Since the Nintendo Nindie presentation that announced Katana Zero I had assumed it would be a one-trick pony banking only on it’s hack-and-slash gameplay. Make no mistake, the action in this game plays and feels amazing. Flying around as the anti-hero who comes to be known as The Dragon, every sword swipe and time slow has a heft and movement to it. Swipes can propel your character in a direction as well, giving them the added benefit of being useful for movement and dodging attacks as much as they are for taking down enemies.
As powerful as the game can make you feel it also pulls you back down instantly as even a single stray punch will be your demise. Luckily your character is always just playing scenarios out in his head as he seems to have some sort of time-control abilities. Any death sends you back to the start of the current room to try again until you find the perfect outcome. Each mission is split into various rooms until you arrive to a story point at which point you are presented with a pretty robust dialogue system.
Finding your target, or the scenes between missions will have you engaging in dialogue with characters, which offers new challenges on its own. These can be either talking to your psychiatrist/handler, a DJ in a nightclub you’ve been sent to kill, or a little girl that hangs around outside your apartment. When you respond to these characters you are offered the chance to button mash past dialogue, but this means your character is often taking the most rude option unless you let the scene play out.
More interesting than the need to let dialogue play out before you respond is that how you respond can vastly change how a situation will go down. The most prominent example of this is during a dialogue scene early-on with a receptionist of a hotel. Button mashing will offer rude options that will leave the receptionist less than willing to help out in another part of the mission. Instead if you take the time and follow the dialogue she can become an important alibi as you try and exit the mission. I don’t want to spoil too much, but this scene worked well to show that this game is far more than just a hack-and-slash platformer.
Not every scene in this game is all about killing everyone and everything in sight. There are a few situations where stealth and discretion is needed early on. Infiltrating a night club has you stealthily moving between groups of dancing people on a dark and noisy dance floor. Breaking into a prison requires you to dodge search lights by moving between objects in the yard. Often these are shorter segments which is good because too much of this mechanic could start to feel tired and frustrating to the core game.
As the game and dialogue advance Katana Zero has a surprisingly deep and interesting story. In a world that recently went through a large war in which soldiers were being enhanced with precognitive abilities your character, known only as The Dragon, tries to make sense of his life and past while remembering nothing about it. The true nature and cause of your unique ability to control time also turns out to be far more than it seems. The story rests on a unique cast of characters that really flesh themselves out for a game of this nature.
Overall Katana Zero is a game that had me hooked early on and kept pulling me in deeper as the story unfolded. The choices I made felt unique to my take on the character and there were enough twists and turns to keep me engrossed the entire time. This may be one of my favorite action platform games, and I highly recommend it to others that like the genre.
Note: GameOctane received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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Unique Cast of Characters