Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Katana ZERO

Go To
Leave no survivors.

Katana ZERO is a 2019 Neo-Noir Cyberpunk 2D action platformer developed by askiisoft and published by Devolver Digital for Windows, Mac and Nintendo Switch.

You are a katana-wielding assassin, known only as The Dragon, who leaves no one alive. How do you do it? By utilizing Chronos, a drug that lets you screw around with time and even look into the future. Pretty sweet, right? Problem is, you've got some personal issues going on. For starters, you don't know much about yourself and the stuff there is to know is pretty nasty. You've also been having some really vivid nightmares. But you're seeing a therapist, so it evens out, right? Still though...

Gameplay-wise, the levels are essentially you planning out your line of attack during your assignments. You can counter bullets with your trusty katana and make time go slower to get the drop on your prey. You can even grab certain objects and throw them at the baddies. The good news is your enemies go down in one hit. The bad news is you go down in one hit too. Should that happen, you have to start that section all over again, enemies and everything, so don't get cocky. After you finish a section, you get to see a security cam play out in your real-time so you can see how unstoppable you were.

There's also a real-time conversation system that can be applied to everyone you meet. Do you listen to every detail your superior tells you? Or do you hang up on them at your earliest convenience? Do you get into detail about your nightmares with your therapist? Or do you just ask for your daily dose of Chronos?

Whatever you do, never forget: LEAVE NO SURVIVORS.

Free DLC is in development for the game, although the process to make it has taken a considerable amount of time due to being several times larger than what the developer had initially planned.

A free Beta Branch called "Katana Hero" was released on April Fools' Day 2023 on Steam, changing the story into a strange hunt for evil spirits and altering some small aspects of the game.

Katana ZERO provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

  • Arc Words: The very first words that the player sees, is someone asking The Protagonist about The Men in the masks. As one of them is even minorily seen in the Hotel level, reading up an newspaper. And even during The Studio level, one is seen as Freeze-Frame Bonus, as he is sitting in the director's chair during the glitching out effects. Then they make their first clear presence after drugging The Protagonist's tea. And after he wakes up, glitching out occurs once more, and the player once again sees those dreaded words appearing, but this time is from the psychiatrist.
  • Americasia: Played with. It seems like a standard cyberpunk example of the trope, except that the country of Neo Mecca, despite having the feel of immediately post-Vietnam America, is an Arab countrynote  with Japanese influence instead. This occasionally pops up to add flavor (for instance, a war medal is the Distinguished Service Crescent).
  • And I Must Scream: Allegedly suffered by Zero's noisy neighbors at the hands of V, and potentially any other Chronos users who died from withdrawal. It is heavily implied throughout the game that the withdrawal caused by the drug 'Chronos' results in the persons perception of time slowing to a stand still as it fully leaves their system. The effect lasts an incredibly long time, if not eternally, leaving them trapped in their own mind.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: One stage has you play as Fifteen as he fights his way through the prison looking for Fa Yuan.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Twice. It doesn't work in either instance.
    • The first time is when Fifteen corners Fa Yuan in Mutual-Nil prison. Fa Yuan pleads for Fifteen to spare him, but Fifteen drowns him in his own toilet.
    • The second only appears in the normal ending, when the Psychiatrist begs for his life and offers Zero all the Chronos he wants. Zero disregards his offer and brutally beats him to death.
  • Animesque: The game itself doesn't look like this, but look at any of the offical art and it becomes immediately apparent.
  • Aside Glance: In-universe example; while torturing the neighbors, V will wink and display peace sign at the screen.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In one of the later levels, you're given a gun right at the start to hold in your off-hand. It works just like any other one-time throwable item.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: According to V, people who go into Chronos withdrawal will spend eternity trapped in their own bodies. Whether or not this is true is debatable, as the scene is a hallucination, but if it's true, then this trope is in full effect for any Chronos user.
  • Black Comedy:
    • At the beginning of the hotel stage, some of the letters on the Murdower Hotel sign are faded, making the sign simply look like "Murder Hotel."
    • The entire saga of Strong Terry can be considered this, as it's What Measure Is a Mook? played for laughs.
  • Body Horror: The True Final Boss appears to have elements of this, but it's highly implied that the AKIRA-esque monstrosity you fight is just the protagonist suffering through Chronos withdrawals, and the actual fight is much more mundane.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Zig-zagged all over the place when the protagonist is captured. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time will get you shot in the head immediately, but with a silver tongue and a precognition-enhanced Breaking Speech, you can make V too upset to kill you himself and allow you an opening to escape.
  • Break Them by Talking: How the protagonist manages to prevent his execution by the hands of V. Via repeatedly using his clairvoyance, he deduces that all V wants is his attention and approval. Constantly interrupting V sends him into a breakdown, causing him to walk out in a huff.
  • Bullet Time: One of the core gameplay mechanics, granted by the drug Chronos. Allegedly, withdrawal from the drug causes the user's body to be locked into this state, effectively trapping them into their own bodies.
  • Brick Joke: Early in the game, the protagonist can overhear a conversation between two mooks arguing who would win in a fight, the Dragon or Strong Terry. Who's Strong Terry? Is this foreshadowing, and he's the level's boss, perhaps? Nope, he's nowhere to be found there. So you move on, get to the next level, business as usual, you kill the first regular mook that gets in your way, and…
  • But Thou Must!: Played with:
    • Sometimes during dialogue segments where the player has multiple choices, the screen will glitch and choose a (usually bad) option for them. For example, if you finish the prison level without killing anyone, then the protagonist will kill the homeless veteran he meets afterwards no matter what.
    • If you try to go straight to sleep, the protagonist will say he can't sleep without drinking his tea first. So there's no way to avoid Comedy and Tragedy showing up, who claim to have drugged said tea.
    • Subverted during a hallucination sequence. The protagonist will come across the child frequently seen in his dreams. The only option will be "KILL THE CHILD." The more times this is selected, the more identical options will fill the screen. The protagonist will then snap back to reality and then spare the targets of his mission. Based on a clearer dream sequence, it seems the child from the hallucination was spared as well.
    • Played fully straight with the "Life or Death" choice. If you choose to die, the game merely sends you back to the menu to continue again. If you want to experience the full game, you must choose to live, and accept the consequences.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Protagonist can inspect Psychiatrist's table, who will tell him about the properties of the healing stone on his table. The Protagonist will use the said healing stone at the end, to bludgeon him to death with it.
  • Child Soldier: Assuming that the age seen in his dossier is correct, Zero couldn't have been older than ten during the Cromag War. Whether this applies to the rest of the NULLs is uncertain.
  • Cliffhanger: The girl has apparently been kidnapped by Tragedy and Comedy, and Null Zero runs away from his apartment pursued by the police, likely in search of the girl.
  • Codename Title: The title references the codename of "Subject Zero", making it a Protagonist Title, and who was the first person tested for the perception-enhancing combat drug Chronos.
  • Co-Dragons: The psychotic thug V and the mysterious female ninja SNOW are these to their unnamed employer.
  • Confused Question Mark: One mook at the beginning of the game displays a question mark above his head in confusion.
  • Cool Bike: The protagonist and V both get them in their final showdown.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: V partakes in this on occasion.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option:
    • The only way to fight the True Final Boss, your psychiatrist, is to be as much of an asshole as possible — interrupting people left and right and making your employers extremely angry with you.
    • Zig-zagged by the war veteran after Mutual-Nil Prison. If Zero obeyed his directive not to kill anybody during the preceding level, he will always stab the vet to death, regardless of what dialogue options are picked. If he ignores his directives and kills the police investigating the prison, he will spare him unless the player selects the "Kill Him" option.
  • Cyberpunk: The game is set in a cyberpunk dystopia. Neon everywhere, futuristic drugs, a corrupt, crime-ridden city, high skyscraper buildings, and a middle ground between newer and older technology.
  • Deconstruction Game: In a meta way, Katana ZERO is a Deconstruction of a Deconstruction Game (which both of askiisoft's prior games toy with); although it has many typical traits of them, such as blending hallucinations and real events, a protagonist with little sense of self, and having many But Thou Must! moments, the choices players make ultimately matter only superficially, removing the agency of the players and showing that the protagonist's choices are his own.
  • Developer's Foresight: Once returning home, Zero's TV will tune in on a news channel detailing the aftermath of the killing spree he caused. A lot of small actions done by the player will be mentioned in the report: For example, Josh Rose is typically Driven to Suicide, but can also be killed by the Sword of Masters, or other throwables like the statue and the cleaver that also spawn in the segment. This will change the way his death is described. If the player pisses off the receptionist on the way in or admits to killing people on the way out, two police officers have to be killed, in which case the news changes the body count and specifically mentions the officers.
    • You can also try to use the Sword of Masters on V during the Mansion level, right after breaking the glass above him, you can slash your sword in a way that also breaks the glass and sends down a projectile down his way, which makes him stagger and reply with a response.
V : "Блять! What was that blue shit?"
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Cromag War is very similar to the Vietnam War — New Mecca invaded an unnamed Asian land, which is a dense jungle region (not unlike Vietnam), and fought a long and bloody war there that ended in defeat. The way that veterans were treated when they came back is also eerily similar to how real-life Vietnam vets were treated in the post-war American society, with them being demonized for their actions. The destruction of civilian villages is also similar to real life actions perpetrated by the U.S Military during the war, and the "child killings" brought up by the veterans in the bar scene are likely a parallel to the infamous "My Lai Massacre", in which anywhere from 350 to 500 Vietnam civilians were slaughtered by U.S troops.
  • Drugs Causing Slow-Motion: Chronos.
  • Disintegrator Ray: This is how security lasers work — you or your enemies, all is reduced to dust.
  • Escort Mission: Subverted. The first level ends with what appears to be an escort quest involving the protagonist taking care of an injured scientist, who even has a health bar, only for the scientist's head to detonate soon after when V triggers an unseen bomb.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even if the player chooses to play the protagonist as an unfettered, sociopathic serial killer who only cares about his next fix, he will always respond with disgust to V's gushing over his prowess and style.
  • Fantastic Drug: The protagonist gets his precognitive abilities and bullet-time perception from one. It's a military combat drug called Chronos. The psychiatrist takes an entirely different (unnamed) drug that apparently gives him Reality Warper powers.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Possibly. V claims that this happens to anyone who goes into Chronos withdrawal. Whether he's right or not is debatable, however, given that at this point V is either being tortured to death by Fifteen or dead already, and the "V" whom Zero has this conversation with is a dismembered corpse who appears in a hallucination. It's left up in the air whether this is a way for Zero's suppressed memories to express themselves, something more paranormal, or just a straight-up hallucination.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During the Prison level, the security cam footage is blanked out, indicating that someone swiped the tapes. You get these tapes later, and can watch Fifteen's rampage through the prison.
    • The protagonist's nightmares reveal bits and pieces of his history. While they slowly imply that he's a Cromag refugee of some kind, one may notice that the person who shoots the scientist is a NULL soldier. Later nightmares put the protagonist into the position of that soldier, and it's revealed in the end that it indeed is him, and not the child.
    • The little girl whom the protagonist can befriend appears in the first few nightmares, and is indicated to be a hallucination by two police officers who state that the man whom the girl claimed was her father lived alone. Furthermore, to the observant player, what seem like gameplay inconsistencies are actually hints to this effect. When she cleans your house, it's spic and span — but after you go out and get movies, the house returns to the same state of disrepair. Even minor things, like the girl sticking pictures of smiley faces to the walls, are reversed. It's almost like they never actually happened… (The game will swap back and forth here — when he wakes up the next morning? Clean again. …In other words, when he's paying attention, it all looks clean.)
    • In the same vein of apparent 'gameplay inconsistencies', during the Slaughterhouse, skipping the first video (or watching it & then resetting the room and skipping) does not change any dialog from the mastermind — he'll still address you like you tripped all the previous videos. It turns out this makes sense, because they're all recordings.
    • The Media eventually begins referring to the protagonist's activities as being the work of a serial killer known as 'The Dragon.' Although the game deliberately tries to wrong-foot the player into thinking that this means Zero, if one watches the TV long enough after the first level, it airs a report stating that the police are currently seeking the same serial killer, even though this is presumably one of Zero's first operations. This is an early hint that the Dragon isn't Zero.
  • Gilligan Cut: As the protagonist's grasp on reality begins to erode, his psychiatrist emphatically tells him to go immediately home, and to stay there until he's needed again. The scene immediately cuts to him walking into a bar.
  • Gorn: Downplayed. Unlike previous games published by Devolver Digital, the violence in this game is relatively tame as enemies (apart from spraying blood everywhere) all use one death animation, and killing them with a laser trap will simply disintegrate them. And in the times it does show up (such as V's brutal murder of an apartment neighbor), Gory Discretion Shot is in play. The only exception to this is in the normal ending where the Psychiatrist's head gets reduced to a crushed water melon.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Whoever V and Snow's employer is; in addition to employing the aforementioned two as hired muscle, they are trying to bring back Chronos. They're heavily implied, but never directly stated, to be Juncture, the MegaCorp whose branding is a common sight throughout the game.
  • Guide Dang It!: You'd be forgiven for needing to look up how to get the five keys to unlock the secret weapons and how to fight the secret boss.
  • Hallucinations: Many instances occur throughout the game as a result of the protagonist's PTSD and addiction to a drug that warps his perception of time to give him precognition.
    • It is implied that the girl is a hallucination at the end of the game, where the man assumed to be her father claims to have lived alone. She's referred to by Tragedy as the manifestation of Subject Zero's conscience, and is "kidnapped" when he decides to don the metaphorical silver mask of death.
    • The protagonist has the option to tell the psychiatrist that his hallucinations have stopped at the beginning of the game.
    • While suffering Chronos withdrawal, the protagonist has an extremely confusing hallucination sequence that even foreshadows a future mission he'll be going on.
    • It's unclear whether Comedy and Tragedy are hallucinations or not, as they are aware of the girl and refer to her as the protagonist's conscience — abducting her when he chooses to become an embodiment of death. They also abruptly appear and disappear, and demonstrate otherworldly powers of a kind not seen anywhere else in the game when they seem to pause time to speak to the protagonist, and then psychically murder the police squadron that had him surrounded.
    • It's possible that the secret final boss fight against the mutated psychiatrist is a hallucination. After the fight is over, the psychiatrist is simply sitting with a sword impaled into his head, not resembling how he looked in the fight at all.
  • Hero Antagonist: Although most of the enemies faced in the game are hired goons and thugs working for V, Zero doesn't hesitate to cut down the SWAT officers who are just trying to stop the rampaging samurai. The psychiatrist chews him out for it.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • It eventually becomes apparent that all your targets within the game are linked to the NULL project and/or Chronos in some manner, and are being systematically wiped out by government assassins like yourself. In their session before the bunker level, Zero can even lampshade that the psychiatrist is probably going to order his death as well, and that he's lying when he insists that's not the case — proven when Zero finds an assassination dossier on himself after killing the psychiatrist stating that he's to be disposed of if he learns too much.
    • An exaggerated trope given that the protagonist is usually ordered to Leave No Survivors, which implies that anyone who is even tangentially related to or employed by one of the targets is marked for death for this reason.
    • If the receptionist knows that Zero is an assassin and tells the police, the psychiatrist will order someone else offscreen to take her out.
  • I Am Who?: The protagonist is not given a name at all for most of the game. The closest he comes is a nickname the media apparently assign to his killings. They have him confused for someone else. His real identity is Subject Zero, a Gamma NULL — a psychically augmented super-soldier with the ability to see into the future with incredible clarity. He's also not the real — or at least the only — Dragon, as another NULL, Subject Fifteen, demonstrates.
  • Iaijutsu Practitioner: Both the protagonist and his war-buddy Fifteen wield their katanas in this fashion, quickly drawing it to attack before returning it to its saya.
  • Improvised Weapon: All pick-up items fall into this, being thrown at the nearest enemy or target.
  • Ironic Echo: The protagonist refers to V as "fucking subhuman" when V asks the protagonist to help him in his snuff film. At the end of the game, if you haven't unlocked the True Final Boss, the psychiatrist calls the protagonist subhuman while being beaten to death.
  • It's All Junk: The protagonist's service medal serves as a reminder of his past and of what he must do, a tether to the world around him. He throws it away after befriending the little girl next door, declaring that he has other things to remind him now.
  • Justified Extra Lives: The vast majority of gameplay consists of the protagonist using his Combat Clairvoyance to plan his approach and actions. Any "deaths" are chalked down as dead-end plans that would not work out.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The first ever nightmare sequence, as you are playing catch with the girl, someone storms in to tell the boy to hide as there are NULL soldiers- He gets cut off mid-sentence as a gunman behind him shoots him through the head.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: The protagonist's default weapon is a katana he uses to effortlessly slice up even armored opponents and machines. Fifteen wields one as well, to equally deadly effect.
  • Long Song, Short Scene:
    • The song Full Confession can be completly skipped if you already know how to defeat the boss, as it struggles to play even for the drop section of the song.
    • The song Kill Your Tv can also be skipped if you instantly go for the kill on electrohead.
    • The song The Volition that plays during Josh Rose's suicide, can also be skipped quite fast, as you can also go instantly for the kill, which will trigger him to jump over the railing and plummet to death below.
    • The song Silhouette that is playing on the very first level of the game, can be beaten very quickly that you won't get to listen to it fully.
    • The songs The Sandman 1 and 2 respectively, that are playing exclusively during the nightmare sequences, always get cut off short as someone gets Killed Mid-Sentence.
  • Lag Cancel: You can cancel a roll into a katana attack… but not vice versa. Careless aggression will make you restart; careful aggression will win the day.
  • Leave No Survivors: This is the protagonist's mandated M.O. Unless he's explicitly supposed to avoid casualties, the player can't leave an area unless all hostiles are dead. This is actually Played With to a certain extent, as the psychiatrist's behavior makes it fairly clear that this is only supposed to apply to criminals, thugs, and bodyguards. When Zero is sent after Fa Yuan, a prison inmate who is thus guarded by police and civilians, the psychiatrist explicitly orders him not to kill anyone, and after Zero's escape from Chinatown, the psychiatrist chews him out for killing an entire team of SWAT officers. This is probably because the psychiatrist works for the government, just as they do.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Katana Hero campaign is a retelling of the main story, but with the protagonist as a heroic spirit hunter and a far less serious atmosphere. Even the transformation the True Final Boss undergoes is considerably less horrific, as instead of a horrific mass of flesh he turns into a giant Dragon. He even survives the fight and undergoes a Heel–Face Turn!
  • Loony Laws: Up until relatively recently, bad cosplay used to be banned.

  • The Many Deaths of You: Downplayed compared to other games, but Katana ZERO has a few unique game-over screens. One that stands out is that if Zero blows himself up in one of the Bunker's elevators, the "No, that won't work." message is replaced with, "That would be a funny prank."
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: For a given definition of "mundane." It's extremely unclear what Tragedy and Comedy are, and whether they're hallucinations or something more. Their appearance in Chinatown is the only time they actively interact with people other than Zero, which ends with them killing a massive amount of SWAT members to save Zero's life should he choose to live… but at the same time, it's entirely within Zero's ability to kill them by himself. It should also be noted that although a single SWAT member does acknowledge the duo's initial appearance, choosing to die in the following conversation makes the scene play out like they never showed up. Although they kidnap the girl in the game's ending, she's implied to possibly be a hallucination as well, which only complicates matters.
  • Mind Screw: Pretty much the entire game. Katana ZERO gives Hotline Miami a run for its money in terms of how difficult it is to decipher the plot. Special mention goes to the hallucination sequences, however — especially Tragedy and Comedy, assuming they're hallucinations at all.
  • Minecart Madness: One of the floors at Studio 51 is a spoof of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and involves navigating a minecart down the track and catching up with it in time.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • The all-powerful precognition of the protagonist can be turned to alternate uses, such as winning money at the gambling table. This is key to entering the Chinatown level without violence.
    • Also Played for Laughs when V picks you up for a limo ride; V requests Zero's katana in order to cut up drugs with it. You can give it to him, in which case you have to fight through the first two rooms of the ensuing level without it.
  • No Name Given: The protagonist, the psychiatrist, and the little girl are never named.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: If the player picks the death option during the "Life or Death" choice, end credits play and the player is booted to the main menu.
  • Not Quite Flight: One of the unlockable weapons has this effect. The Savant Dagger's range is abysmally short, but it has such a rapid attack speed that Zero can stay off the ground almost indefinitely just by rapidly slashing.
  • One-Hit KO: Everyone excepting boss enemies dies in one hit, including the protagonist.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Your enemies and you go down in one hit.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The protagonist has nightmares every time he sleeps, and with time, the true context of said nightmares becomes more and more clear.
  • Painting the Medium: Whenever somebody is Killed Mid-Sentence or otherwise interrupted, their text box explodes, letters flying every which-way and scattering across the floor before fading out.
  • Parrying Bullets: A casual swipe of your sword is enough to send gunfire back whence it came. Somewhat downplayed due to the fact there is a brief lull before you can swing your sword again, so it requires incredible timing to deflect more than one bullet at once, which is a problem if your foes outnumber you or if they're carrying shotguns.
  • Pet the Dog: The protagonist has several moments that contradict his supposed sociopathy.
    • At the bar, he gets drunk with the two veterans, and they share some genuine camaraderie together.
    • Most of his interactions with The Girl are this, by design; they serve to humanize the protagonist regardless of the choices the player makes.
    • If you don't get her killed, the protagonist can flirt with the receptionist and even play a card game with her, culminating in her shyly asking him if he'd like to watch anime with her some time.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: Mr. Kissyface's axe can come back to him at any time.
  • Press X to Die: Choosing to die when Tragedy and Comedy offer you the choice will, unsurprisingly, result in you dying.
  • Rocket-Tag Gameplay: You die in one hit, and your enemies die in one hit, with the exception of bosses — and even then they usually block or avoid most of your hits, implying that they would die much sooner if you could get one clean hit on them.
  • Red Herring: Early in the game, the protagonist can observe a picture of his psychiatrist's daughter, and he remarks that someday the protagonist might meet her. After killing a female NULL, during an angry rant the psychiatrist remarks that he can't contact his daughter. However, there's no connection between the two events.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: The attempt to cover-up the NULL project eventually becomes this. Also Deconstructed: The cover-up wasn't supposed to be revealing, and the psychiatrist becomes intensely angry whenever the situation escalates out of control. He doesn't hesitate for a second to chew out the protagonist for it, either, whether it's caused by player choices or not.
  • Scry vs. Scry: When two Chronos users fight each other, the outcome ultimately depends on who can keep going the longest without being demoralized by endless deaths.
  • Sequel Hook: Quite a number. SNOW and V's employer is still around, Zero is on the run, Fifteen is still hunting down the Chronos manufacturers to murder them in vengeance for his fallen NULL brethren, and the girl has been kidnapped by Comedy and Tragedy for unknown reasons. In addition, how Chronos is made, why SNOW and V's employer wanted it, and who Comedy and Tragedy are is still unknown. Comedy even claims that, just before the final level, only the first act has been completed. There is even a "to be continued" in the credits.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the assassination targets, a DJ called Electrohead, is a cross between deadmau5 and Daft Punk — wearing a massive helmet with a screen that changes based on his emotions.
    • One of the unlockable weapons, the Sword of Masters, is a blatant shout-out to the Master Sword from The Legend of Zelda — being a blue-hilted longsword that shoots energy projectiles at enemies.
    • The basement floor of the movie studio level is called Chapel of Doom.
    • The second floor of the movie studio level is named 3001: A Space Uncertainty.
    • The third floor of the movie studio level is Quiet Hills, complete with an animatronic Pyramid Head expy called "Coffin Head".
    • In the background of the level Chinatown, there is a billboard that points to the Fans of leather making. (A nod to the Gachimuchi.)
    • The protagonist can engage in a Card Battle Game with the receptionist provided he befriended her, resplendent with Yu-Gi-Oh! references..
      Protagonist: You just activated my trap card.
    • The credits song is called "Come and See" which is a reference to the movie with the same name, that ends traumatically in the war setting
  • Shield Mook: SWAT troopers have riot sheilds that will deflect your katana and thrown object, but die like everyone else when hit from behind or by a deflected bullet.
  • Signs of Disrepair: The O and W in the neon sign in the Murdower Hotel lobby are flickering and mostly dead, leaving just MURD__ER Hotel.
  • Snuff Film: At one point in the story, V invites the protagonist over to his studio to help film a snuff film involving him beating two prostitutes to death. V also sends a VHS to the protagonist where he kills the protagonist's next door neighbors, though the grislier acts of torture (one of which would have involved pliers) aren't seen before the protagonist ejects the tape.
  • Source Music:
    • Whenever the protagonist begins a new contract, he grabs his headphones and puts some music on. This is how most of the levels in the game get their music tracks.
    • During the mission at Club Neon, the music comes from the club itself where Electrohead is performing. It sounds muffled when you enter the employees only area, and is even credited as "Hit the Floor - DJ Electrohead".
  • Stylistic Suck: The secret boss fight against the psychiatrist in Hard Mode contains a portion where the game's frame rate drops considerably to make it harder to hit your targets.
  • Suicide by Cop: This happens to the protagonist if the player chooses to die in Chinatown.
  • Super-Soldier: This is what NULL soldiers were intended to be, thanks to the power of Chronos. Most of them were purged, with the only known survivors being Zero, Fifteen (who is the real Dragon), and a woman going by "Headhunter".
  • Sword Beam: Two of the unlockable weapons grant this effect to the protagonist's katana. The Sword of Masters charges and fires a long-range, spiraling, crescent-shaped energy blade similar to The Legend of Zelda's, whereas the Phoenix Sword unleashes a short-range wave of flames with each slash.
  • A Taste of Power: The Prison Tape. You play as Fifteen, rather than Zero, as he slaughters everybody standing between him and Fa Yuan. Fifteen's secondary ability is a Flash Step that instantly kills anything in his line of movement, no questions asked; Shield-Bearing Mooks, turrets, regular grunts.. This also lets him get past fields of lasers that Zero can't cross.
  • Title Drop: Katana ZERO refers to the player character, whose real "name" is Subject Zero and who wields a katana.
    • Is also named after the song, which plays during the Mansion level, that is a culmination of everything you learned so far.
  • Timed Mission: Every section has a generous timer, justified as the limit on the character's precognitive abilities. If the timer runs out, the restart screen reads, "I can't remember that much. I need to be more efficient."
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The protagonist's Chronos withdrawal is affecting his mind severely, and hallucinations become frequent later in the game. At one point the protagonist gets precognition for an assignment he hasn't even been sent on yet, implying that the drug is making his powers go haywire.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: You never throw your katana, but anything else you can pick up is fair game, and can one-shot your enemies like literally everything else in the game.
  • Tyke Bomb: The player character.
  • The Unfought: Despite being recurring antagonists, neither Fifteen nor SNOW end up being fought, apparently setting the stage for a sequel.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: This is a key maneuver with abusable i-frames, required for bypassing lasers, bullets, and SWAT mooks alike.
  • Vehicular Assault: During the bike section, you will face against other bikes and vehicles, and an helicopter that V resides on.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment:
    • Playing the game as cruelly and abrasively as possible will piss off your psychiatrist enough that he takes some form of combat enhancement drugs in an effort to kill you.
    • Piss off the receptionist at the hotel and she'll sic the police on you on your way out instead of supporting your alibi.
  • Wham Line:
    • One that proves just how detailed the protagonist's precognition abilities can get.
      Player Character: I want answers, V.
      V: I never told you my name...
    • Another line not long after:
      V: You think you're tough shit? The Dragon!? Well I'm the DRAGON SLAYER!
      The Dragon: He is not the Dragon. I am.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Chronos users are essentially immortal as long as they have enough of the drug in their system, as the drug grants users omnipotent levels of precognition that allows them to ostensibly rewind time. However, a side effect of withdrawal from the Chronos drug is that time effectively "stops" for its user, trapping them in time. The protagonist regularly experiences time displacement due to this, as he's regularly forced to live out the trauma of decades-old memories of killing innocents in the war. Chronos addicts are regularly forced to take the drug just to maintain a normal flow of time, and it's even implied at one point that the drug is able to keep the brain alive in a comatose state well after death, subjecting the user to an eternity of torture. NULL subjects have to worry about not only this, but also heavily decelerated aging (the protagonist, despite being in his 50s at minimum, is regularly mistaken for being in his mid-20s).
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To Hotline Miami. Beware of unmarked spoilers in the following note.note 
  • The Worf Effect: After being the only character in the game to survive more than one encounter with the protagonist, V is effortlessly disarmed and then abducted by Fifteen, who tortures him to death offscreen. This is slightly downplayed by the fact that the protagonist did most of the work, having already left him concussed and bleeding out on the freeway after a high-speed motorcycle chase.
  • You Have Failed Me: The psychiatrist will say this with increasingly threatening undertones if you fail to complete his objectives to the letter. When Zero refuses to kill Al-Qasim's family in the bunker, the psychiatrist's mysterious employer pulls this on him, and is strongly implied to have murdered his daughter before coming for him next.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: The protagonist is clearly repelled when V explains how much of a fan he is. Whereas the former kills because it's his job, the latter derives sadistic pleasure from mutilating his victims.

Yes, that should work.