Mushin in Japanese (無心 “no mind”) is a mental state that many Zen meditators, and trained martial artists hope attempt to reach in their everyday lives. The term is written with the characters for negation (無) along with the one for heart/mind (心) and it actually look like a little heart organ if u focus closely. It refers to a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything and any possibility, and Katana Zero is a great reflection of this concept.
Mushin is achieved when the mind is free from thoughts of anger, fear or ego during everyday life and also combat, allowing the mind to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation and without disturbance from such thoughts. At this point, a person relies not on what they think should be the next move, but what is their trained natural reaction (or instinct) or what is felt intuitively. It is not a state of relaxed, near-sleepfulness, however. The mind could be said to be working at a very high speed, but with no intention, plan or direction.
One might be hypocritical at first of Katana Zero, deeming it as the usual 2D stealth-action platformer with overused pixelated graphics. Fortunately, it takes very little to feel the uniqueness of this game, and get sucked into a perfect mechanism, made of timing, speed of execution and strategy. The protagonist of this game -following events that become clear during the adventure- has an altered perception of time, and is able to predict future fighting sequences through analyzing the behavior of enemies and finding the best way to attempt any level, at a very high speed, and without thoughts.
Katana Zero is now available for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch (Tested).
Katana Zero Review
Katana Zero takes place in the dystopic, neo-noir metropolis of New Mecca. A long war between two opposing factions has apparently left its marks throughout civilization. Mysterious occult organizations are taking part in power plays away from the eyes of the population, and some inhuman research is being conduct in the backstage of everything. The story does not even hold your hand throughout all of this, and it puts you in medias res, bypassing any usual exposition or conventional means of introducing motivations or clear plans of conduct.
Your protagonist is the Katana wielding samurai known as The Dragon, who is devoid of memory and any resemblance of active thinking. The samurai quickly finds himself inside a whirlwind of existential issues that lead to truly unexpected situations, involving hallucinations, nightmares, delusions, psychoanalyst sessions and mysterious phone calls. All of this is being told with remarkable craftsmanship that allows for some truly bizarre situations and a lot of unexpected twists only found in this game.
The story is much more than a simple outline in Katana Zero, and contributes greatly to the characterization of the main character. but it is certainly the gameplay that is the centerpiece of the whole experience. The action is proposed as a sequence of infinite simulations on a rewinding video tape that revises each and everyone of your movements until you find a clear path to success without having to take even one hit. It all works seamlessly in game and you can rewind and retry your attempts any number of times without cost.
Our hero is resourceful. You can jump, roll, move stealthily and throw objects, but above all you can manipulate time, and use it to slow down your perceived area, then dodge and deflect bullets with high speed precision. Even if you die, you cannot die, as the power imposed upon you through the mysterious drug by your disturbing psychoanalyst allows you to live and repeat every exact moment until you complete your defined objective.
Enemies with different skills and weapons require different approaches and each room can be handled separately as an individual puzzle. Some elements can create real twists, and every kill is highlighted by the amount of gore and how fast it could happen on screen, especially if multiple kills occur simultaneously. Of course nothing is without its price, as the whole experience can be completed in under 6 hours, with little room for replayability except if you desire seeing different reactions to the various dialogue choices.
You are always in a heightened state of awareness along with the protagonist, which allows you to achieve miraculous results. There are echoes of magic in how you adjust to memorizing patterns, and drawing perfect plans. You begin to enter this state by the simple gesture of pressing the play button on the protagonist’s Walkman, and kick off multiple synthwave and dubstep soundtracks of gargantuan beauty along the way.
The graphic style adopted from the classics succeeds in making every detail standout, and handling out the fluidity of combat, while reinforcing the brutality and insanity of everything you stand for. Numerous distortions and various chromatic filters are also applied to expand the effect of disorientation you feel from all the drugs you intake. As a pharmacist myself, I felt the symptoms was very well portrayed.
A free DLC episode is also currently in the making, which expands on the original mechanics (and hopefully tie up some loose ends in the story). A couple of new weapons are also announced to be introduce such as a plasma blaster and a fancy gravity warping Robo-arm. It’s a very ambitious expansion and according to the developer’s blog updates it can be considered it’s own separate adventure.
- Excellent fluidity and infinite possibilities in combat
- Synthwave style electronic music composed by Ludowic and Bill Kelly
- Brilliant writing with twists that will hold their place in your memory for a long time
- Short story span will low incentive for replyability
- A lot of unanswered questions (That hopefully get answered in future updates)