Katana ZERO: Dark, Grisly, and Highly Stylized Fun

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Katana ZERO is a stylish and grisly platformer whose quality storytelling, killer VHS-inspired aesthetic, and unique time-slowing mechanic make it stand out from other hi-bit indies on the Nintendo eShop. Play as a nameless former warrior suffering from PTSD and struggling to remember his past. He visits a strange psychiatrist every day for a dose of his much-needed medicine, which offers some negative side effects but empowers our hero with a time-slowing ability, which can be used for several seconds when charged. The time-slowing trick gives a leg up in fights, puzzles, and more, and Katana ZERO would be virtually impossible to play without it. (Be aware that Katana ZERO is vulgar, violent, and designed for an adult audience, so please don’t purchase this game for children.)

Katana ZERO references lots of electronics from the 80s, especially VHS tapes.
Katana ZERO has an excellent 80s vibe.

Katana ZERO tells its story through interactive cutscenes, which let you pick your side of the dialogue. So when an NPC asks if you’re her “really noisy neighbor,” you can respond with “I’m busy,” “Those are the people next to me,” or “No.” Your dialogue choices can affect the events that unfold as you play, which ups the ante and enhances the replayability. Katana ZERO is split into chapters stylized as individual VHS tapes. Each tape is interlaced with action-packed screens, which are laid out as platforming challenges. A brief tutorial explains the main controls, which includes basic platforming mechanics. The only stand-out mechanic is the ability to slow time, allowing you to roll, slice enemies, dodge bullets, and more.

Slowing time lets you pull off some slick moves.
Slowing time lets you pull off some slick moves.

The puzzle elements of Katana ZERO stem from a requirement to eliminate all targets in a level before moving on. This might sound simple, but remember that while you’re equipped solely with your katana, most of your enemies are armed to the teeth with guns. This means you’ve got to get creative if you want to win. Here’s a possible course of action, depending on the circumstances: grab a smoke grenade, use it to confuse a gang of shotgun-wielding guards, and slow time to kill them all.

Katana ZERO is one of the most stylish games we’ve played this year. Its vibrant, hi-bit pixel art is filled with dark and moody colors, and whether you’re in the midst of gameplay or tapping through a story segment, every screen of Katana ZERO is a treat. You’ll also find cool design flourishes, like the text boxes of slain enemies that break, crumble, and fall into the abyss.

Figure out the best way to take everyone out and get through the level.
Figure out the best way to take everyone out and get through the level in one piece.

And Katana ZERO’s dark-yet-upbeat soundscape is a perfect fit for the game’s blood-and-neon aesthetic. From 80s-inspired synth tunes to falling raindrops to the haunting piano track that plays in your psychiatrist’s office, every sound you’d ever want to hear in a game like this is accounted for. And if you really like a song you hear in Katana ZERO, it’s pretty easy to go back to it, since the game shows the song that’s playing when you enter a new level.

The release of Katana ZERO was something we’d been anticipating for a long time, and this game has exceeded our expectations in every way. We’re blown away by its immersive and intriguing story segments, and its masterful combat. And this game’s tight controls let you pull off crazy stunts and feel like a total badass, especially when you send a bullet right back at an enemy in slow motion. So if you’re into games with stealth, action, and killer aesthetics, you should check out Katana ZERO as soon as you have the chance.

Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Publisher – Devolver Digital
Developer – Askiisoft
Price – $14.99
Genre – Action, Arcade, Strategy, Platformer
Size –  341 MB

This is one of the most stylized games we've played all year.
This is one of the most stylish games we’ve played all year. Pick it up as soon as you can!

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