When Atlus and PlayStation announced that 2011’s Catherine would be receiving the “remaster” treatment, excitement for this news was met with both enthusiasm and contempt. A large portion of Catherine’s charm was that it was, and still is, unique. The quirky, adult narrative presented a story that questioned, judged, and rewarded the player’s morality with regard to its themes. A re-imagining of Catherine with new characters and story content creates an opportunity where the essence of what made the original game special in the first place could be lost.
To catch everyone up to speed, Catherine features an interactive social element, along with puzzle stages that establish the gameplay loop. Catherine’s puzzles are unique in that the player is required to position square blocks in a way that allows them to progress up the stair-like structure and reach freedom. When not in a nightmare and solving these life-and-death puzzles, Vincent spends most of his time at The Stray Sheep bar, where he attempts to drink his problems away with his old high school friends. At the bar, players can interact with NPCs to flesh out the game’s story, as well as Vincent himself. While all this is happening, the game is constantly breaking the fourth wall to ask players how they view virtue and morality, subsequently altering the narrative of the game.
At its core, Catherine is an unconventional horror. Vincent, who is being pressured into marriage by his long-time girlfriend Katherine, wakes one morning after a nightmare and finds himself sleeping next to a younger, attractive, and free-thinking woman named Catherine. The rest of the game involves players controlling Vincent’s thoughts and actions as he is labelled a cheater among his cohort, struggling to gain control over a situation that plummets further into chaos. Depending on how players interact with the narrative, Vincent’s relationship with either partner will change, resulting in one of eight endings. As with many second comings, the re-imagined version alters some elements of the original to provide a more fleshed out narrative and outcome(s).
The result of Atlus’s re-imagining is Catherine: Full Body, a larger experience featuring an added love interest, Rin; new puzzles; more questions; and new cutscenes. Aside from these additions, Catherine: Full Body comes with a slew of quality-of-life changes. With over 20 new cutscenes, Catherine: Full Body’s goal is to provide a fulfilling experience, even to those who have already played it. Other new additions include two versions of the game—Classic and Remix—over 500 stages, and a functioning online battle mode, where players can compete for score and rank. To account for the new love interest, five new endings have been added, further reassuring veteran players that an additional playthrough is worthwhile. Rin has received three endings: Bad, Good, and True, while Catherine and Katherine have both received unique Alternative endings.
The changes become immediately apparent via the introduction of Rin. Rin (short for Qatherine) is a petite, naïve female who is suffering from amnesia while on the run from an assailant. She grows attached to Vincent as he develops into her protector and guide. As Vincent struggles with his vices, Rin remains in The Stray Sheep, where she is a pianist for its patrons. There, Vincent and the player can interact with her daily to help her discover who she is, while simultaneously doing the same for Vincent.
Rin’s inclusion not only provides an additional character to talk to outside of Vincent’s nightmares, but also acts as a mechanic within those nightmares. Since Vincent’s goal every night is to climb the proverbial “stairway to heaven,” he faces the challenge of time as the platforms below fall into the abyss. Rin acts as Vincent’s guardian angel (much as he is to her) and plays her piano to slow the falling blocks, providing the player more time to react to the puzzle’s difficulty. To some, Rin’s melody mechanic may be seen as simplifying the challenge too much by slowing the tower degradation to a near halt. Despite this, it makes the final puzzles less infuriating, allowing one to appreciate and take advantage of the game’s index of techniques and tips.
As the focal point of this re-imagining, Rin represents a side of Vincent that was absent from the original Catherine. Since the game tackles themes of morality and desire, each love interest represents a side of Vincent that players will eventually gravitate towards. Katherine symbolizes adulthood, maturity, and security. Being Vincent’s long-time girlfriend, Katherine desires commitment and the need to move forward with life’s responsibilities. Catherine is the opposite, as she encourages Vincent to seek more excitement and avoid the mundane. She represents chaos, free-thinking, and youth. Rin allows for Vincent to take the time to think about what he wants in life, rather than living it the way he is told to. Rin thus encourages happiness, boosting Vincent’s self-worth, morale, and kindness.
One of the problems with the original Catherine was that it was often black and white. Most scenarios made apparent which ending the player was working towards through the choices that were made. Selecting one answer over another often resulted in obvious confrontations and resolutions. With the addition of Rin and her new narrative content, Catherine: Full Body seeks to uncover the grey between both scenarios, allowing for a more fleshed out story and meaningful decisions. Due to the additional dialogue and interview questions, it is now easier to be rewarded with an ending that better suits player decisions. For example, players no longer have to alter their answers and personality solely to avoid ending up with a specific female.
Despite the change only affecting the five new endings, players can now experience a more natural narrative outcome for chaotic, neutral, and lawful tiers. All things considered, however, for fans of the original who desire to answer questions in an identical manner, be prepared to end up with the same woman. All of the original endings are still intact, with their requirements remaining the same. The new endings are only present to provide resolution for Rin’s story arc, and alternatives to Katherine and Catherine’s endings.
What is most surprising is how inclusive Catherine: Full Body is. In the original title, non-binary sexuality existed, but was not openly discussed. Now that a definitive experience exists, Catherine: Full Body does not shy away from exploring other aspects of sexuality that have only recently become more socially acceptable. Considering the original Catherine released in 2011, it was definitely ahead of its time for its willingness to discuss and explore unconventional elements of sexuality. Catherine: Full Body continues the trend of inclusivity, and that certainly works in its favor.
Despite being a near-perfect package, Catherine: Full Body has some issues that make the climb more aggravating than it needs to be. Regarding technical issues, some of the dialogue continues to play over the following sentences when skipping through to speed up interactions. Additionally, the camera during puzzle sequences is troublesome, possibly contributing to more deaths than anything else in the game. Some of the techniques encouraged by the game involve players rotating around the puzzle to find different angles of progression. The camera makes this technique counterintuitive by fighting against rotation. The options seem to possess no means by which to fix this issue. For some reason, the camera in Catherine: Full Body feels harder to control than in the original, becoming, by far, the most frustrating part of the experience.
Regardless of whether players have experienced Catherine before, Catherine: Full Body fulfills its goal of giving players a reason to revisit this one-of-a-kind tale. The willingness to distance itself from traditional black-and-white romantic tropes allows the game to tell a captivating narrative, breaking the fourth wall and allowing players to act as if they found themselves in Vincent’s predicament. The addition of Rin has allowed for exploration of a different side of love, asking more thought-provoking questions that seek to uncover what true happiness means to the player. In the end, Catherine: Full Body is essentially, more Catherine, and fans of the original could not ask for more.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4. Original game is available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox 360.
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