As they say, a job’s a job. Yours may not be a nice job, but with your nightmares taking over your every thought, the medicine you get from this job is the only thing on your mind. Katana ZERO is a 2D fast-paced hack and slash game, with the added mechanic that allows the player to manipulate time. The level design allows you to play in numerous different ways, and the storytelling is top-notch.
The public sees you as the Dragon, an assassin who kills people with no remorse. In reality, not even you know who you are. All you know is that you are a former soldier who was hurt in a war, which messed with your perception of time. The nightmares from this event keep coming and they keep getting worse. The Psychiatrist is giving you medicine to help out with the nightmares, in exchange for your work as an assassin. These jobs you work set off a series of events that allows you to learn more about your past, but that’s the last thing your boss wants you knowing. The best part about the storytelling is the dialogue, as you have numerous options in every conversation, and you can even cut characters off in the middle of a sentence, which will change the response they have.
In Katana ZERO, you are a katana-wielding assassin who has the ability to slow down time and return from death. There is no health bar, so if you get hit at all, you die. The controls are simple, running left or right, jumping, and ducking to avoid hits from enemies. The combat is fun and fast-paced, and there is no right or wrong way to get through a room. You can take your time to kill everyone in the room, or you can run in and dodge the bullets. With your sword, you can deflect bullets and send them back to the shooter, and you can also use your sword to maneuver in the air. As you go on in the rooms, there are items scattered around that you can pick up and use as ranged weapons. These items allow you to finish off enemies from a safe distance or help get through different obstacles in rooms. When you aren't on a mission to kill someone, you are going through your daily life. Each day, you wake up from a recurring nightmare, and then go off to the Psychiatrist who gives you medicine to help with these nightmares, as well as your next target.
When you start a mission, your character puts his headphones and starts the upbeat electronic music. All of the levels are fast-paced, and the music is very appropriate for the way the game plays. When you slow down time the music and all of the game sounds slow down as well. The sound design is so good, that doing things correctly (deflecting bullets, etc) feels like a reward to listen to.
Art and design
This game has so much character in its art style, from the character design to the world design. I've always found pixel style characters to be cool because the creators try to get the most detail in the least number of pixels. All of the level's designs feel great and have you trying to find the best and easiest route to clear the level. Sometimes the henchmen in the rooms are talking amongst another, and if you interrupt them, the speech bubbles break, and the letters fall. This effect alone had me blown away at how good it looked. The NPCs are reactive to your character’s clothing as well. It's a cool little detail being able to explain the sometimes-odd clothes you can wear to the characters that you pass by.
Katana ZERO is a BLAST to play. Even though I died a lot, I had a lot of fun learning how to best chain my abilities to prevent death and having to repeat a level more than 20 times. I genuinely enjoyed playing this game, and because of the games' shorter playing time, I would definitely replay this game because of how fun it was. Katana ZERO has been one of my favorite indie games that I have played in a while, and it deserves to be played. You can play Katana ZERO on Nintendo Switch and PC.