There are few games I think about as often as Katana Zero. You know when something wriggles its way into your brain and sort of just stays there? Considering it’s been three years since Katana Zero launched, I guess it’s gotten to the point where its toothbrush is next to mine. It’s not even for the reasons you might expect, either. Yes, its side-scrolling action is so buttery smooth it should come with a cholesterol warning. Its soundtrack is sublime. It looks gorgeous. But for me, the chewiest bit is the story.
Or more the concept, I guess? The story is grand, sure, but the central hook is phenomenal. You see, in Katana Zero play as a samurai. Or rather, a guy cosplaying as a samurai who calls himself “The Dragon”. Or rather, a very dangerous and capable killer who just so happens to like wearing a kamishimo as he’s slicing open the stomachs of goons in a nightclub. Every morning, he’s given a contract by his therapist (normal behaviour). Every evening he returns back to his dingy apartment to watch TV and have heart-warming conversations with his neighbour’s kid.
But ah! Here’s the bit I really love! You’re heavily addicted (dependent, even) on a drug that distorts time and provides narrative context for your ability to restart encounters after you get a bullet shot into your soft bits. It’s schlocky, but in a sort of “80s sci-fi movie” kind of way that really appeals to me. What if bullet time was real, but using it displaced you from time? That’s the bit that sticks. What if this common - tropey, even - video game mechanic was possible. How would it be weaponised? What effect would it have on those it was imposed upon?
Makes you think, doesn’t it! The game’s getting some free DLC soon and it can’t come quickly enough. More stuff to mull over? Yes please.