Fletcher’s Game Reviews: Katana Zero

Edited by Mati Hassan

Hotline Miami, Party Hard, GTA Vice City. These famous games have been notorious for their over the top violent gameplay as well as their iconic 80s retrowave/synthwave aesthetic. On April 18th, 2019, A studio by the name of Askiisoft released a new game that shares these same traits, yet outshines its predecessors. That game’s name is Katana Zero. I have been waiting for this game to come out for two years after first seeing the demo shown at Pax East 2016, and it was worth it.

Katana Zero is a fast-paced 2D platformer where you play as The Dragon, a katana-wielding assassin who has the ability to slow and rewind time. The gameplay is simple. You run, jump, roll, slash, and slow time, using these skills to evade and kill your targets.

However, things aren’t as easy as they may seem. Though you are faster and stronger than almost all of your enemies, one well-placed bullet or swing of a crowbar will kill you. The gameplay loop consists of dodging your enemies’ attacks, whether it be by rolling or deflecting bullets with your sword, and using the opening to kill them.

Askiisoft has spent the past two years of development perfecting the usage and feel of these mechanics. Every action that is taken screams the word “Satisfying.” Whether it be the short freeze that happens when you slash an enemy or how the text shatters and falls like glass whenever you interrupt a person during dialogue, Katana Zero’s developers obviously know how to make their players feel good.

Furthermore, the game’s simple mechanics don’t make it repetitive or grindy in any way. Askiisoft has filled Katana Zero to the brim with variety in their enemies, level design, and stage mechanics. Every level has different settings, hazards, music, and ways of playing the same game. For example, one level is completely vertical, having you ride down elevators between each quick room, while another level has you riding down a highway on a motorcycle instead of running and jumping around buildings.

The game is also well-paced. After each intense level of fast-paced murder and high tension dialogue, the game slows down; the screen fades out, and a classical piece transitions you to a view of a luxurious room with your therapist. This is a brilliant way of letting the player cool down after such intense action. You talk with your therapist about issues and plans, he gives you medicine and your next target, and you’re on your way to the next level.

The game’s design and mechanics aren’t the only high parts as Katana Zero’s art style and music match the 80s retrowave aesthetic that it so desires. The pixel art is done beautifully, and the synth-based music matches the gameplay perfectly.

Despite all of this, there is one glaring flaw with the game that I can’t fail to note: its length. The game only has 11 levels, which only took me around three hours to beat. Though Askiisoft has tried to remedy this problem through the addition of several secrets, this has failed to sate my desire for more of this game. I only wish that they add more levels and mechanics as downloadable content or in later updates.

All in all, Katana Zero is one of the best games I’ve played in the past few months. Its gameplay is fun and satisfying, and its art direction and music are perfect for what it strives to be. I feel that it outshines and is generally better than all the games which have inspired it. Plus, the only major flaw of this game is that it is just too short. Though the game isn’t for everybody (as its violence and retro art style may drive people away), I implore you to try it out if you are looking for a new game to play.


Katana Zero game is rated 17+, and it is available on PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch. You can buy it on Steam here.