The original release of Catherine is a really odd game that since 2011 has garnered quite a following, so far as to even have a side tournament at EVO. Its unique mix of puzzle and drama helped it become somewhat of a cult game, so it’s unsurprising that Atlus brought it back for another serving in Catherine: Full Body. It’s a remastered version of Catherine that includes a generous amount of content in the form of a completely new story arc involving yet another girl with her own variation of the name Catherine, as well as a remix mode for the puzzle stages, along with other improvements to gameplay that help things keep moving throughout the game.
You’ve probably heard of this game’s out there story at some point, since it’s one of the rare games that attempts to touch upon relationships without having you directly acting upon them, like you would in a dating game. Instead, the course of the story is guided by the few dialogue decisions you make along the way, as well as the results of the puzzle sections you complete every night when protagonist Vincent hits the hay. Catherine tells the story of how Vincent, a man who’s been dating a girl named Katherine for a number of years, is suddenly caught in a nightmarish trap involving sheep and plenty of block climbing ever since he ran into and subsequently slept with a girl he met at his favorite dive bar.
Like your usual drama, everything would theoretically be made much better if Vincent was honest about everything and came forth to his girlfriend about the entire thing, but his lies about the entire thing quickly snowball, as he keeps waking up next to his curly blonde lover, Catherine, who he has trouble even remembering how she got there in the first place. Originally, the story revolved around Vincent maneuvering through the mess he found himself and dug ever so deep, but Full Body adds another layer of complexity with the addition of Rin, an amnesiac girl who Vincent helps outrun an apparent stalker while out on a walk. It’s not readily apparent that Rin is yet another love interest in his already tangly web of lies, and depending on how you play, she might not even be one, which is one of the most gripping aspects of playing Catherine again in this form.
Make no mistake, Vincent is no saint, no matter how you play him off as in your dialogue choices. The game’s equivalent of a moral meter slowly moves left or right depending on how you approach any of the quandaries, but in the end, he’s in this situation on his own doing, mostly. Still, it’s disturbingly entertaining to see it develop, even though the pinches he manages to get out of unscathed throughout the game are a little too goofy, and obviously convenient in order to get the story moving.
For some, though, the real meat of Catherine are its puzzle mechanics, and those are still as fun today as they were in 2011. Climbing the nightmarish tower that Vincent and his rival sheep find themselves in every night is thrilling, thanks to the sense of urgency that the game builds by having lower blocks fall away as time passes, or, such is the case of the final section each night, with a dream representation of whatever trouble Vincent thought of that day, chasing him up the tower, and killing him if he’s too slow. Ascending to safety is a matter of building footing by sliding blocks and creating stairs, and the further you make into the game, more types are introduced, adding wrinkles to the gameplay and making it quite challenging to boot. There are items you can pick up or buy along the way that allow you to make things easier — but if you’re going for a high score, you’re probably better off not using them — like a magic block that spawns more footing around you during your climb, or a special drink that allows you to jump more than a block’s height vertically.
The block attachment system is one of the clever hooks to Catherine’s puzzles since it doesn’t really make any physical sense and still manages to work in terms of keeping you on your toes when it comes to strategy. As long as blocks are connected by their edges, whichever one you push won’t fall off, and that comes into play when building a path up for Vincent to escape to safety. If you’re a veteran of the original game, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a remix mode to this new version of Catherine, which adds a new block type that’s very reminiscent of Tetris that turns tower climbing on its head, because you won’t be moving individual pieces, but big chunks of the structures you ascend. Even if you choose to play the original version of the puzzles, you can still partake in the remixes at any point, which is cool in case you don’t feel like juggling more than a single save game at once.
Levels usually don’t last more than five or so minutes, and in between them you’re able to save your game and interact with other men trapped in this recurring collective nightmare. You quickly learn that each and every one of them is dealing with their own love troubles, and that in most cases, it’s due to their infidelity and dishonesty. For as ridiculous as some of their stories are, I couldn’t help but want to see them through, even though the writing in the game does tend to go out of its way to make some of these guys comically out of touch when it comes to dealing with their relationship problems, so far as to have them come off as incredibly unstable.
Rin also plays a part in these nightmare sections in Full Body. She’s the sole presence that still remembers what goes on during them when Vincent is completely unaware when they interact in real life. Since the only thing she recalls of her past life is playing the piano, she eventually finds herself playing at the bar Vincent finds himself in every night drinking with his group of friends, and she also plays during his nightmarish climbs, offering comforting reinforcement between levels, as well as a safety net during puzzles, slowing the action down for a little, helping you deal with incoming threats. Along with her, this new version of the game also adds an extra layer of convenience when it comes to making your way up the tower, allowing you to rewind moves a certain number of times and skip past mistakes before outright killing you, which trust me, happened A LOT during the original version of Catherine.
Catherine Full Body, just like the first run of the game, definitely has a way of dealing with the sexuality of its characters, be it the ones in the forefront like Vincent and the variety of Q-C-K-atherines along the way, or others, like Erica the barmaid and his other friends. They have their own views about how to carry on with their lives, and some of their views might not exactly sit too well with everyone, so your mileage may vary when it comes to agreeing with them or not, or seeing Catherine as a game that treats, say, women, on equal grounds than their male counterparts. It’s perhaps the sole aspect of the game that hasn’t quite aged very well, even if Rin as a new character is brought in as more of an extra arc to the story than an actual love interest to Vincent, she’s still treated somewhat as a bit of eye candy to him at first, which can be a little disturbing considering their apparent age gap. It isn’t something that turns me off from the game outright, but is an aspect that I would enjoy much more if it were approached differently, and it’s something that Atlus’ writers have trouble dealing with, considering their track record with the Shin Megami Tensei games — especially the Persona series — over the years
Atlus has done a commendable job making her introduction not feel forced or a throwaway side piece of content, considering how deep Rin’s inclusion to the overall story is worked into the established scenes, into something well worthwhile. I’m interested to see where her arc leads her by having Vincent follow different branches in the story, so I won’t likely be done with the game if I hope to see how much of a mess he can get into if I pick alternative paths, especially so considering there’s a number of new endings that can now be reached. Pro-tip: if you wish to remain unspoiled about those, be sure to avoid looking up trophy lists online!
As a full package, Catherine: Full Body feels more complete than the first version of the game, thanks to puzzle gameplay enhancements and the new approaches you can take to the story with the addition of Rin. The original was already a pretty great looking game which paved the way for Atlus to set its art direction for future titles like Persona 5, and Full Body keeps that going with sharp character models and gorgeous animated sequences, some of which are brand-new to this version of the game. You’re bound to recognize some of the voice talent that give life to the cast, too. They do a good job all throughout, and it’s practically impossible to tell which are the new lines added in to Full Body’s extra scenes, which there are many. This new version of the game won’t bring you back into Catherine if you were already turned off before, but if you were already a fan are looking into the new scenes, they make this edition well worth looking into.