Katana Zero Review

Hotline Miami with a 'side of scroll'

Time to grab your sword and plan your route, because the latest title by Askiisoft is here! Is it worth the bloodshed? Find out in our Katana Zero review.

Devolver Digital. You know, I’m really fond of this publisher: they always manage to grab the most interesting concepts and ideas out there and give them some love. And one of those titles I fell in love with was none other than Hotline Miami. The crude and raw representation of violence blended perfectly with the themes of its completely insane plot. Everything was quick, deadly and addictive. Why am I talking about this game? Because today’s title shares some of the concepts present in the title developed by Dennaton Games. Does it work as well? Well, read this Katana Zero review and make your own judgment.


Katana Zero review

Yes, that should work

As Katana Zero is a title that focuses heavily on its narrative, I won’t say much about the plot of the game. Let’s just say that you are a guy with a katana who kills people, and then sh*t happens. If I have to be completely honest, the story of this game is its weakest part, but I’ll talk about that later. Now, I’ll focus on what makes this title enjoyable to play: the Rewind feature.

Katana Zero review

Katana Zero is your run-of-the-mill 2D action title, and I mean that in a good way. You can jump, dodge, use your sword to attack and deflect bullets and throw objects. If you are looking for something else, this is not the game you are looking for. But something that makes Katana Zero unique is its already mentioned Rewind feature. After beating a level, we will see our swordsman execute everything we did on that same level in a VHS format. We can fast forward and backward, and this works fine if you want to take a look at things you could have done better. It’s a nice feature that works pretty good in terms of gameplay (and also in terms of plot, but not as much as I wish it would). Oh, and you can also slow the action too, that’s always good to use.

Coldline Florida

“OK, so that’s the basic points of Katana Zero, what else is there to it?”, I hear you ask. Well… Not that much, if you ask me. You see, this game tries REALLY hard to take its plot really serious, yet it never feels like it hits you hard enough with its themes and metaphors. Bringing again the subject of violence and Hotline Miami, that game knew how to not give too many f*cks about its plot. It was there, for sure, but the developers realized people would enjoy its responsive and quick mechanics. You can throw anything against anyone, and you want to see how quickly you can clear a room in the most stylish way possible. Katana Zero? Not so much.

Katana Zero review

The representation of violence in Katana Zero doesn’t feel earned like in the already mentioned title. You see people dying and it deals with some heavy topics, but the plot uncovers the main mystery too fast to keep giving a crap about it. And it also doesn’t help that it’s one of those games that no matter what you say it will lead you to the same scenarios no matter which answers you are given. What’s the point of giving the player three sentences to choose from if the three will end up leading 90% of the time to the same dialogue? If you want to tell a story, just tell it. Saying the following line doesn’t help when the game just tell you what’s going on after a few hours:

Unconventional Storytelling: An enigmatic story told through cinematic sequences woven into the gameplay, twisting and folding to an unexpected conclusion.

To be continued

I don’t want to sound really rough with Katana Zero, but this is the problem when you focus your game too much on your plot: you take the risk of leaving behind what feels good. And what feels good about Katana Zero is its gameplay and its music. If this game didn’t have the amazing OST composed by LudoWic and Bill Kiley, it would get a pretty average rating. Cutting things doesn’t work at times too, and that’s quite an issue. On PC, I played with a controller and tried it with keyboard and mouse, and diagonal cuts can be a nightmare against some enemies. It can be really annoying when you end a level saying “f*cking finally” rather than “I want to do that again!”.

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Katana Zero review

In terms of replay value, this is completely up to you. There are some hidden secrets to find that will give you some game changers, but nothing too crazy. I beat the game around five times already, and only because I wanted to know if different answers changed the game (it affects some moments, but they don't affect gameplay or plot at all). Overall, Katana Zero is just fine. It's not going to blow your mind with its plot or its mechanics, but it's a fun time that you can finish in less than 5 hours. You should get it though, as the game will get more content in the following months.
  • Amazing sountrack
  • Quick, fun swordplay
  • Decent neo-noir style
  • Slow motion is always good
  • Not enough boss battles
  • Plot unveils too quickly
  • Choices doesn't matter that much
  • Barely any incentive to replay it

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