Most fans of anime and RPG games know of the company, Atlus. They’re probably best known for their Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series of games. Today though, dear readers, I’m going to share my thoughts with you on their first game for the seventh-generation consoles in HD, Catherine.
Catherine was released almost a year ago in the U.S., for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The story seems simple enough; a man (Vincent) has his long-time girlfriend (Katherine) who wants him to be committed and marry her, and he’s unsure. Then, when a hot body (Catherine) steps into the picture, he does something he never expected to do; cheats. He then starts having horrible nightmares; ones where he has to climb giant columns of blocks, over and over, and escape from… something that’s chasing him. The game takes the format of part dating-sim, part hellish puzzles. There are two ‘levels’ of gameplay; the first is the Stray Sheep environment, the bar where Vincent and his friends meet and talk. You can ask about the nightmares and rumors that are going around town, send text messages, and learn about bar trivia here. The second levels are the Nightmares; these are where you do the block puzzles and try to escape and make your way to ‘true freedom’. You decide what direction Vincent takes; whether it be the ‘chaos’ route (‘bad/irresponsible’ decisions) or the ‘order’ route (‘good/adult/committed’ decisions). Depending on your choices, there are eight endings you can received; Katherine (Good, Bad, True), Catherine (Good, Bad, True), or Freedom (Good, True).
One of the best aspects of Catherine, in my opinion, is the cast of characters. It’s not just about Vincent, Katherine, and Catherine. Vincent has a group of friends who have their own stories, and you can speak to the patrons of the bar that they frequent. They always have something interesting to say. You also form some relationships with the other men who visit the bar… and come to find out that you may see them more than you think you do.
Now, I said before the puzzles are hellish. I have never encountered something in a game that required so much brainpower, to be totally honest. The Japanese players of the game actually said it was too hard, and Atlus patched in an Easy mode for them. Luckily, it comes in the U.S. version. I won’t even lie; I played through the entire game on it. Learning the techniques for getting through the puzzles is difficult, but when you beat them, you feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Though, be warned, you will die. A lot. In fact, have this montage to all the different ways you can! (Contains spoilers for the whole game.) While I was playing, I wanted to hurry through the puzzles and get through the story; I dreaded the puzzle parts. But upon completion, I find myself REALLY wanting to play them again. And now that I’ve learned how to do it, I’m considering trying it on Normal! (Luckily, you can change the difficulty mode on the puzzles whenever you need to.) I’m very easily discouraged from difficult gaming situations, but with these, I found myself wanting to push, and complete the task ahead of me.
I love gaming, but it usually takes a lot to really draw me in. I finished Catherine in three days, which was with about 15 hours of gameplay. So, suffice to say, the game is good. If nothing else, it’s worth it to play Catherine because it’s different. I can almost guarantee you you haven’t played anything like it before.
You’re completely drawn to the story of Catherine. Despite what decisions you make for him, Vincent’s personality and problems pull you in. Most of the story is presented as very realistic; everyday problems that the men have to face. On the flip side, the puzzles and ‘curse’ aspect of it throw in an interesting sci-fi element. At first, you may think Catherine is normal, but it’s not.
Atlus has another hit with Catherine, and I can’t wait to see what the company does next. If you’re interested, you can watch a trailer for the game here!