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Bring It Back: The Mark of Kri

Welcome to the first installment of Bring It Back, the recurring feature series where we pick a game or series from the Playstation's past that deserves a revival on modern-day hardware. Some people complain that there are too many sequels and reboots clogging up the shelves at game stores these days, but it's obvious why they keep getting made so often. People like what they already know, and will pay for more of it. As long as this is the case, they might as well do it with settings and ideas that deserve to get explored more. Some of these will be series that were successful for a time and have just been forgotten, others are little known concepts that deserve another chance to get an audience. Whatever the case, these are games we want someone to bring back.

To start things off, I'm going with a cult classic that got a bit of attention in a period when not a lot of games were coming out, but never really took off. The Mark of Kri wasn't perfect, but it was an interesting game that did a lot of things that really should have been ripped off more by now. It did get a sequel a few years after it came out that I never actually played, and that's probably part of the reason we haven't heard from the series since. But SONY could use another bloody action game to put alongside the God of War franchise, and a Kri revival is a perfect candidate.

The Mark of Kri was released in the summer of 2002 when nothing else was really new, and it drew praise for its unique combination of stylish, fluidly animated graphics and a combat system that was both inventive and brutally bloody. It didn't go to quite the grotesque level that God of War would later on, but the limbs sure went flying and the game was compared to a Disney cartoon for adults. The game centered on a mix between stealth elements that were actually fun and a battle system that allowed you to easily handle multiple foes at once, a combination of concepts that were surprisingly successful in execution and even more surprisingly not ripped off since. Of course, it's not like there haven't been other games to pull off group combat with little more than a decent camera angle and letting you point your attacks in the direction of your desired target. But Kri's system is graceful and still unique - moving the right analog stick draws a line out from Rau, the protagonist, in the direction that you tilt, and when it moves over an enemy a face button is assigned to them. The number of buttons that can be assigned at once depends on the weapon equipped. After this is done, pressing that button launches an attack at that enemy, and it can be used in combination with any unassigned buttons to pull off deadly combos. It's easy to learn and endlessly rewarding, as you manage a crowd of deadly foes with a few flicks of the analog stick and some button taps.

The Mark of Kri

As I mentioned, the game also uses stealth gameplay, and it's integral to the experience rather than an occasional chore. By default Rau's presence is unknown to his opponents, and he only enters proper battle when they become aware of him. A lot of time is spent sneaking around and quickly eliminating enemies with stealth kills that are quiet, though no less visceral to watch than the regular combat. Often entire areas can be cleared without getting into serious trouble, especially if you manage to pick off the guy with the horn who calls for reinforcements. The sneaking works without getting frustrating, as enemies move enough to keep you thinking about your next move without becoming unpredictable and making your experience frustrating. And of course, the only real penalty for screwing up most of the time is another opportunity to use the combat system. Most important of all might be your ability to send out your bird familiar and look through his eyes, which provides more opportunities for scouting ahead and learning how best to proceed. The two systems work in tandem, being fun on their own without damaging the other. The game only falters near the end, when it abandons the formula for something a lot more generic.

Putting the intriguing systems in place in a game with such well-animated and interestingly designed characters is just icing on the cake. The plot of The Mark of Kri is fairly standard warrior folklore stuff, but it's a premise that doesn't really get explored that much in games considering how many of them focus on killing lots of dudes, and there's enough charm in the elements that are there that make it seem worth another pass even without the gameplay. I can see why SONY might not want to take the risk on bringing back a property that didn't sell particularly well (though apparently did enough business to justify a sequel), especially when you consider that the market for a game with a stylized, cartoony art style and M-rated violent content might not reach a large cross-section of their audience. I think it's worth a shot though, and enjoyed the original enough to feel a current generation sequel would deserve a decent portion of the marketing budget they dedicate towards shooter franchises that might be well made but fail to make a dent among the behemoths with bigger followings that tend to thrive on their rival platform. Nobody's really asking for another shooter at this point, but I think plenty would be interested in an action game with a few cool ideas and some weight behind it.


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