Katana Zero is an action-platformer: for newbs, that is a side-scrolling game like Super Mario, but only with way more slash and dash movements than just jumping on the heads of your enemies. The game also introduced the world of ‘neo-noir’ in my gaming vocabulary which consists just ‘arcade’ and ‘adventure’. This neo-noir meant that the game had a lot of neon lights, dark and mysterious criminals, and appeared as though it was set in the 1960s. These ingenious elements of neo-noir, instant death slashes, side-scrolling format, and the wonderful chiptune-yet-modern up-beat music created a delightful mix of a game that you just. Can’t. Stop. Playing.
You play as an assassin dressed up in a samurai costume holding a Katana — leading to random conversations with strangers (“Thanks, It’s cosplay”). The pixel-art creates a mysterious imagery of the assassin — his ‘hallucinations’ and ‘precognition’, the lack of a name, and the fact that he lives in a one room apartment and sleeps on the couch (I thought assassins would be better paid).
Katana Zero requires you to quickly master the ‘dash’, which is a popular two-key movement manipulation used strategically in most complex platformer games. The sword gleams when you slash it, and the whole window shakes satisfactorily when you destroy an enemy. You don’t ever die in the game. You simply use the precognition powers and rewind back to the beginning of the level every time something goes wrong. The going wrong part can happen a lot, because the combat is rapid, and like a puzzle that requires a little bit of strategising.
Every level is one giant single-shot action sequence, where you can mess up at any point. The visual style allows for a kind of representation of action that could never be achieved in a graphic-heavy FPS — something as simple as a sequence played behind curtains with you just seeing the silhouette of the samurai and the enemies as you slash attack, and transitioning quickly into the front.Katana Zero has reached a level of popularity that only an underdog game ‘ahead of its time’ can achieve. 10/10 would replay the same level a hundred times.
A new favourite
Katana Zero introduced the world of ‘neo-noir’ in my gaming vocabulary, which consists just ‘arcade’ and ‘adventure’. It released two months back for Windows, macOS and Nintendo Switch, and has reached only a level of popularity that an underdog game ‘ahead of its time’ can achieve. 10/10 would replay the same level a hundred times.
(This economics graduate spends her leisure time preparing for the zombie apocalypse)