PAX West 2018: Katana ZERO

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

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Katana ZERO is one of those games where I didn’t know much about it going in, mostly taking it to help fill out my schedule. A lot of times, those games that ordinarily would have flown under my radar end up being some of the ones I enjoy the most. Katana ZERO is one of those games; a fast-paced, instant-death action-platformer, where you slash your way through a series of very short levels through a process of trial and error.

Katana ZERO | Attacking

In Katana ZERO, your goal in each stage is to kill every enemy and reach the end as quickly as possible. Getting hit once is instant death, and restarting a level after death is quick, meaning it’s one of those games meant to be beaten with persistence and trial and error. Your primary weapon is a katana, with the ability to slash in eight directions. You move and attack very quickly, and you have a dodge roll that goes through enemies and avoids damage, as well as the ability to slow down time for a short period to help with avoiding or deflecting enemy bullets. It’s all presented with stylish pixel art, and the way everything moves is extremely quick and fluid. It feels extremely good to play, and the difficulty is unforgiving but fair. You’ll likely fail a lot, but it never feels unfair, and every time you die it feels like it’s your own fault.

Katana ZERO | Enemy fire

There’s more to the game than just its combat. There’s apparently a surprisingly in-depth story to be found as well, with a conversation system that includes dialogue choices that influence the path of the story, how certain characters react to you, and ultimately multiple endings. How you approach missions is also reflected in the story, such as choosing to kill your target immediately or engage in conversation with them. You can also outright ignore conversation, interrupting people, which will have its own implications for how people respond to you and how the story progresses. the story itself seems like it’ll be interesting, a cyberpunk noir whose protagonist has some kind of vague, troubled past shown through dreams and pre-mission therapy sessions.

Katana ZERO | Dialogue choices

Katana ZERO shines most in its fast, fluid combat, amazing control, dark neon-lit graphics, and pumping soundtrack in its missions. Its difficulty could use some tweaking, with the developer I spoke with saying himself that maybe one of the challenges in the demo is too much for so early in the game, but finally overcoming its challenges is very rewarding once you finally get the proper flow for each mission and execute it flawlessly. It’s an enjoyable challenge to take on, and the promise of an interesting story certainly doesn’t hurt it. While it doesn’t have an official release date, we likely won’t need to wait long, with the game set for release on Steam later this year.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.