Entertainment has given us a wealth of heroes that nobody would ever want to mess with. From Jack Bauer in 24 to The Bride in Kill Bill, there’s been a bunch of people to cheer for. In gaming, there’s Nathan Drake, Master Chief, Link, and countless others, but how many of these people gets to kick ass while on a narcotic high?
Katana ZERO has exactly that, and it’s glorious.
What Is It?
At its core, Katana ZERO might come off as your typical indie sidescrolling action game with stylish graphics and intense challenge, but it’s more than that. It’s a whole lot cooler than that.
Why Should I Care?
You use this katana-wielding assassin who, most of the time, performs most of his given tasks under the influence of a drug that allows him to slow down time–which you can do with the left shoulder button.
While that last part is hardly a groundbreaking mechanic, it’s more than just a copout to cheat death. Slowing down time is an essential reactionary move to avoid deadly bullets and other projectiles that can come your way. Or if you’re not into avoiding things, you can also slash oncoming bullets to have them ricochet the other direction to create a bloody mess of fun. The assassin also has a rolling dodge move mapped to the right shoulder button that also allows him to bypass security lasers and other obstacles along the way. The slightest mistake and you’re dead, so you have to be precise with almost every moment.
Each level in the game is divided into short sections that’ll challenge players both mentally and instinctively with the level’s blueprint in plain sight on the screen. About 99% of these sections will require you to rid the map of enemies, and they’ll often come in overwhelming numbers. Some will be armed with a gun, and some won’t, so it’ll be up to you to plan your attack. Should you just rush into the latest room hoping a single slash of your katana will be enough? Or should you take a more calculated approach by taking out enemies one by one? Each strategy you come up with will come with its advantages and disadvantages, and that’s where you’ll just have to turn on your inner Jason Bourne.
The best part about all this is as difficult as the game’s levels are, the game doesn’t really punish you severely. It’s not like an old-school Capcom game that’ll boot you back to the very beginning of the level if you screw up. Like last year’s Celeste, it just brings you back to the beginning of that section making it more plausible to learn from your mistakes. It just won’t be that easy correcting what you did wrong.
Aside from that, the game also boasts an enjoyable soundtrack. Throw in the effect of having to listen to some awesome music in each level, and you’ll pretty much be tackling these levels feeling like Ansel Elgort behind the wheel in Baby Driver.
Behind the bullets and blood is a plot that’s also pretty twisted. We won’t go into any real detail here, but the fact that you’re on this drug is a big driver as to where the story goes in addition to the real-time conversations you’ll have with the various NPCs in the game. It’s not quite Telltale-level as far as dialog decisions go, but it’s definitely interesting seeing how far your assassin will go in order to figure his story out. Early in the game, you make constant visits with the assassin’s employer, and at any point of any conversation you have, you can just cut him off and ask for your “medicine.” You even get to be as distant and anti-social as you want with a whole bunch of other characters in the game, so there’s definitely a level of humor and interest involved. Of course, the more you collaborate in conversation, the more the story will come into fruition.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Katana ZERO is simply awesome, for lack of a better term. It’s a little short in length, but that in no way affects the amount of fun there is to be had in this title. The game features a bunch of classic ideas and mechanics that are more than serviceable in the modern gaming era, and it also retains that old-school and classic feel of a great beat-em-up. While it might not look like much of a screenshot, the game is simply a joy to look at in action, even when the assassin is just chilling in his apartment while you see his neighbor next door enjoy a newly lit bong.
Katana ZERO has both substance and flare, making it one of the most enjoyable games of the year, especially if you enjoy your neon colors.