Katana ZERO is a 2D action game. Developed by indie studio Aksiisoft and published by Devolver Digital, it was released on PC and Nintendo Switch in 2019. It was then released to Xbox One in 2020.
You are a lone samurai who works for a secret organization, run by your doctor. Your job is to assassinate your targets, without asking questions, and without any collateral damage. Get in, get the job done, get out. Nothing else matters. If you don’t do what you’re told to, you will face serious consequences. This is a great premise, albeit a little cliché, but what can you do. Unfortunately your doctor has the medicine you need to survive.
The story itself plays out in a very odd fashion. In your doctor’s office, the bulk of the story happens, but now and again, in the levels themselves, there are some story beats, but not often, until the back half of the game. During the conversations in the game, there’s dialogue choices as well. Do you interrupt people while they speak and be the diligent little assassin? Or do you let them say their peace? It sure was an interesting take on it all, but I truly was curious how much this shaped the story. As I only played through once, but that was because the bulk of the story, and the game itself just didn’t have that special something to keep my attention.
Yes I finished the game, but half of the time I just tuned out and didn’t pay much attention to anything outside of the story. Even then it was kind of convoluted. Especially when it came to the big reveal. The game tries it’s best to walk the line between “is this truly reality? Or are you going insane?”. To the point where the game even “glitches” to make you think it’s breaking. I’m all for these kinds of things, but when it actually interferes with gameplay, that’s where I draw the line. Running down a hallway, ready to kill enemies, and then it “glitches” into a cutscene. Then suddenly the level is over. Why do that? It also doesn’t help that the game just sort of ends. So it never felt like a worthwhile pay off.
As for the core of it all, the game plays like a side scrolling Hotline Miami. Except you’re a samurai. The game is broken down into about a dozen levels for you to cut your way through. Except even though the game was a bit short, it still felt like it dragged on forever. My biggest complaint is easily how slow the gameplay feels. Though you can watch a video and go “this doesn’t seem slow at all!”, I can assure you, it kind of is. As a samurai, you expect to be able to slash your sword around very fast. Except this is anything but true. When enemies would shoot at me, I would die most of the time, because I just couldn’t slash fast enough a second time, even when I slowed time.
Slowing time is also a big factor for this game. So you can react better to enemies, or get behind them and dodge bullets, or be able to hit them back. But as I said, even doing that, your movements feel so incredibly heavy, that unless you were rolling, it felt like it hindered more than helped. It doesn’t help that as you progress, the levels are filled with enemies. It’s not about “how fast can you kill them”, but more of “how will you separate them to kill them easier?”. If more than two enemies ever came after me, I knew I was dead. Even two enemies could be a struggle depending on the weapons they had! Most of the time if there was more than one enemy at a time, the game gave you a throwable weapon. So you could hit someone with a bottle, then cut them with your sword. Or kill them with a door, then kill the other with your sword, and save your throwable for when you need it.
Some of the areas felt rewarding when I finally got past them, but for the most part, I was just letting out a sigh and saying “finally!”. After you finish an area, you get a “replay” of how the area went. Except here’s the thing. It would show when you went in slow motion. So it was all one smooth motion. Which I get, why would you wanna see the game slowing down? But after watching the first one in the game, I never bothered watching them again. Why would I want to? I know how I got through the room. But I will say, I did sometimes want to watch a replay just to see me outsmart the AI with traps.
- Killing Enemies With Traps
- Fun Dialogue Choice System
- Sides rolling Hotline Miami Concept
- Sluggish Gameplay
- Game Just Sort Of Ends
- Pointless “Watch What You Just Did” Syste
I didn’t absolutely hate this game, but I also didn’t really enjoy it. It was decent enough for an afternoon of fun. I just wish the actions of the character were a bit faster. The story was a neat idea, until it gets too convoluted. Again I don’t see the point in making your story overly convoluted to sound “wild and deep”. Maybe to some it’s awesome, but to me it’s annoying. If you need something to play for an afternoon, sure play this. Why not. But if you have other games, maybe play those instead.
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Game & Developer Information
Developer Website: Aksiisoft
Developer Socials: Twitter
Publisher Website: Devolver Digital
Publisher Socials: Twitter
Images – https://www.igdb.com/