Katana Zero slices onto the Nintendo Switch with lightning fast samurai action presented in the style of 1980s action flicks with some cyberpunk elements thrown in for good measure. The game tries to be a lot of different things all at once and, for the most part, does them all pretty darn well, albeit with some extremely difficult scenarios that will put you on the verge of throwing your Switch out the window.
In a dystopian cyberpunk future, a lone katana-wielding warrior operates as a hitman for unknown employers, all the while uncovering secrets about a forgotten past. So, yeah the story is a bit cliché if you’re someone like me who grew up watching ‘80s action movies, but thankfully Katana Zero prioritizes gameplay over story.
Every level presents the player with a new target to assassinate along with their entire factory of goons in suits ready to stop you. You’ll enter a room and have to defeat all of the enemies on screen before being able to advance to the next. This seems simple enough, but the game has a strict one hit, one kill policy both for you and your enemies. If you’re struck by any foes you’ll be rewound back to the start of the room and have to plan a new method of attack. For an extra layer of difficulty you’ll have to complete each stage within a certain time limit or else be reset back to the start of the room. As I alluded to earlier, this can be frustrating to say the least, but oh so joy inducing upon success.
There are plenty of tools at your disposal to mow down your enemies, first of which is your trusty katana blade. Slashing through waves of bad guys is challenging, but rewarding when you finally get it right. Your sword can also be used to reflect bullets back at the shooter while using a time altering drug known as Chronos. Under the drug’s effect, time will slow down for a short duration allowing the player to slash enemies and bullets with greater ease. Environmental objects, such as bottles and Molotov cocktails, can also be used as throwing weapons giving the player plenty of options to clear a wave of enemies.
While playing Katana Zero there were plenty of stages that downright frustrated me to the point where I had to put my Switch down for a few minutes to cool off. Often times when I thought I was doing fine there would be an off-screen enemy that would manage to shoot me before I even had the chance to see him. It seemed like the game wanted you to die several times in order to properly anticipate the upcoming enemies and how to defeat them all in one go. For me, it wavered somewhere between rewardingly fun to overwhelmingly rage-inducing. It doesn’t require perfection to play, but some levels will leave you on the verge of yelling at your TV.
Fortunately the game won’t raise your blood pressure for too long as it only took me one Saturday afternoon to complete. There are plenty of secrets and Easter Eggs to uncover for dedicated players, with different endings and more content to play upon beating the game.
Katana Zero is beautifully rendered with 2D sprites featuring loads of detail. I only wish that the backgrounds were a little more intricate instead of looking like plain factories or warehouses. There were a few exceptions to this drab design, such as the Chinatown level with its elegant backgrounds. The enemy variety was a bit lacking as well and most of them looked like typical ‘80s action movie extras that are quickly forgotten.
The game boasts clever touches of style, however. I particularly loved how blood splattered the walls when slicing enemies. It always looked different, which was a nice touch. Also after successfully clearing a room of bad guys you will see security camera footage of how you took down your foes. It’s fun to replay my epic moves and this allowed for some nice video captures to show off to my friends on social media.
The soundtrack for Katana Zero is absolutely beautiful. I am a huge fan of electronic house music and ‘80s synthwave and this game delivered them both amazingly. There were a few times when I would put my Switch down with the pause menu up just zoning out to the looping stage music playing in the background.
In conclusion, Katana Zero is a difficult, yet overall enjoyable action game that looks great on the Switch. If you don’t rage too much you’ll find a story that has many different secrets to uncover and even some extras in the post-game. The soundtrack is also banging!
Katana Zero Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Katana Zero slashes onto the Switch with breakneck action sequences that will have the player striving for perfection despite its high difficulty. Turn the volume up and zone out to the tunes of the ‘80s and enjoy a nice throwback to the decade that popularized action flicks and cyberpunk futures.