Katana Zero, what can I say about it? You play as a katana wielding assassin known only as The Dragon as you set about to accomplish each new mission from your employer. There isn’t much to aid you on that task accept for your trusty blade, whatever objects you can find in level to help out and a small set of time bending powers. One life, one target, one blade and a crap load of henchmen in your way.
Katana Zero handles like a dream, everything is very responsive once you get the timing down. Your main method of attack is your sword and that will deal with most of your problems, to aid in your dispatching you will come across the occasional bottle or knife which can be thrown and later on explosives can also be added into the mix. Targeting works as well as could be expected with any screw ups purely down to Zombie error. Now I also mentioned you had some spiffy little time bending powers, while they aren’t super original or exciting they are used pretty much exclusively for dodging, puzzles and environmental kills. The time skills are the worst offender in regards to the controls as they can take a level or three to really get a grasp on their time as it is just kind of odd.
Judging by these screen shots I am sure by now you have thought to yourself ‘Hey that looks like Hotline Miami!’ and you aren’t wrong. Katana Zero wears its inspirations on it’s sleeve; unabashedly so. What we have here is some developers who took Hotline Miami, The Matrix, Blade Runner, John Wick, that Ryan Gosling movie Drive where he just hung out acting all cool in a jacket, Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino, threw them in a blender on the first setting so the elements still had a nice pulpy feel to them then crafted this game. Before each level begins The Dragon will stop to take a moment and put on headphones before pressing play on his cassette player just so you know its cool and nostalgic.
However with that being said these style of games with the retro aesthetics and synth soundtracks are becoming a dime a dozen moreover they are all beginning to blur together with it becoming harder and harder to really tell them apart. Luckily for Katana Zero it still has The Matrix and Blade Runner roots in there to hold up with a strong sense of mind bending story that really drives the game forward giving reasons for everything that happens throughout the game including its cyberpunk setting which not a lot of other games do.
Katana Zero isn’t the most original or unique game on the market of 2019 it won’t blow you away nor does it really stand out in the crowded sea of nostalgiabait games but at the same time it isn’t really trying to. Katana Zero is one of those love letters to Sci-Fi to that just gets it right, it knows what it is and the story it wants to tell. Zero is crafted by a love of the genre from hiring Mega Man X and Blade Runner on the weekend and if that was you these are your people and this is a game you will get a kick out of.
Zombie reviewed a promo copy of Katana Zero on the Nintendo Switch.