Review: Catherine: Full Body
New Questions for a New Age
The original Catherine made waves when it came out, with its unflinching approach to confronting the uncomfortable issues surrounding love and lust. Sure, there were plenty of games where sex happened, or where romance played a key role in the plot, but very few dealt with the consequences sex has, or dealt with the more stressful parts of maintaining a relationship. It asked the players themselves about how they felt concerning relationships, sometimes fun, and sometimes hitting awfully close to home.
Catherine: Full Body was developed by Atlus’ new internal team Studio Zero, partly as practice before moving onto a new IP, and partly to update one of their most unconventional games to suit the changing tastes and trends that have popped up over the past eight years. In addition to the original’s questioning of marriage versus sleeping around, it also asks questions about accepting unconventional lifestyles, of how much love conquers all. I’m certain that, just like the original, the new Catherine will cause controversy. At the same time…asking these uncomfortable questions kinda seems to be the point in the end.
Catherine: Full Body was developed and published by Atlus for the PS4 and launches on September 3rd 2019.
A Terrible Night to Have a Curse
Catherine: Full Body is a remake of the 2011 game Catherine, and largely follows the same plot: Vincent Brooks, age 32, finds himself dragged into cheating on his longtime girlfriend Katherine by the alluring and manipulative Catherine…or perhaps he has found Katherine overly controlling and learns to love again through Catherine. Your choices over the course dictate how Vincent views relationships and ultimately what he decides to do with his life.
Regardless, Vincent is trapped between these two, and finds himself cursed with nightmares of climbing a crumbling tower alongside a herd of familiar looking sheep, while the news reports daily occurences of men dying in their sleep under mysterious circumstances. Vincent must climb, both to survive and to find out what is going on.
Full Body further complicates matters with the introduction of Rin, an amnesiac Vincent runs in to at the start of this whole ordeal. Over the course of the game, Rin serves to express more progressive types of love, and has some connection to the nightmare as they appear there playing the piano to lift the spirits of the sheep, and in gameplay terms halt the crumbling of the tower temporarily. Through Rin, new possibilities open up, not just with Rin themself, but for Katherine and Catherine as well.
Overall, I really like what Rin adds. Sure, they can be a bit of a Mary Sue at times, and the piano is unnecessary on Easy (and why play on Hard if not for the challenge?) but they’re still a fun character and I really enjoy where their story goes. I wish I could go into more detail but I’d rather not spoil any of the reveals involving them.
Stairway to Heaven
Catherine is a game about love, lust, and infidelity. It is a game by the team behind Persona. It is also a block-pushing puzzle-platformer. Odd as that may seem, it just works.
The core gameplay involves moving blocks, many with their own properties like traps, explosions, or spring pads, to assemble a stairway to the goal and stay ahead of the crumbling base. It’s simple just to clear stages and see the story (especially with the new Simple difficulty) but the real challenge comes in trying for a gold rank with a high score. While there are many ways to climb each tower, doing so while routing through all the coins without dropping them into the abyss or losing a combo turns it into quite a puzzle.
Full Body expands on this with a few new levels with unique blocks and mechanics, as well as the new Remix mode that adds combined blocks which move together. Remix is interesting, but I’m glad classic mode is still an option; While the combined blocks limit the number of possible solutions, they also make it easier to figure out by removing ways to go barking up the wrong tree. I personally found it easier, but it’s more apt to say it changes the feel of the game considerably, with less quick shuffling of blocks and more analyzing the wall to find a pattern to exploit.
Catherine’s soundtrack is amazing, full stop. The music during the day sections is your usual blend of relaxing or suspenseful tracks, nothing out of the ordinary for a story-driven title. Then the nightmare, the meat and potatoes of the game, begins and drops you into the most classic of rock, by which I mean rock renditions of classical pieces by the likes of Beethoven, Bach, and Chopin. It works surprisingly well, and I often found myself humming them long after putting the game down.
Full Body sadly does not add much in the way of these pieces, but among the daytime pieces it does add two of my favorite tracks, coincidentally both ones that exist as in-universe songs: “Tomorrow,” which Rin plays on the piano, and “The Wolves We’re Born to be,” an amateur band’s hit that can be added to the jukebox in the bar.
Graphically, Catherine: Full Body is your usual modern day anime/JRPG deal, with characters that are designed to look cool while still wearing normal clothes, and with a subtle color palette. This is something I’m a big fan of. It also leads into one of my main criticisms of Rin: With their bright blue dress and pink hair, they stick out like a sore thumb. Admittedly defying convention is kinda Rin’s thing, so it makes sense in context, but it still feels like they’re a model grabbed from another game entirely at times.
Aged like Fine Wine
I was a fan of the original Catherine, and I’m pleased to find the changes are mostly for the better. If you like puzzle games, specifically ones about finding patterns through the noise, and don’t mind potentially uncomfortable questions about mature topics, I highly recommend picking up Catherine: Full Body.
Review copy provided by Sega of America for PS4. Screenshots taken by reviewer.