Compsmag is supported by its audience. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission fee. Learn more

Katana Zero Review

The neon-soaked corridors and dirty streets of Katana Zero do a great job of sucking you into his broken world. Gangsters operate unhindered while society is still on the run from a devastating war, the loss of which has littered the streets with homeless war veterans and bars with vengeful and drunken civilians looking for a fight. You are that fight – a ruthless, sword-wielding assassin with the ability to slow time down – and Katana Zero gives you delicately designed scenarios to cut and crush your way. This is our Katana Zero Review.

Katana Zero Review: About

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh
  • Developer: Askiisoft
  • Editor: Devolver Digital
  • Release Date: 18 April 2019
  • Genre: Platform game

Gameplay

Katana Zero’s review puts you in the shoes of an unnamed killer who is haunted by the broken misdeeds of the previous war. This war forms the primary aim of Katana Zero’s central mystery, which takes time to unravel. What starts as straightforward murder missions commissioned by a shadowy organization slowly unfolds to encapsulate themes such as post-traumatic stress, war crimes, and government murders. This takes place over several actions, consisting of small, sideways scrolling stages with violent and well-thought-out battles.

Katana Zero Review

Genetic experiments and drug use are central to the story and gameplay of Katana Zero. Thanks to a constant supply of a blue serum, you can increase your simple sword blows with the ability to slow downtime. This allows you to perform some incredibly stylish maneuvers and experiment with malleable dynamics for the otherwise straightforward battles. Slow-motion rolls can be combined with precise moves to close distances quickly, and your sword isn’t just for close-quarter slashing–it can be used to perfectly time a bullet deflection back to the sender.

Combined with specific items that can be used as long-range projectiles and security systems that can be transformed from a deterrent to an environmental weapon, Katana Zero has no trouble keeping his fight exciting. It helps that each stage is compact, given how dangerously vulnerable you are. A single hit puts you back to the beginning of a scene with rapid breathing making the transition almost instantaneous.

This not only avoids the sting of a detrimental progress loss but also ensures that you’re quickly back in the captivating action. There are a few stages that feel exaggeratedly long and ultimately frustrating, but they are fortunately few and far between. The variety of enemies means that you don’t have to repeat yourself over and over again and that you don’t get any dangerous enemies, forcing you to change your therapeutic strategies.

Enemies with shields push you away before they shoot quickly to the ground, while the knife sharpening gangsters can stagger you and delay your attacks for a short (but deadly) moment. How the levels combine these different enemies turn each of them into clever combat puzzles, complementing your fickle instincts with thoughtful planning and careful consideration of who should be attacked first.

Katana Zero doesn’t shy away from telling his story through scenes of painful torture and vivid violence, yet this contrasts with delicately calm character moments and some sincere relationships that help keep a protagonist grounded that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to empathize with. It works incredibly well thanks to a creative approach to character conversations, which are often just as crucial as your violent exploits out there.

Rather than just getting choices for reactions, you can interrupt the characters in conversations to change both the tone and direction of the scene. The characters react intelligently to your ways during an exchange, expressing their disgust at your brutality to cut them off or surprise you with your unexpected courtesy. Depending on how you react, specific minor narrative changes may also take place. In one case, I pretended to love anime to convince a hotel receptionist to let me pass, which later helped me avoid the police because they confirmed my alibi.

The same conversation took place differently the second time because my short temper with the same receptionist caused her to turn against me when she was questioned about my blood-soaked clothes. Small distractions like these don’t affect the trajectory of the main story, and there are a handful of scenarios where you are forced to give a specific answer to move forward. But Katana Zero usually treats your branching conversation decisions with grace, eloquently incorporating them into small but inconsequential changes in the excellently written dialogue.

Every moment of character lands, thanks to the sublime pixel artwork. There is an immense amount of detail in each sprite, bringing to life the colorful yet poignant world around you with its pure variation. The nymphs of the characters are most impressive, with a delicate animation that adds a lot of emotion to every conversation and every storyline.

These extend to the thoughtful effects applied to simple dialogue bubbles, which use a combination of flashing colors, moving parts, and aggressive screen movements to hit fundamental interactions hard. Katana Zero not only uses his retro-inspired style to pull on nostalgic strings. It ultimately elevates the form with a sense of depth and detail that is hard not to appreciate.

Katana Zero Review: Conclusion

The uncertain future of the story that Katana Zero set up so brilliantly is disturbing, but that should not stop you from diving into this compelling introductory chapter. The battle offers an exciting challenge that puts both strategy and reflexes to the test, while also giving you smart options to make it as stylish as possible. The narrative contextualization of both your skills and your role within Katana Zero’s world is expertly written, with a smart dialogue system that lets your personality be injected into character interactions. Katana Zero is bloody and cheeky, but it’s also a real story that you shouldn’t just overlook.

Falcon Age Review

8 Total Score
Our Verdict

The uncertain future of the story that Katana Zero set up so brilliantly is disturbing, but that should not stop you from diving into this compelling introductory chapter.

Compsmag Canada