Katana Zero - Critique
While her influences are clearly visible on the sleeves of her kimono, Katana Zero refines the tried and true 'one hit / one death' formula making it exciting, innovative and surprising in so many ways.
Katana Zero sees you play as an unnamed samurai assassin, able to manipulate time and see the future. In a smart way, each level is presented as the planning of an assassination. So when your character is about to die, the screen will read "No ... that won't work", while your premonition rewinds old VHS tape, giving you a chance to work it out. which will not end in your death. Each level ends with a security camera-like recording of what “really” happened, which allows you not only to review your exploits, but also to define your axes of progress for your next sessions.
Achieving this is a real pleasure, as the action of Katana Zero turns out to be incredibly nervous and flexible. As in Hotline Miami , each hit results in the death of you and any of your enemies except bosses. Your character can slice in eight different directions, slow down time, use roll to dodge bullets, or send them back with his sword. With welcome little touches like the gentle push you get with each saber strike, the ability to undo a roll, and the way each kill shakes the screen and causes a pause in the action (both features that can be adjusted or deactivated in the options), the movements of your character prove to be unfailingly fluid.
One of my favorite aspects of Katana Zero's action - especially because it's optional - is the slow motion effect. The latter never seems excessive, given that it takes a while to recharge and enemies reapply at the slightest shot fired, which rarely gives you the opportunity to quietly wait for its gauge to fill up. All in all, it's an ability powerful enough to get you out of a tight spot, but limited enough to keep the on-screen action from faltering too much.
As I improved, I tried to do without slow motion as much as possible. Firstly because entering a room full of enemies, deflecting bullets, dodging gunshots and slicing through bad guys at real speed is incredibly enjoyable, but also to keep a wild card in my pocket as long as possible. handle.
While Katana Zero's plot doesn't reach the heights of its gameplay, it does benefit from strong writing and a few particularly successful characters, like your boss / therapist who walks you through the traumas of your past while providing you with the files of the people he wishes to see disappear, or a psychotic Russian named V. You also have access to an innovative dialogue system, which gives you unique possibilities depending on when you choose to reply or skip lines of dialogue of an NPC. For example, when you walk past the receptionist at a hotel full of enemies to kill, you can cut her brutally every time she tries to talk to you, which makes her quite pissed off. But if you wait for her to finish each of her sentences, you'll be rewarded with new lines of dialogue, like the one allowing you to make her believe you're an anime fan cosplayer. The resulting exchanges are entertaining, and redoing the levels to explore the different possibilities in terms of dialogue is definitely worth the detour.
That being said, any change in the plot due to my choices seemed largely superficial to me, and there have been times when the possibilities for subsequent dialogue have been totally incompatible with my previous decisions. However, the bigger problem here comes down to the fact that very little gets resolved when the end credits pop up onscreen, as if Katana Zero is just the first part of a long-running franchise. I'm obviously interested in the direction a potential sequel or DLC could take, but it's still hard to see the plot proposed by this first chapter as anything other than a huge exhibition scene.
To overcome Katana Zero , it will take between four and six hours which will prove to be of rare intensity. The title is full of ideas, and each level does a great job of introducing minor variations to its straightforward formula (with an internship taking place in a wagon, a motorcycle chase sequence, and a level in all remarkable points that would be a little too tedious to mention here).
The visual and sound rendering is of excellent quality. The neon aesthetic and the fantastic work done on the sprites go hand in hand with some downright impressive 2D lighting effects, which give Katana Zero a unique visual style and personality. For its part, the retro-electro soundtrack proves to be the most suitable and perfectly supports the action on the screen.