Review: Catherine: Full Body (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K TV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required
  • Move None
Title: Catherine: Full Body‚Ä®
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (13.37 GB)
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: SEGA of America
Developer: Atlus
Original MSRP: $59.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: M
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Catherine was one of my favorite games of 2011. A smart blend of gameplay styles, an interesting story, and the style and pizzazz that Atlus can pull lead to a title I remembered fondly. The game also saw some longer legs as a competitive game, oddly enough; showing up as a side event at some fighting game tournaments of all places. I wasn’t too surprised when Atlus announced a remake, however I was surprised when I learned just how much they added.

Catherine: Full Body, like the original, follows Vincent Brooks, a thirty-something software engineer who has been in a longtime relationship with his girlfriend Katherine. Shortly after Katherine starts hinting that she would like to settle down with him, Vincent finds himself in a deadly nightmare, fighting for his life each night. Around the same time, he meets Catherine and drunkenly ends up cheating on Katherine.

Full Body also adds a new character, Rin. A few days before the nightmares begin, Vincent meets Rin trying to escape from a stalker in the streets. After helping avoid the stalker, he finds that Rin has no memories, so Vincent ends up helping Rin find a place to live and a place to work. The latter place being at The Stray Sheep, a bar Vincent frequents.

At its core, Catherine‘s story was about order vs chaos when it comes to adults in relationships. As Vincent, you guide him either towards the order of Katherine or the chaos of Catherine. Full Body also gives the option of the unknown as players can guide Vincent towards Rin. All while trying to guide him through the tower of blocks that haunt his nightmares, threatening to kill him.

The story that unfolds is interesting and unique, especially in the realm of video games. It’s not often you see relationship trouble as a story in games and when you do, it’s often relegated to some side story or simple “date your favorite character” mechanic. In Catherine, Vincent’s relationship is the crux of the story.

One aspect I like is that the game doesn’t portray any of the love interests as inherently good or evil. Catherine may represent chaos, but she develops a real bond with Vincent. And Katherine may represent order, but while she loves and cares for Vincent, she’s also controlling. I actually appreciate that Full Body toned down how controlling Katherine is, as she felt overbearing in the original. Some new scenes also help flesh out Vincent and Katherine’s past and show them as a loving couple when they first start dating.

Rin’s story is the hardest one to quantify, in large part because I don’t want to spoil anything. I was actually a little worried going into the game that Rin would feel like a third wheel in the remake. I should have had more faith, as the team has done a great job working Rin and the new scenes into the game and story. However, getting Rin’s ending does involve essentially breaking free of the old routes near the end of the game.

Gameplay wise, Catherine is split up during the different times of day. Daytime is mostly reserved for cutscenes and story as Vincent has lunch with Katherine or has conversations with his friend at work. In the evening, Vincent goes to the Stray Sheep to drink, and you can chat with other bar patrons, answer emails on Vincent’s phone, and drink. Conversations will influence the story, both Vincent’s outcome and the fate of some others. Finally, at night, Vincent gets caught in the nightmare and you must lead him to safety.

The nightmares present as a puzzle game consisting of a tower of blocks Vincent must climb. As he can only climb a single block at a time, he must drag blocks around to allow him to climb up longer cliff faces. A ticking clock in the form of the lowest layer of blocks falling away serves as the impetus to climb quickly, adding tension to the puzzle elements.

I absolutely love the style of puzzle in Catherine. Even with just the basic blocks, there’s a lot of depth to the system in how blocks are supported and how Vincent must maneuver them. But as the game progresses, the puzzles slowly introduce other crazy blocks: ice that Vincent will slide across, bombs that blow up after being stepped on, even monster blocks that move on their own. Each night adds some new complexity to the puzzle and I certainly got a feeling of accomplishment when I managed to pass each stage.

Depending on how into the puzzles you are, Catherine does offer several flavors of difficulty from a safety mode to a hard mode. On the easy and safety mode, you can even turn on an auto-play if you’re having issues. On top of that, Full Body adds a remix mode to the puzzles, which exchange some of the blocks for shapes of odd sizes. This is a nice addition for those who played the original and want to replay but don’t want to have to redo all of the old stages.

One of my biggest complaints with Catherine, and Full Body doesn’t really fix this, is that the different choices you make really don’t matter much until the very end of the game. Most of the scenes are the same up until the last few hours and only the new routes really change much. Still, the game is a meaty but satisfying ~10-12 hours long and subsequent replays to get those other endings are pretty breezy, as you can skip most cutscenes and any puzzles you’ve already completed. It’s also very easy to go for the gold award on each stage as the game allows you to access all of the stages you’ve completed from Vincent’s phone. And a difficult, randomly generated Babel tower rounds out the offerings, for those who think they have a real solid grasp on the gameplay

For those keeping track at home, here are the changes that Catherine: Full Body makes over the original: there are extra scenes in the game throughout, including backstory of Vincent and Katherine’s relationship. There is obviously the addition of Rin and scenes for that story, as well as an extra set of levels related to the new ending. The remix versions of stages are new. And in addition to three new endings for Rin, Catherine and Katherine both get a new alternate ending. It’s still mostly the same game as it was on PS3, but they’ve done a good job making a replay all the more enticing.

A comment on trans issues and censorship: in the original game, the credits used the deadname of a supporting character who is trans. That has been changed in this version. Supposedly some dialogue has been changed from the Japanese version’s new ending regarding this character as well, but I cannot confirm that as I haven’t played that version or found that ending. Overall, most characters are accepting of the trans character, with only one character expressing surprise (but not disapproval) at her identity. There has been some controversy about if the change in the credits or any dialogue changes are censorship of the original product, which is an issue I will leave to you to decide.

Visuals:
Many of the staff that worked on the recent Persona games also worked on Catherine, so it should come as no surprise that Catherine is a great looking game. Everything, from the look of bewilderment on Vincent when crazy things happen to the nightmare horrors that serve as bosses in some of the puzzle stages, drips with style. Full Body, of course, adds another layer of sharpness to the already fantastic visuals to bring them in-line with the current HD standards.

Atlus has also worked with Studio 4C for 2D anime cutscenes of many of the key story moments. Again, these are great and even more impressive is that Studio 4C was able to create new scenes for this remake while keeping them consistent with the now eight year old original game. All told, Full Body adds twenty new animated scenes.

Audio:
All of the voice talent for the original release has returned for Full Body and it’s an overall great performance by the English voice cast. Though, despite reworking animations to match the English track, there were a few times where the sync seemed a little off to me. Unfortunately for those who like to play with the Japanese voice track for games like this, it is not available. Even more unfortunate because the Japanese version had a cool twist where you could select from among eleven voice actresses for Catherine’s voice, many of whom were known for playing adulterous roles in other media.

Music is pretty solid, with some very catchy jazzy themes mixed in with some well-known classical music. I’ve been harsh on games that rely too much on open-domain classical music in the past but the arrangements Catherine uses are overall very good and fit well with the original tunes made for the game. Unfortunately, there are a few annoying repeated sound effects that did bother me including one boss, a monster-baby who yells “daddy” throughout the level, and some looping songs/sound effects in the landing between puzzle levels.

Online/Multiplayer:
The original Catherine did have multiplayer, though mostly as a minor addition. However, the multiplayer was surprisingly deep as there were a lot of different strategies one could employ, from simply trying to climb faster than your opponent to actively trying to knock them off the stage. This lead to several prominent fighting game players starting to champion the game as a competitive event and eventually running tournaments for it as a side event at larger gatherings. Interestingly even the developers took note of this interest in the multiplayer aspect of the game.

To that end, Catherine: Full Body not only includes the local competitive mode of the original but actually adds an online mode. It’s a fairly straightforward implementation, with a ranked queue, an unranked queue, and a way to challenge a friend, but it’s an implementation nonetheless. Sadly, I have not been able to test how it plays online, as my attempts to find a match on the pre-release servers was unfruitful.

There is also a cooperative version of the Babel tower levels, which can be played locally or with a friend online.

Conclusion:
Catherine was already a great game, and Catherine: Full Body is a hands-down better version. I am very impressed with how the game manages to weave a new character and narrative into most of the game without it feeling extraneous or like it was added after the fact. And even if you don’t want to try for the new character’s endings, there’s still new content in the form of new puzzles and Catherine/Katherine endings for those who played the original.

Regardless of whether you played the older version or not, Catherine serves as an excellent beacon of proof that games can grow up with us as gamers. Even without relying on violence or titillation, Catherine provides an adult experience, and one that other games rarely touch. As a thirty-something myself, some of Vincent’s concerns over marriage and his relationship felt poignant to me. I do appreciate the dissimilarities with my own situation though, because last I checked I don’t have to face my demons in the form of timed block puzzles that threaten to kill me in my sleep!

Score:

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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