Slave Zero X is a tough-as-nails retro experience

This reimagined sequel to the classic Slave Zero is tougher than ever as we recently found out during a hands-on demo.


While many people these days like to refer to difficult games as the Dark Souls of (blank), a game offering a challenge is nothing that new. Anyone who grew up in an era before online gaming and day-1 patches were a thing can attest that games were either already tough by design or contained enough problems that they became so. One game that looks to bridge the gap between that by-gone day of rough and tough home console titles with today’s modern tastes is Slave Zero X. I was able to try out a PC demo during GDC 2023 and I found my time with it to be intense and rewarding.

Jumping into a group of enemies in Slave Zero X.

Source: Ziggurat

Serving as a prequel to 1999’s Slave Zero, the game harkens back to the days of side-scrolling action titles like Strider or Ninja Warriors. Players take on the role of a cyborg tasked with the mission of overthrowing a corrupt dystopian government ruled by the wicked Sovereign Khan. In order to do that, you’re going to have to beat the crap out of so many robots and cyborgs.

All the action takes place on a 2D plane, leaving players to fend off hordes of grunts and more heavily armored opponents. Fortunately, you’ll have a hefty arsenal of attacks and combos at your disposal. Beyond your standard attacks, there are several special moves like a flying drill kick and an uppercut that sends a bio-organic blade shooting out of the ground which can set up a brutal juggling combo if you time it right. Along with the offensive skills players will be able to dodge and even have access to a combo-countering burst move that feels like it was taken right out of Guilty Gear.

For most of my hands-on experience I was able to plow through the obstacles in my way using all the tools given to me. I was beating down enemies left and right and racking up a rather impressive combo counter. Then I got to the boss fight where I had to take on a high-ranking general who must’ve had at least 24-pack of abs. This is where I feel like I really got a taste of what Slave Zero X has to offer as far as getting good is concerned. I got my butt kicked several times before I was finally able to beat the boss. I had to learn the attack patterns and get my timing just right, but once I finally defeated him, it felt so satisfying. It was a feeling similar to taking something down in a game like Elden Ring and felt like just as much of a challenge.

As someone who grew up in an era where side-scrolling brawlers like Slave Zero X were everywhere, it really struck a chord with me. The 90s anime cyber-mech visual tone doesn’t hurt either and really drives home that nostalgic feeling for me personally. Slave Zero X is a game that’s been on my radar since its reveal and my hands-on time has only cemented my interest in it. I’m definitely looking forward to overthrowing the corrupt robocracy once it’s ready for a full launch.

This preview is based on a hands-on PC demo of Slave Zero X during GDC 2023. The game is set to release for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch, but does not have an official release date as of the time this article was published.

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Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

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