Do Losers Dream Of Erotic Sheep?
HIGH The gameplay improvements make it oddly competitive.
LOW Vincent Brooks continues to be terrible.
WTF That butt monster thing that chases Vincent.
Hot damn, doesn’t 2011 seem like an eternity ago? I remember buying Catherine upon release after I graduated college, so it’s been a while.
It’s certainly an interesting game to revisit. Back when it came out, Catherine was lauded for broaching topics rarely seen in games at the time. Since then, gaming has grown up a bit and there’s been an assortment of titles that have approached the topics in Catherine with, frankly, a hell of a lot more nuance.
In this light, Atlus’ decision to revisit Catherine with the new Full Body version is slightly perplexing, but still makes for an interesting look at how our hobby has evolved over the past decade.
For those wanting a detailed description of the core game, I suggest reading our previous review of the original Catherine, although with all due respect to the author, I liked it significantly less than they did. In this article, I’m going to focus on what’s new in Catherine: Full Body.
On top of the slight graphical and resolution upgrades, the biggest addition is the inclusion of a third potential love interest in the form of Rin. She now features prominently in the story, and thankfully Atlus brought back the original cast to record new dialogue for her sections, including Troy Baker reprising his role as Vincent Brooks, who probably cost a bit more now than he did in 2011. Considering how awkward the Troy Baker soundalike was in the recent remaster of Tales Of Vesperia, I’m happy they shelled out the dough for the real deal.
While Rin is the biggest addition, the biggest improvements come in the form of new gameplay modes.
At Catherine‘s start, players can choose the original game or a “remixed” mode where the block puzzle towers have been redesigned and now feature new types of blocks with different effects that will make the content feel fresh to those who played the original.
For example, there are now groups of blocks with gems that Vincent can push together, rather than only pushing one at a time. Atlus has also included a few online multiplayer modes so players can race against each other to climb randomly-generated towers. Catherine has enjoyed a cult following on the tournament scene (really! go watch some competitive Catherine. It’s nuts!) and these new modes will be a welcome addition for those who enjoy that aspect. Full Body also has new difficulties, including a ‘safety’ mode that eliminates the possibility of players dying — a good option for those who just want the story.
The following paragraph talks in detail about a particular character, revelations about them, and an ending they’re prominently featured in. For those who want to experience Catherine: Full Body with as little information as possible, please skip the following italicized paragraph.
As stated, the original Catherine came out in 2011, and eight years later we live in a world where our general understanding of trans people has increased significantly, although it’s still not enough. Because of this, Catherine’s portrayal of Erica, the waitress who we find out has transitioned, has come under scrutiny. Discussion about Erica hit a fever pitch when it was discovered that in one of the new endings (Full Body has thirteen endings compared to the original’s eight) Vincent wakes up in a new reality where he’s transported back in time to when Erica is a pre-transition male, and then fast-forwards to a wedding where she hasn’t transitioned at all. This ending could suggest that Erica would’ve been better off as a man.
My editor warned me of the issues surrounding this content, and as a cis white male, I realize my opinion on this matter is practically irrelevant. Instead, I would like to suggest that readers who want to know more about this aspect check out this article from @BellaBlondeau that goes into detail on the subject. It’s a great read and the author provides excellent insight.
For those who do want my opinion on the matter, I’d say that considering the level of tact games generally have combined with the fact that Catherine was developed in a country where trans people are legally required to be sterilized, I think Catherine does a (generally) good job in being respectful when it comes to Erica. She is well-portrayed but the men in her life tend to crack tasteless jokes that a lot of ignorant, half-drunk men in a bar would, so I’m not gonna shame the developers for creating a realistic scenario for her to exist in. With that said (as Bella’s article astutely points out) the perception of intolerance towards Erica isn’t from Catherine itself, but rather from the lens through which we view it — the lens of main character Vincent Brooks.
Unfortunately, despite all the enhancements Full Body has made to the core Catherine experience, it’s unable to overcome the fact that Vincent is quite possibly the most unlikable protagonist I have ever had the misfortune to play as in any videogame, ever. The most vile and ignorant transphobic things said in Catherine come from his stupid mouth. I have absolutely no idea why a well-to-do and successful woman like Katherine would ever want to date him. He’s a slob, a wet blanket, he drinks too much, he’s a bad friend, a worse boyfriend, he seems to make the worst decision in every scenario, and I would never, ever want to hang out with him, let alone listen to his crap over the course of an entire game.
The new ending for Erica is distasteful and potentially offensive, but it makes sense given the context — this alternate timeline scenario comes from Vincent’s pea-sized brain and his weird desires, not to mention that Catherine portrays it as some sort of stilted nightmare utopia, a la the “Congratulations” ending of Evangelion.
According to the game’s director, making Vincent such a putz was the idea and we are supposed to dislike him, but this concept works better in a 100 minute movie than it does in a 1,000 minute videogame. Because Vincent spends so much time being a dickweed, any redemption he gets in some of the endings doesn’t feel earned. “Hate” is a strong word I try to avoid using in my daily life, but I hate Vincent Brooks.
Unfortunately, Vincent being an absolute CHUD is only one of the problems I had with the narrative. While she isn’t as bad as Vincent, I’m not a fan of Katherine either, and her motivations for certain decisions require some serious leaps in logic. Also, right when one would think the story is going to end with a satisfying conclusion, things take a left turn into crazy town — and that’s saying something considering how crazy the plot is in the first place. This leads to a messy conclusion no matter which ending the player receives.
Furthermore, while the new content involving Rin is interesting, her story is jarringly shoehorned into the narrative, making it feel like an unnatural fit. Newly-animated cutscenes with Rin don’t fit the the rest of the game, and her presence (in general) simply doesn’t work for me.
Catherine: Full Body does an excellent job of updating and refining a surprisingly good puzzler that oozes style, yet still has too many issues in the narrative to overlook. It’s a shame — there’s some great dialogue on topics rarely discussed in big-budget games hidden under piles of nonsense and occasional insensitivity. Still, Catherine does have its fans, and they’ll be thrilled with the gameplay enhancements, new content, and the graphical bump.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Atlus and published by Sega. It is currently available on PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on a PS4 PRO with 4K HDR certified display. An estimated 17 hours of play were devoted to playing the main campaign and testing the multiplayer modes, and the campaign was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and features Blood, Partial Nudity, Violence, Use Of Alcohol, Sexual Themes, and Strong Language. As one can see from the litany of descriptors the ESRB has thrown at Catherine, this is definitely not one for the kids. On top of the risque aspects, it’s essentially about people in their 30s and intimate relationships, so most young kids probably wouldn’t even get it.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game features subtitle options and presents them in large, clear font but with no way to resize them. There are no necessary audio cues in gameplay, and I see no audio-based barriers to completion. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are not remappable. Players control Vincent with the left analog stick while moving blocks is done by pressing the X button, and players can undo a move by pressing the L1 button. There is no controller layout screen.