In Askiisoft's latest game, you play as Zero, a samurai war veteran who has completely forgotten his past and now works as an assassin. Apart from his combat knowledge and sword control, Zero develops extraordinary abilities thanks to a mysterious drug referred to as ‘Chronos’. This grants him the ability to slow down time and see into the future.
Clearly then, this drug has a significant influence on the form that the gameplay takes, much like the effects it has on the lead character. While the immediate objective is to defeat enemies as you progress from level to level, you’ll need to uncover as much as possible from Zero’s past by interacting with other characters.
The interactive dialogue also works to keep things engaging and break the monotony that might come without a reprieve from the action sequences.
Katana Zero uses elements of humour to mask what would otherwise be a very depressing story. The interactive dialogue also works to keep things engaging and break the monotony that might come without a reprieve from the action sequences. Nonetheless, some of the choices don’t seem to make much of a difference, making you ask yourself if your decisions matter…
Katana Zero is not a long game, mind you, though that only works to its benefit. In a time where games get padded with mindless content far beyond what even the best gameplay mechanics could sustain, I found being able to finish this game in a weekend very refreshing.
That’s not to say that there isn’t replay value, however. The story manages to keep you interested and invested, and what may seem like a lighthearted narrative with a shallow theme can get pretty intense at points. It depends on how much you end up investing into the narrative and how deep down the rabbit hole you choose to go. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
Closely interlinked with the story is the music, and Katana’s is one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard.
Closely interlinked with the story is the music, and Katana’s is one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. The idea of having Zero listening to the game’s music while traversing a level makes it even better. LudoWic and Bill Kile created a very fitting set of upbeat music for the fights with touches of psychedelic effects that mirror the dramatic side of the story. The whole soundtrack reminded me of 80s music, a feeling that perfectly matches the game’s design.
The aesthetic of the game bears a close resemblance to the neo-noir vibe of Hotline Miami, and also keeps the pixelated design. However, the game does opt to swap the top-down view of Hotline to a side-scrolling 2D perspective.
Besides looking cool, the colourful visuals and rapid movement also do wonders in conveying the effects of the drugs that Zero takes to gain his abilities. Even though many games show characters taking drugs, the visuals are hardly ever affected - this stands as something distinctive to Katana Zero.
My only big complaint is related to the game's controls. I downloaded it on my computer, but I found it very difficult and confusing to play without a PlayStation controller.
My only big complaint is related to the game's controls. I downloaded it on my computer, but I found it very difficult and confusing to play without a PlayStation controller. Even with that, it took some time to get used to the fixed settings of the Xbox controls.
In conclusion, Katana Zero is an excellent mixture of action and storytelling with great music and original design. Not only do I recommend it, but I suggest replaying it several times to make sure you aren’t leaving any worthwhile secrets behind.