PAX East 2019: Katana Zero is more than just an intense samurai hitman taking out targets

Katana Zero preview PAX 2019

PAX East 2019 has come and gone, but the preview coverage lives on! While at the show this past Sunday, I managed to make a break for the Nintendo booth once the convention opened. After I made it inside the square of wonder, I had the chance to preview a few titles coming to Switch. One such title was Katana Zero, the stylistic indie game where a samurai murders a whole bunch of people. Having spent a chunk of time playing the title, I have come to realize it is much more than that.

You still rack up a huge body count, though

Katana Zero preview PAX 2019
Those two guys above are about to be eviscerated.

The Katana Zero demo at PAX East 2019 starts you off on a rescue mission. Your samurai hitman must save a scientist within a heavily guarded base. Almost immediately, you are introduced to the game’s main gameplay mechanic: Quickly kill everyone within each area in order to advance to the next. Speed is key: As you can see above, an hourglass counts down once you start a stage. If you get hit once, you’re dead. The stage rewinds back to the start, and you get a chance to try again.

Katana Zero preview PAX 2019
Lasers are not good for your health.

Get your mind checked out by a professional

Once you complete your first assignment, you head back to your apartment. You drink some herbal tea, turn on the news and hear about your exploits, then slumber. Nightmares ensue. The next day, you make a trip to converse with your therapist. (All those assassinations must weigh on one’s mental state.) It’s here where I learned to appreciate another one of Katana Zero‘s unique gameplay mechanics, at least for this genre. You can choose to be honest with your doctor about your hallucinations and receive medicine for your brain, or you can cut him off and just demand your drugs. Being curt with various NPCs affects how the story unfolds, according to one of the station’s representatives. I ended up experiencing this firsthand on my next mission.

I should have listened

My next task involved killing some big shot in a hotel complex. In order to experience more of Katana Zero and not keep the line behind me waiting, I was extremely rude to the receptionist. After brushing past her to get inside, and following many failed attempts at my goal, I completed the mission and headed out. Lo and behold, the attendant had grown suspicious of me due to my impertinence, and armed guards were waiting for me. Luckily, I dispatched them quickly, right after the representative chastised me, saying, “See what happens when you’re mean?” From then on, I knew to be nice to every NPC I subsequently met. Except for the guys I was ordered to kill.

Slaying samurai goodness

After the 15-20 minutes I had with Katana Zero, I was left very impressed. Dispatching enemies in a short amount of time while avoiding any damage was a rush. The ability to use invincibility dodges and slow down time, not to mention items you can pick up to slay foes from a distance, kept the gameplay fresh and invigorating. In addition to all this, the dialogue trees you encounter affect the plot and characters with which you interact. This adds replayability to the game with its allure of branching paths.

Katana Zero will be available digitally on Switch April 18, 2019. If you like throwing a hatchet into a henchman’s face while turning around and slashing another one behind you with your sword, all while in slow motion, then this title is for you. Let us know if my impressions have swayed your interest in Katana Zero┬áby leaving a comment below!

Arthur Damian
Arthur Damian is a writer, editor, educator, and lover of video games. Based and living in Brooklyn, NY, he has been gaming since the age of five, from the NES to the Nintendo Switch. His favorite system is the SNES, his favorite game is Chrono Trigger, and you cannot convince him otherwise. He loves dogs, rainbow cookies, Spider-Man, and songs with intricate drum patterns. Arthur is also the Editor-in-Chief at That VideoGame Blog.