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Review

Review: Catherine – Full Body

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Cathe­ri­ne was always a stran­ge game, even when com­pa­red to some of Atlus’ weir­der releases. Mixing a serious sto­ry based on rela­ti­ons­hips and pre­pa­ring for the future with fast paced block-pushing game­play made for a uni­que expe­ri­ence, even if a coup­le of pro­blems held the game back over­all. Full Body brings this oddball game to a new genera­ti­on, expan­ding on the excel­lent puz­zle game­play but impro­ving litt­le about the disap­poin­ting sto­ry.

The ori­gi­nal game told the sto­ry of Vin­cent, a young man who quick­ly finds him­s­elf in a dire situa­ti­on after chea­ting on his long-time girl­fri­end Kathe­ri­ne with the flir­ta­tious Cathe­ri­ne. The majo­ri­ty of the game was spent on Vin­cent com­ing to terms with what he’d done, while also con­t­en­ding with mys­te­rious night­ma­res that forced him to climb up ever hig­her towers or face death. Full Body intro­du­ces the amne­siac Rin into the mix, who ends up working at Vincent’s favou­rite bar the Stray Sheep. This turns what was ori­gi­nal­ly a love tri­ang­le into some­thing more com­pli­ca­ted, making Vincent’s pre­di­ca­ment even more com­pli­ca­ted.

Vin­cent is a very dif­fe­rent prot­ago­nist com­pa­red to tho­se usual­ly fea­tured in most modern Atlus games. He’s older, has a more mun­da­ne per­so­na­li­ty and opi­ni­ons, and has trou­ble dealing with his fee­lings towards his cur­rent girl­fri­end and the new faces that have sud­den­ly appeared in his life. Com­pa­red to the youn­ger heroes of Per­so­na and Shin Mega­mi Tensei, Catherine’s sto­ry mana­ges to cover some more adult ori­en­ted sub­jec­ts and, for the most part, hand­les them well. Vincent’s inner tur­moil is com­mu­ni­ca­ted through some well writ­ten (and expert­ly voice acted) dia­lo­gue, and the con­ver­sa­ti­ons bet­ween him and his fri­ends in the Stray Sheep feel rea­listic. Cathe­ri­ne does a good job of con­vey­ing the rela­ti­ons­hips Vin­cent alrea­dy had befo­re the game starts… except with one of the most important cha­rac­ters.

You see, for all the good parts of Catherine’s sto­ry and its cha­rac­ters, the actu­al love tri­ang­le bet­ween Vin­cent and the simi­lar­ly named heroi­nes often feels rus­hed. Over the cour­se of the ent­i­re game you don’t actual­ly spend much time with eit­her woman and, with the short amount of time the sto­ry takes place in, Vincent’s rela­ti­ons­hip with Kathe­ri­ne is not as fle­shed out as his fri­endship with the other regu­lars of the Stray Sheep. To make things wor­se Rin ends up appearing far more fre­quent­ly than the other two, the lack of time being spent with the older love inte­rests beco­m­ing even more appa­rent. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, even the small num­ber of new sce­nes in Full Body for the exis­ting heroi­nes do litt­le to impro­ve the over­all sto­ry regard­less of which rou­te you fol­low. Even with the poor sto­ry­tel­ling though, the fan­tastic game­play goes a long way in making Cathe­ri­ne a more enjoy­a­ble expe­ri­ence.

Game­play in Cathe­ri­ne is split into two main seg­ments. During the evening, Vin­cent spends his time drin­king at the Stray Sheep. Here he can talk to his fri­ends, the bar staff and various custo­mers that come and go during his time the­re. Chat­ting to dif­fe­rent peop­le will often lead to Vin­cent being asked ques­ti­ons, his ans­wers chan­ging the value of an ever-pre­sent meter. This meter is used to deter­mi­ne the ending you can get, along with Vincent’s inner thoughts at cer­tain points during the game. This sys­tem doesn’t feel very impac­t­ful until near the end of the sto­ry, sin­ce most choices don’t chan­ge what actual­ly hap­pens during the first half of the game. You’ll also often recei­ve texts from Kathe­ri­ne and Cathe­ri­ne, and ins­tead of reply­ing with one of two ans­wers, you’ll ins­tead com­po­se a respon­se by going through a few bran­ches of text choices. Most of the­se still only chan­ge the meter one way or the other, but it at least feels a litt­le more invol­ved com­pa­red to choices made else­whe­re.

While con­ver­sing with various peop­le and reply­ing to texts makes up most of your time out­si­de of the night­ma­res, the­re are a few dis­trac­tions here and the­re. Vin­cent can play the arca­de game Super Rapun­zel, which in many ways acts as a tuto­ri­al for some of the har­der puz­zle sec­tions you’ll run into. There’s no time limit, so you can figu­re out how to play and impro­ve befo­re the next night starts. Being a bar, the Stray Sheep also has a varie­ty of alco­ho­lic drinks, and the drun­ker Vin­cent gets, the fas­ter he can move during the night­ma­res. The nar­ra­tor also pro­vi­des dif­fe­rent fac­ts about each type of drink once Vin­cent finis­hes it, so this is cer­tain­ly the game to play if you want some alco­hol rela­ted tri­via.

During the night, Vin­cent must con­t­end with the mys­te­rious night­ma­res that see him and others clim­bing up towers made of vary­ing block types. Con­trol­ling Vin­cent is simp­le, though the­re are a few quirks with move­ment. He can move around, push blocks and climb on them to reach grea­ter heights. It’s easy to pick up, though the direc­tions you press work dif­fer­ent­ly depen­ding on if you’re stan­ding on block or han­ging from it, which can take some get­ting used to. Vin­cent can only climb one block at a time wit­hout the use of items, so pushing blocks into the right pla­ces is key to advan­cing up each tower. As you learn new tech­ni­ques and more block types are intro­du­ced, the dif­fi­cul­ty of each sta­ge quick­ly ramps up.

Cathe­ri­ne has a few dif­fe­rent methods it employs to try and stop the quick­ly increa­sing dif­fi­cul­ty from beco­m­ing too frus­tra­ting. The first is the afo­re­men­tio­ned Super Rapun­zel, which lets you learn new types of block pat­terns that will be thrown at you during har­der sta­ges. In-bet­ween sta­ges in the night­ma­res, cer­tain cha­rac­ters will give you new tech­ni­ques that you can put into prac­tice later on. The­se come with a han­dy video tuto­ri­al, and in Full Body they can also be view­ed at save points if you want to look up a cer­tain stra­te­gy. If you find yours­elf stuck or want to try out a dif­fe­rent approach to a seg­ment of the sta­ge, it’s pos­si­ble to undo a cer­tain num­ber of moves based on the dif­fi­cul­ty level you choo­se (out­si­de of Hard mode).  Each dif­fi­cul­ty set­ting also chan­ges the lay­out of each sta­ge, giving an easier time to tho­se having trou­ble while adding fur­ther con­tent for tho­se that chal­len­ge the har­der dif­fi­cul­ties during later play­th­roughs.

Impro­ving your clim­bing skills and aiming for hig­her ratings on each sta­ge is whe­re Cathe­ri­ne shi­nes, and the addi­ti­on of new sta­ges makes this an even more com­ple­te packa­ge for tho­se that just want to enjoy the puz­zle seg­ments. A brand-new remix mode also intro­du­ces new block shapes, making for even har­der puz­zle seg­ments com­pa­red to clas­sic mode. Add in an enhan­ced mul­ti­play­er mode with online play and there’s a hef­ty amount of con­tent to play through, even if you’ve alrea­dy done ever­ything in the ori­gi­nal release.

Roun­ding out the chan­ges in Full Body are some tweaks to the game’s over­all pre­sen­ta­ti­on. There’s still a 30 fps cap which is a shame, and the over­all tex­tu­re work doesn’t seem mas­si­ve­ly enhan­ced, but the new ani­ma­ti­ons and came­ra angles for cer­tain cuts­ce­nes do enhan­ce the game’s alrea­dy sty­lish visu­als. It isn’t a gre­at impro­ve­ment over the ori­gi­nal though, even less so when you con­si­der Cathe­ri­ne Clas­sic on PC sup­ports hig­her frame­ra­tes and reso­lu­ti­ons. There’s also the ani­me cuts­ce­nes, which vary in qua­li­ty qui­te dra­ma­ti­cal­ly and in gene­ral look far wor­se than the in-engi­ne cuts­ce­nes.

Conclusion

Whe­ther Cathe­ri­ne: Full Body is worth a purcha­se will depend on what you want out of it. Tho­se that have never play­ed the ori­gi­nal, or just want some new con­tent for the puz­zle seg­ments, will find a lot to love here. If you’re loo­king for an impro­ved sto­ry though, Full Body will likely be a disap­point­ment. Adding a new cha­rac­ter into an alrea­dy rus­hed sto­ry was not a gre­at decisi­on, and it only leads to the plot fee­ling even more dis­join­ted.

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