It’s rare for me to play the same game twice at a convention, but I had to do that for Katana Zero. In fact, this was at least the third time I played the game from Devolver Digital and Askiisoft, thanks to a visit at PAX West 2016. So, when I checked it out at PAX East 2019 it was crazy to see how far the game had come, how much fun it still was, how well it ran on the Switch, and how much it grabbed me to the point that I played it at the Devolver Digital booth and again with Nintendo.
Yes, two playthroughs, which is actually very thematic for the game, which relies on memorization, patterns, and repeating levels until you get them right. Katana Zero is a stealth, action, ninja game but with so many twists that it’s hard to explain them all without just breaking down the whole experience. Luckily, you can check out some gameplay below, which thankfully comes from my much more skilled, yet still death-filled second playthrough.
As you can see in that footage, you die a lot in Katana Zero, but these aren’t real deaths. Your character, using a special drug of mysterious origin, is able to predict the future, seeing how his actions will flow from one to the next. This gives you the ability to avoid mistakes and work out the best possible path through each level. This is an intricate theme and framing device which in practice plays out with you playing through a level until you die, then heading back to the beginning and trying again. Since you and almost every enemy dies in a single hit, this happens a whole lot. Of course, with small, checkpoint heavy levels and an extremely fast restart, it never became frustrating through any of my time with the game.
Katana Zero Gameplay
This trial-and-error sort of system is something we’ve seen before in gaming, but not with this much style and intrigue attached to it. And it will be great to see how this plays out through the rest of the game. Especially in the story, since Katana Zero has some really expansive dialogue options that impacts the story in some very interesting ways. This includes playing off of gamers’ typical impatience with dialogue and story elements in actions games.
With every interaction with other characters you have the choice to stop and listen, choosing options once they’ve gotten their initial thought out, or you can interrupt and end the conversation quickly. A great example of this involves a stealth infiltration of a hotel where the receptionist confronts you as you walk in. As you’re dressed as a ninja and carrying a sword. You can interrupt her, making her angry and suspicious, or you can try to convince her you’re just cosplaying. This comes into play as you leave the scene, with police showing up to investigate possible murders, and you covered in blood.
I could go on and on about Katana Zero and the many ways it plays with action game tropes, but thanks to its awesome style and fast gameplay it’s better to just see it. Check out the video above to get an idea of how the game will play. Katana Zero hits PC and Switch on April 19th, 2019.