While re-releases are nothing rare from Japanese development studio ATLUS, Catherine: Full Body was a pleasant surprise amongst the original title’s cult following. With the impending arrival of Persona 5: The Royal on the horizon (2020 in the West), ATLUS seek to satisfy it’s fans with a sultry delight that see’s the return of the 2011 puzzle-platformer on current gen consoles. Only this time, there’s a twist. While many remasters simply upgrade, polish, and re-release title’s that had seen much of their success in yesteryear, ATLUS bend the rules of remastering popular titles, throw fans an unfamiliar curve ball, and somehow release a title that is not only considered classic, but fresh. In similar fashion Persona 4: Golden initially presented this formula successfully, which led the studio to believe they could extend the shelf life of their beloved characters from multiple franchises. It was a bold risk, but one that undeniably paid off for them. This has not only led the studio to release a myriad of remasters of older games part of their growing library, but spin-off titles for fans who love the perilous adventures of the characters seen across multiple properties owned by the developer. When Catherine initially released in 2011, developers at ATLUS knew they were diving into risque’ territory, with their “harem/ecchi” anime-like inspired plot, that involves the trials and tribulations of infidelity, mixed with nightmare fueled horror scenarios that take place within each level. So it comes to no surprise here that once again, Catherine: Full Body would raise the bar, toe the line, and boldly question players on their conscious efforts.
It has been quite some time, but oh-so-sweet to jump back into the world of Catherine. Right from the opening, we’re greeted once again by “The Midnight Venus” herself, Trisha, the hostess of the Golden Playhouse. Welcoming us back to the thrilling tale of Catherine. Only this time, it’s not the same old story we all know and love. We’re treated to a richer story, more complex, well-rounded and will linger like a fine wine that has essentially become, “Full Body”. Please, pardon all the puns, but the game plays with them so well that I couldn’t help myself. We’re re-introduced to our protagonist, Vincent Brooks. A 32 year old, computer programmer who lives in a run-down apartment in, his own words here “a f***ing dump of a city”. Having no major goals in life, Vincent has essentially settled for things as they currently are for himself, and his future. This all changes after one fateful night where he is blindsided by a mysterious pink-haired woman, who seems to be running from an astronomically large figure. This leads Vincent to put on the hero’s cape, as the pair seek to escape from this inexplicable creature, which ends with the two falling into a digging site, resulting in the woman suffering from sudden amnesia. It’s at this point of the story that we’re re-introduced to our lovable cast of characters, at the The Stray Sheep.
Returning from the original campaign, the bar setting see’s Vincent and his companions gather every night after work to confide in each other, but mainly to find interest in Vincent’s current state of affairs. Each scenario seen from this point mixes brand new dialogue, cutscenes, and set pieces that places itself quite naturally in-between familiar dialogue presented in the “Catherine Classic” release. Jonny, Orlando, and Toby are back to rustle Vincent’s feathers, and question his commitment to his current girlfriend, Katherine McBride. Erica, Waitress and old high school buddy of the crew (sans Toby), see’s this as an opportunity to interject herself into the situation, and try to pick up each one of the boys. It becomes clear later in the story as to why none of the guys are interested in Erica’s advances towards them, except for Toby who has a keen eye for the ravishing red head. The plot, setting, and gameplay intertwine perfectly at this juncture, where your path is ultimately determined by text messages you receive from Katherine. While responding, you are given a series of multiple choice answers here to send back to her, resulting in either a lawful, or chaotic situation. The gauge resonates a familiarity seen in the karma meter from the inFamous series, with blue being good karma, and red resulting in dire repercussions.
It becomes quite obvious, that Vincent’s complacency is having an effect on his relationship with Katherine, and the pair seem to be on thin ice throughout the story. While Vincent seems content with the couple’s relationship status, Katherine becomes irritated by Vincent’s indecisiveness, that initially causes a rift between the two. Katherine expresses her interest in tying the knot after seeing her peers all suddenly married and having kids, while the pair haven’t even explored the idea of matrimony after 11 years of being high school sweethearts. In dominant fashion, Katherine imposes the idea that the couple should definitely start looking into marriage. It’s at this moment, Katherine’s personality traits are exposed, letting us know that she is a strong, mature, dominant, and goal oriented woman, albeit stubborn and assertive at times. While unquestionably in love with Vincent, she wants to be sure that their commitment is ultimately what he wants in the end. Leaving the situation open for further discussion between the pair, this all results in Vincent going on a drunken bender that night after confiding in his close friends, who all question his concerns as to why anything will be any different to as they currently are. While this is all happening, there are reports of a string of mysterious deaths occurring in the area.
It’s at this point we are flirtatiously greeted by a mystery woman, who seats herself opposite to Vincent. The scene fades to black with the two casually chatting at the bar, only to be greeted to the evening’s nightmare. It’s at this point that we’re ready to dive deep into the puzzle style survival platformer, that puts players to the test. While many have compared Catherine’s puzzle levels to the arcade classic Q-Bert, the goal of each nightmare is to climb a collapsing tower constructed entirely from mounds of cube type objects. Think of this like a Jenga meet’s Tetris kind of situation, where you will have to pull blocks out of the tower to construct a path upwards to reach the exit awaiting you at the top. Some cubes will not be movable, while other cubes will have their own distinct attribute that will either result in shortcuts or sudden death. In-between each path (level), you will meet other “Stray Sheep” that have made it up to an area called the “Landing”. Here you may interactive with other characters trapped within this ordeal, where they may offer advice and tips for climbing, or totally blow you off and insult you. You may also buy items here in exchange for Enigma Coins, which you collect throughout your time climbing each tower. A confessional type booth sits right in the center of the landing, where players will be greeted by a mysterious voice who claims to be the reason for these nightmares occurring. While driving home the point of these confessionals, you will be asked subjective questions which determine your path again, similar to texts you receive at the bar, however will only be left with two choices.
Be cautious, as your answer will greatly effect your karma meter, thus adjusting or completely diverting your story’s path. Once reaching the final level for each nightmare, you will end up facing that night’s Boss, which stages a mutant-like representation of Vincent’s current life struggle in form of a “Killer”. Like previous levels, you will need to climb but be sure to avoid any special attacks made by each level’s “killer”. Each boss will come with their own unique form of attack against the tower, or Vincent which in turn spike’s the level’s difficulty. You will need to remain vigilant here, and determine your best course of action, as the path you may rule plausible will not be ultimate. There will be steady changes, and difficult challenges that will surprise you with every step you climb. There also will be unsuspected attacks made that will come at any given moment, which aren’t determined by given state or placement, rather within each unique tower you climb. Oh, and for experienced Catherine climbers, be prepared. These towers that have been deviously designed are all new. There may some steady callbacks throughout your time playing each level, but the developers have crafted new challenges for players to engage in. Once escaping and surviving each night, we are treated to fresh cutscenes mapping out Vincent’s storied past from his highschool friendships, right to his romantic history with Katherine.
All this plays in part to the next major angle that sets the story’s pacing into hyper-drive. Awakening from his nightmare, Vincent finds himself home in bed with no recollection of events that occurred the night prior. He struggles to get up from bed, finding the same woman from the bar clinging to him, it’s at this moment he suddenly realises that he had just cheated on his girlfriend with a total stranger. Remembering what had happened, Vincent had succumbed to the strangers temptations that ultimately led to his infidelity. It’s at this point we have three paths open to us, with this strange woman explaining that she lives a care-free lifestyle, rather than seeing herself tied down to one man, the polar opposite of what his girlfriend, Katherine wants. From here, many of the game’s adult themes play out in sexually serialised and comedic situations that ultimately test players decision making. Each night at the bar, you will receive a string of text messages from Katherine, and Vincent’s mistress… Catherine. While each text messages and phone call will impact and determine the path, and girl you choose best suits you, it will all in turn effect your karma meter, and the way your game plays. Be sure to spend as much time at the bar drinking and talking to each compatriot there. They will in turn offer advice, that could either help you on your path or spell total disaster in your oncoming nightmares. The more you drink the faster you climb in your nightmares, so be sure to keep ordering those cocktails.
The more you talk with your friends, the more options will open, in-story. While not every path will be useful, they are totally worth your time in-game. Now, there is the third path that’s new to Full Body. This of course is Rin‘s path, the woman with the rosey coloured hair from the beginning of the game. Choosing her path is a little different here. After the events of the beginning of the game, Rin is hired by Erica to be a Pianist at the Stray Sheep. To effectively open this new path, be sure to talk with Rin every night while at the bar. This in turn will have an effect on your ongoing relationship with Rin, and potentially could see an alternative route for Vincent to choose. While seemingly forced, Rin’s path mixes well with Vincent’s current struggle to determine his own fate. While experienced players of the original version of Catherine will be enticed to go right for the new path, it won’t be as simple as it seems, but I can’t reveal that here or that would spoil the game entirely. But once opening this new path, the story becomes quite compelling, to say the least. Rin’s compassionate energy plays in part of Katherine’s dominate nature, and Catherine’s eccentric, though bubbly charm.
Returning to Gameplay for a moment, the introduction of “Safety” difficulty leads a place for new players who are first experiencing the puzzle-platformer to sit back and enjoy the story, with some light gameplay. This relaxes the players choices a little while climbing, even giving the advantage to advance levels quicker by choosing the “auto-climb” feature which has the CPU do the heavy lifting. The difficulty will also place player’s halfway through some taller towers allowing for a quicker climb, and a steadier getaway. While the classic towers return with standard range of difficulty choice, we’re also treated to “Remix” mode, where new block types will appear, in almost a “Tetris” like style. These will be identified by coloured gems attached to the front, which in turn ables Vincent to pull multiple blocks out at the same time. This can come at an advantage, and disadvantage depending on each tower’s scenario. Babel returns with it’s series of challenges that allows players to dive into the puzzle climbing without any of the story or romantic scenarios. You may also go online and challenge players at a head-to-head competitive race to the finish.
While gameplay still remains awesome, presentation is the main matter here for Catherine: Full Body. Returning players will immediately notice the incredible detail and redesign behind the title. While the original had some extravagance, the subtle differences in textures and lighting have made a huge difference in presenting this redelivery of Catherine. The newly rendered cutscenes are beautifully animated, well presented, and spaced out within moments of dialogue that blend perfectly. Original cutscenes are preserved and modified, depending on which path you choose, ultimately leading a “director’s cut” kind of scenario in each scene. There are distinct points where you will notice a sudden shift in plot to fit the story’s new path, but this will only be noticeable for dedicated player’s of the original game. While much of the in-game music remains the same, there are some new tracks presented, specifically the “landing” music, and some of the newer options given at the Stray Sheep’s jukebox. While the original had some classic Persona 3 & 4 tracks to choose from, many of those have been replaced by Persona 4 Dancing, and Persona 5 tracks. I will say, “Beneath the Mask” playing in the Stray Sheep, fits quite nicely.
In summary, Catherine make’s a welcome return to current gen platforms in it’s remaster. While I expect some people to walk away a little bewildered, and some questioning choices made, this will no doubt have a part of our community talking with the satisfaction this title presents with each unique outcome. With incredible gameplay, that will look to resolve gamer’s who are searching for some mindless puzzles to complete, or fans of a compelling tale, full of dilemmas and personal struggle, Catherine: Full Body does an outstanding job in delivering on both ends of the spectrum. While I love everything about this game, there is no doubt the title will garner some controversy in some areas. However this is what unequivocally what ATLUS was hoping for. Catherine: Full Body will have everyone talking, from it’s incredibly vibrant yet gritty design, it’s fascinating tale of love, devotion, lifestyle, and deviancy. It’s risk/reward style of prodding it’s own audience into making conscious decisions, and it’s impeccable style in anime-like scenarios, that mix well with it’s incredibly challenging gameplay. Catherine: Full Body is no nightmare, but a dream come true for devoted fans of the original, and truly a welcoming experience for new fans, alike.
Catherine: Full Body – ATLUS