This samurai slasher for Nintendo Switch and PC lets players turn every stage into a bloody highlight reel

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft‘Katana Zero’ is a part of Nintendo’s ‘Nindies’ lineup of independent games that was teased earlier this year.
  • “Katana Zero” is an indie action-platformer with pixel graphics and flashy retro-wave aesthetics launching April 18 for Nintendo Switch and PC.
  • Playing as “The Dragon,” a time-controlling samurai assassin, players are able to turn every stage of “Katana Zero” into a bloody highlight reel.
  • “Katana Zero” is wonderfully styled, packs a suspenseful story, and is well worth the $US14.99 price tag for a challenging adventure.

“Katana Zero,” which launches Thursday on PC and Switch, is a stylish retro action game that tells the story of The Dragon, a time-manipulating samurai who’s forced to assassinate gang members in exchange for a mysterious drug.

“Katana Zero” embraces retro-wave style, incorporating neon visuals and synth music to invoke familiar vibes of 80s pop culture. The gameplay is fast, violent, and challenging; The Dragon can kill nearly all of his enemies with a single blow, but he dies in one hit, too.

Luckily, The Dragon can slow down time for brief periods, allowing him to dodge enemy attacks, deflect bullets, and navigate obstacles. Players make use of The Dragon’s time-control abilities to create perfectly planned runs of each stage, eliminating every opponent without getting hit.

Created by indie developer Askiisoft and published by Devolver Digital, “Katana Zero” is a part of Nintendo’s “Nindies” lineup of independent games that was teased earlier this year. While it’s become a bit cliché to compare indie titles to the 2012 smash-hit “Hotline Miami,” “Katana Zero” shows clear inspiration: both games have instant-death combat, an 80s-centric style, and an unreliable narrator.

Here’s a full breakdown of what it’s like to play “Katana Zero”:

The Dragon’s psychiatrist gives him a strange drug in exchange for killing gang members.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

For a while, it’s not clear why The Dragon is killing his targets, but the mystery slowly starts to unravel.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

One thing is certainly no mystery: The Dragon is a master assassin. His ability to control will make you want to clear each stage with style.

The Dragon primarily makes use of his sword, but there are a variety of throw-able items at his disposal, too.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

If you get hit, The Dragon will automatically rewind the situation and have you start your attack from the beginning.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

After completing one of the The Dragon’s choreographed sessions, “Katana Zero” will show a replay of the action in black and white, with no added time effects or slowdown.

Despite all the violence, “Katana Zero” has a great sense of humour.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

Players can choose from a variety of dialogue options that guide conversations and reveal clues about the story.

‘Katana Zero’/askiisoft

The Dragon’s primary targets are some pretty wild characters.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

“Katana Zero” has a handful of threatening boss enemies. You’ll need to master their attack pattern and use specific strategies to beat them.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

Not everyone you meet is an enemy. “Katana Zero” did a great job keeping me engaged throughout the five hours it took me to beat the game.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

“Katana Zero” also does a good job of mixing in unexpected moments to keep things fresh. This motorcycle chase was a total surprise, but ended up being one of my favourite stages.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

This nightclub stage introduced some stealth mechanics to slow down the pace of the game for a bit.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

As you progress through “Katana Zero,” you’ll unlock VHS tapes that let you replay past stages.

‘Katana Zero’/Askiisoft

“Katana Zero” packs boatloads of style and serves as a reminder that an indie budget doesn’t place limits on fun.

‘Katana Zero/Askiisoft

“Katana Zero” launches April 18 on PC and Switch. You can find it in the Nintendo eShop or on Steam for $US14.99. Check out the full trailer below.

‘Katana Zero’/Akiisoft

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