Katana Zero

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Katana Zero
Katana Zero pre-release Steam header.jpg
Publisher(s)Devolver Digital
Programmer(s)Justin Stander
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, macOS, Nintendo Switch
ReleaseApril 18, 2019
Genre(s)Action, platform

Katana Zero is a 2D action platform video game developed by Askiisoft and published by Devolver Digital for Microsoft Windows, macOS and Nintendo Switch in 2019.


Katana Zero includes no health bar and being hit will result in instant death, similar to Hotline Miami.[1] The player character navigates side-scrolling levels, attempting to kill all enemies in that level using his blade or environmental traps.[1] The player character can deflect bullets with his slash, slow time with a meter that slowly refills, and dodge attacks using rolls.[2] The game also features a real-time conversation system that the player can interrupt.[1]


Katana Zero takes place in the dystopic, neo-noir metropolis of New Mecca. The game's plot is heavily affected by an invasion of an unnamed Asiatic nation, referred to as the "Cromag War," launched by either New Mecca or whatever controlling government rules it. New Mecca's faction is implied to have lost the ensuing conflict.

The player controls a katana-wielding assassin called Subject Zero, nicknamed “The Dragon”, as he completes various assassinations given to him by his psychiatrist, who also supplies him with ‘Chronos’, a drug that allows him to slow down time and predict the future.[1]

Throughout the game, Zero experiences recurring nightmares of a child in a primitive hut; a man wearing a labcoat bursts into the hut and warns the child to hide moments before being shot dead by the menacing silhouette of a soldier. The child is heavily implied to be a young Zero. Zero is also repeatedly visited by Comedy and Tragedy, two men wearing lab coats and theater masks, who taunt him about impending disaster in his future.[1]

The game begins as Zero is rescuing a kidnapped scientist from a warehouse. The scientist is found but immediately killed by V, a Russian mobster, who escapes. His mission failed, Zero visits his psychiatrist to receive his daily Chronos injection and a dossier on his next target, Josh Rose. Zero fights his way to Rose, who commits suicide. On his way home, Zero befriends a young girl living next door to his apartment in the Third District.

Next, Zero is sent to kill DJ Electrohead, a disc jockey involved in the drug trade, and is explicitly warned not to speak to him. Zero infiltrates his nightclub and can either kill Electrohead or listen to him confess to using Chronos before he is shot dead by V, who again flees. Zero's fourth target is Fa Yuan, a prison inmate. Upon arriving, Zero finds the prison staff massacred and his target already dead. SWAT officers arrive and swarm the cellblock as Zero escapes. At his apartment, the girl gives him a videotape she claims V left for him, containing a recording of V torturing and killing Zero's other neighbors.

Zero finds his psychiatrist's office closed the next morning and is picked up by V in a limousine on his way back. V offers to partner with Zero, who flatly refuses and is tossed out of the limo. He tracks down V to a movie backlot and fights through various film sets to reach him. Their fight is interrupted by Snow, a swordswoman working with V, who threatens Zero and leaves with V.

After experiencing hallucinations, Zero is assigned to kill Al-Qasim, a wealthy industrialist. Zero comes upon V and his men already storming Al-Qasim's mansion and is captured. When Zero uses precognition to mock him, V shoots Al-Qasim and leaves Zero to be killed by his henchman, Mr. Kissyface. Zero kills Kissyface and chases V and his men down the highway on a motorcycle. Before Zero can kill him, V is dismembered and then abducted by another swordsman, who displays similar abilities to Zero's. Before Zero flees, the swordsman identifies himself as 'the Dragon.'

Zero meets V again in another hallucination, who reveals his visions are the result of Chronos withdrawal—without it, he will be trapped in time, unable to die. Zero's psychiatrist sends him to a Chinatown casino to hunt down The Dragon. Within the Casino, Zero encounters The Dragon, as well as Headhunter, another Chronos user. Zero duels Headhunter while The Dragon flees the scene; the duel ends in a draw, and Headhunter escapes. While leaving, Zero acquires a tape containing the Prison's security footage from the night of Fa Yuan's murder. The tape footage shows The Dragon storming the prison and questioning Fa Yuan, who mentions Leon von Alvensleben, the creator of Chronos.[3]

After finding the psychiatric office closed, Zero is directed to a slaughterhouse by an unknown caller. The slaughterhouse proves to be a front for a training facility for 'NULLs', Chronos-enhanced super soldiers used by New Mecca in the Cromag war. While progressing through the facility, Zero is addressed by Alvensleben, who observes and speaks to him through a series of monitors throughout the facility.

After determining Zero was once an elite Gamma NULL, Alvensleben reveals the project was a failure, and its subjects marked for death. Realizing that the footage of the scientist is a recording made years ago, Zero thaws the real Alvensleben from cryostasis, killing him.

Zero locates and confronts the Psychiatrist, who confirms that Zero was a NULL soldier, and that his targets have all been related to Chronos. He then sends Zero to destroy the contents of Al-Qasim's safe room in an underground bunker. At the bottom, he finds Headhunter guarding the vault. Headhunter confirms that she is also a NULL, and that she is suffering Chronos withdrawal after Al-Qasim's death. Zero kills her and enters the vault, where he finds a woman and children cowering in fear. Unable to proceed, he flees.

Zero discovers his psychiatrist preparing to flee the city, brutally beats him to death, and injects himself with a massive dose of Chronos. Alternatively, if Zero interrupts the Psychiatrist constantly during conversations and deliberately disobeys his directives during missions, the Psychiatrist becomes enraged and injects himself with an unknown drug, transforming into a monstrosity. Zero duels the monstrosity and kills him. Upon Zero's victory, the scene immediately cuts to him calmly seated in the office, the Psychiatrist's human self dead by a stab to the head rather than by being beaten to death. Zero searches the Psychiatrist's belongings and leaves without visibly injecting himself with Chronos.

Returning to his apartment, he finds it burglarized, the young girl gone, and a cryptic note left behind. The landlady states that no children lived in the building. When questioned, Zero runs, and the police give chase.

Zero's recurring nightmare is replayed, minus the distortion. Zero is revealed to have been the NULL soldier responsible for shooting the Scientist, rather than the child who hid. Having completed his objective, Zero exits the scene of the nightmare and walks over to stand next to The Dragon, who is shown to have been Zero's comrade in arms during the Cromag War.

In a mid-credits scene, Snow informs her superior of V's death at the hands of The Dragon, while The Dragon contemplates a board of evidence at a safe house. In a post-credits scene, Comedy and Tragedy taunt the little girl as she cowers in fear.

Development and release[edit]

The game's programmer is Justin Stander,[1] while the soundtrack is synthwave and is composed by LudoWic and Bill Kiley.[4] Development was announced "100% complete" by February 27, 2019.[5]

The game was released on 18 April 2019.[6]Katana Zero has been prohibited in Australia before being ultimately rated adult-only in May 2019.[7]


Aggregate score
Metacritic83/100 (Switch)[8]
83/100 (PC)[9]
Review scores
Game Informer7.75/10 (Switch)[11]
Game Revolution3/5 (Switch)[10]
GameSpot8/10 (PC)[12]
Nintendo Life9/10 stars (Switch)[14]
USgamer4.5/5 (Switch)[15]

The game was well received in previews by several gaming news outlets. In 2016, Nick Robinson of Polygon called it "one of the most impressive games we saw at PAX Prime last year".[1] Brenna Hiller of VG247 called the game "far too stylish" and complimented the fact that the game's screen shake could be turned down.[4] Mike Williams of USgamer called the game "stylish as hell" and "one of [his] favorite upcoming games".[2]

As of April 2019, the game has a score of 83 on Metacritic, indicating generally favorable reviews.[8]

The Nintendo Switch version reached 100,000 copies sold within one week of its release.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Robinson, Nick (2016-01-14), Watch us play Katana Zero: a gorgeous, stylish neo-noir Hotline Miami-like, retrieved 2017-07-03
  2. ^ a b Williams, Mike. "Katana Zero is Still Stylish as Hell". USgamer. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  3. ^ Justin Stander [@askiisoft] (1 May 2019). "The laser girl's name is Headhunter, and she is not related to the psychiatrist" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  4. ^ a b "Everyone's drooling over this gorgeous trailer for super-stylish indie Katana Zero". VG247.com. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  5. ^ Justin (27 February 2019). "Katana ZERO development is 100% complete with some exciting news coming mid March, including console plans and an exact launch date reveal! While it includes a two week delay, the news will fulfill one of your biggest requests...pic.twitter.com/CamoZz4M8s".
  6. ^ "Katana ZERO launches for Switch, PC on April 18". 20 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Katana Zero No Longer Prohibited From Releasing In Australia, Receives R18+ Rating". One Angry Gamer. 15 May 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Katana ZERO for Switch Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  9. ^ "Katana ZERO for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  10. ^ Santa Maria, Alex (April 18, 2019). "Katana Zero Review | Tale of a stumbling samurai". Game Revolution. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  11. ^ Juba, Joe (April 18, 2019). "Katana Zero". Game Informer. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  12. ^ Barbosa, Alessandro (April 18, 2019). "Katana Zero Review - Slow-Motion Samurai". GameSpot. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  13. ^ Saltzman, Mitchell (April 18, 2019). "Katana Zero Review". IGN. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  14. ^ Vogel, Mitch (April 18, 2019). "Katana ZERO Review". Nintendo Life. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  15. ^ Williams, Mike (April 18, 2019). "Katana Zero Review". USgamer. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  16. ^ Doolan, Liam (April 26, 2019). "Katana Zero Sold More Than 100,000 Copies In Its First Week". Nintendo Life. Retrieved April 26, 2019.

External links[edit]