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Katana Zero cuts deep with a brutal Hard Mode update

Katana Zero was a lovely game — a side-scrolling samurai Hotline Miami — but perhaps a little on the short side. Ending on a maddening cliffhanger, developer Askiisoft says there’s more levels and story in the works as free DLC. Until then, they’re putting players through the wringer. Two new modes were added in a big patch yesterday, Speedrun mode and Hard Mode. The former offers a cutscene-lite deterministic playing field. Hard Mode, unlocked after beating the main story, is designed to murder you in a thousand fun new ways. Oh, and you can pet a cat now.

I’ve always appreciated a developer going the extra mile in adding new difficulty levels. So many just decrease the player’s health – not so here. Hard Mode in Katana Zero is a remixed version of the campaign, featuring some all-new enemy types, much harder enemy placement in general, overhauled boss fights and even upgrades to the traps. You can see just how intense it gets in the SPOILERIFFIC video below. Not even player “Haku – The White Void” on YouTube can believe they pulled off this deathless, high-speed run through an enemy-packed chapter eight.

It doesn’t take an eagle eye to see the big differences between Normal and Hard here. There’s many more enemies in awkward-to-attack positions, more turrets at the end of hallways, and more enemy types. I spot beefy guys with machine-guns that I dub The Strongest Terries and martial artist versions of the Skinny Rickies. It’s a much meaner collection of threats. While you could often get by without leaning too hard on bullet time during the main game, you’ll be wanting to take this new mode as carefully as possible, and maybe use some of those unlockable swords.

I shudder to think what the game’s secret, brutally tough optional boss fight is like on Hard mode. I guess that’s something to chew on while I wait for that free story DLC.

You can see the official patch notes for this update here, although most of the Hard Mode changes are unlisted for players to discover. The game is also 20% discounted on Steam and GOG, bringing it down to £9.11/€9.99/$11.99. It’s published bv Devolver Digital.

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Dominic Tarason

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