see the ì©sneyî ´ouches to Kri. However, the similarities end there. You are Rau, a barbarian who has been training to be a great swordsman. Soon Rau will be thrown into a battle to save mankind, defeat evil, etc, etc. Okay, okay--we have heard this a hundred times before. I won't try to deceive you into believing the story in The Mark of Kri is epic and deep. However, the gameplay is quite amazing and is the main reason to play the game.
In the past, 3D action titles have had a hard time competing with their 2D counterparts. This is mainly because of the camera issues in a 3D world. How can you have multiple enemies rushing towards a player when he can only fight one at a time? The answer, you use San Diego Studio's new combat system. By using the right analog stick, players can select enemies once they are within a certain distance. By moving the analog stick over a group of three enemies, Rau will be able to attack three enemies at once. This is accomplished by hitting the X, Square, or Circle buttons that will appear over the enemies' heads. For example, by hitting the X button, Rau will begin his assault on the enemy with the X over his head. At any time, he can begin attacking another enemy he has selected using either the Circle or Square buttons. If only one or two enemies are selected, Rau can use one of the empty button(s) to string together impressive combos. It is a great system that will be copied for a long time.
There is a little variety in the gameplay. Before tackling a level, Rau can train if he needs some extra time learning his combos and skills or he can talk to people in the inn. It is here where you will gain insight to what quest you will go on in the next level. When speaking to certain characters, a cinema using in-game graphics may play out. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with these. While the voices are excellent, the cinema is grainy and lacking the detail that PlayStation 2 titles should have at this point in its life cycle. Despite the problems I had with these cinemas, when Rau begins and ends a chapter, the cinemas are much different than the ones in the inn. These cinemas have a narrator in the background talking about the story and there are black and white hand drawings that go along with what the narrator is saying. These are drawn before your eyes and the last scene shown will be shown in full color using the in-game graphics. While this may not be revolutionary, it is very different from what I have seen in the past.
Once in a level, there are two different situations you will find yourself in:
(1) Go around and kill anything and everything.
(2) Use stealth to avoid as many enemies as possible or ì±µietlyî ¤ispose of them.
Number one is pretty self explanatory. We discussed above how the combat works and you would use the control method above to dispatch of the enemies. Number two is where we can have some fun. Using stealth takes a little bit of practice at first. You must be sure to not make much noise in the world so you don't attract attention to yourself. Fortunately for you, the enemies are not very bright and won't hear you most of the time (shouldn't the ì¢¡d guysî ¨ire smarter henchmen?). When you sneak up behind an enemy, target them with your right analog stick like you are going to attack them. With your weapon sheathed, hit the button that appears above their head. You will then perform a stealth kill that will not alarm any other enemies. However, if you make too much noise, the enemies can yell for help. Some of these guys have horns they blow--which will cause multiple enemies to come on screen and try to dispatch you.
At the end of each level, prepare for a ì¬¡rge fightî ´hat can have many, many characters on screen at once. No matter how many are there, it seems they aren't smart enough to all attack you at once. This reminds me of what Doctor Evil always says... ì¨y must I be surrounded by freaking idiots!î?
One of my favorite features in the game is to use your ì³°irit guideî ¢ird to help you scout out areas. When you see a blue area light up on the screen, hit the triangle button. This will send off your bird. You can then look through their eyes and see what kind of enemies are just ahead. You can also control the bird to fly to other nearby areas to complete other tasks such as picking up an item, knocking a ladder down, flipping a switch, or distracting enemies--thus allowing you to sneak up behind them. At any point, you can hit triangle again and go back to controlling Rau.
All is not perfect in The Mark of Kri. While I don't have a lot to complain about, there are a few issues that need to be pointed out. The load times are just terrible. Not only do the different levels and places you travel to take a long time to load up, the game does not give you a status bar letting you know how much time is left. Several times I was left scratching my head--wondering if the game was frozen. Other minor gripes are there is not much for Rau to interact with in the game world. It would have been nice to see him be able to do more within the game world that fight and be stealthy. Also, when you walk into a wall, you will be unable to control him for a few seconds. When you are outside in open areas, this is not a problem. However, once you get into a closed environment, this can be an issue--especially if you are fleeing danger.
Another issue I had with The Mark of Kri is the length of the adventure. The average playing time will only take around ten hours. If you get the hang of things and don't run into any problems, you may even beat it in eight hours. When it comes to length of gameplay, I am picky. I personally enjoy epic Role Playing Games like the Final Fantasy series that last thirty hours or more. However, there are quite a few gamers out there who prefer that a game be a lot shorter than a Final Fantasy title. No matter what group you are in, you will be agree that a first party next generation title should be at least 15 hours to beat. True, in The Mark of Kri, you can go and complete the ì£¨allengesî ©n each level and unlock secrets. However, extras should be icing on the cake.
No matter how short The Mark of Kri may be or how long the load times are, if you are an action fan or remember having fun with 2D action titles, this title is definitely worth a look. You may find that a rental or two will give you all the time you need to beat the game and unlock some secrets. Fortunately for those of you who fall in love with the title and want to make a purchase, Sony has lowered the MSRP to $39.99. Lets keep our fingers crossed and hope San Diego Studios is working on a sequel or a similar title that can improve upon the few shortcomings in The Mark of Kri.