Game: Katana Zero.
Platform Reviewed for: Nintendo Switch
Slowing down time to deflect a bullet with a katana… whilst high on-time manipulative drugs… Sounds fun right?
Katana Zero is an action platformer, that explores addiction to a combat drug called Cronos, developed for super soldiers, that allows the user to slow down and manipulate time all wrapped up in a beautiful pixel art package… you guessed it… it’s Published by Devolver Digital and developed by Askiisoft. Now, Pixel art games can be hit or miss for me, but this game is absolutely beautiful. mixed with the music, it blends for a truly exhilarating and explosive experience. One little detail that I love is that at the beginning of each level, your character plugs his headphones in and the music starts playing.
The game follows a nameless assassin who is dubbed ‘The Dragon’ as he works missions provided by his therapist. Each mission provides you with a target and some optional targets such as; Do not kill any unnecessary people or Do not talk to the target. Once accepting the mission, the dossier gets burnt and you are left to kill your target. The therapy sessions are amusing and interesting, the idea that a mass murder goes to a therapist to talk about his problems, is amusing. But it does serve to give an insight into the tortured life and problems that the combat drug has on its users. Time becomes warped and we see ‘The Dragon’ slip into a darker mindset, depending on your choices. Your choices mainly come in the form of dialogue, you can choose to be in a basic term, good or evil. You can follow or disobey instructions and we see the consequences for that.
The gameplay truly excels within Katana Zero, its challenging… One shot is all it takes to kill you as you fight your way through enemies who try to punch you, stab you, shoot you or blow you up. The game makes it easy for you to identify what each enemy can do, by both introducing them gradually and keeping the sprites consistent so you can plan effectively. You can slow down time to help deflect bullets back and their owners, rolling makes you invincible for a moment and you can throw certain objects at enemies for an instant kill. The game really does emphasise that you are technically planning out your attack when you get a replay of what you’ve done in real time in the end, its fun to watch, but the novelty wore thin on me quickly.
As someone who loves a good story, I appreciate the story, I really do. I have sympathy for the main character, even though he technically is a mass murderer, but the cut scenes dig into his past and reveal a lot about him. It’s just it breaks the game up a little too much for me, it stops me doing everything that I love about the game. It stops you each night so that you can go to sleep, but before you do you must drink your herbal tea. ‘Press a button to drink herbal tea’, it just seems a little pointless at times, although I will admit the fact that the telly is showing the news of the killings you’ve committed is a nice touch. One aspect of the story that I really enjoyed is V, who is a villain throughout the game. We explore how V idolises ‘The Dragon’ and how that leads to him becoming more psychotic, unstable and just brutal with his murders, he uses the Chronos drug to torture people and keeps them in a state of agony for eternity. It’s a complicated bit of character development that I really enjoyed and found fascinating.
The story also explores the impact that the drug has on the soldiers that used it during the war and has a clear parallel with the Vietnam war. We get through dialogue the idea that the war prior to the events in the game, was winnable but was lost because of protests from ‘hippies’, baby killings and village massacres are also mentioned. It’s an interesting parallel and it works well within the world that the game is presenting.
Katana Zero Highlights all of the elements of action platformers that I enjoy, fast gameplay with an high-risk-high reward style gameplay that leaves you satisfied when completing a difficult level. Even with an interesting story that can get complicated and slow down the game, it still remains one an experience I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys action platformers.
Rating – 8.5/10