With the recently released Catherine Classic on Steam, Atlus and the Persona team’s once console exclusive title is now, finally available to a much wider audience. Even so, many might never give it a shot for, from a simple glance, it can easily come off as shallow and possibly trashy experience. But those who do gleam that conclusion are I would say, quite far off the mark as Catherine is shining example of the deception of sexuality in video games and just a great game in general, a medium oft considered juvenile in this regard by many.
Now for a proper rundown on why Catherine is a truly unique game, let’s start off like any good tale, at the beginning.
Catherine was originally announced in August 2010 and while the title’s reveal proved to be quite popular for Atlus, the game’s content undoubtedly garnered some negative reception. This definitely made marketing a trickier prospect than usual and also led to many stores in the west refusing to carry the title when it was scheduled to release roughly a year later. To combat this, Atlus USA put together a film reel composed of far more of sexually explicit scenes from triple A games than anything contained within Catherine in order to convince retailers to stock the title. The strategy worked and Catherine manged to make it to western stores on its release. And now about 8 years later, the game has finally made its way to PC, to the delight of many of its fans.
With that little history lesson out of the way, let’s dive into what exactly Catherine is all about.
The game follows Vincent Brooks, a more or less normal young(?) man who’s in a rut in his relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Katherine, when the game begins. Since they’ve been together for a while now, Katherine wants to take their relationship the next level aka marriage but Vincent afraid of the problems such a step might bring, finds himself in an indecisive state about the situation and as he toils in this rut, a drunken escapade leads to a one-night stand with Catherine, a new enigma of a person thrust to his life, one who he then proceeds to have an affair with. However that’s not all his drunken outing brings for after that event, Vincent begins to experience hellish nightmares in which he an others must ascend a tower while being chased by horrible demons, a hallmark of many of Atlus’ titles.
That’s the gist of the tale and as such the two sides of ‘relationship drama’ and ‘nightmarish adventures’ present the main gameplay mechanics of the title. During the day, Vincent can converse with people and try to manage his relationship with the two girls and at night he must push and pull blocks while avoiding traps in order to create a path to the top of the tower all while being hounded by demonic beings. The puzzle aspect may seem simple but is in fact a fairly challenging proposition, so much so that a patch to make it easier was eventually released. The heart of this game though, is undoubtedly its simulation half as navigating through Vincent’s daily turmoils reveal a story colored by flawed characters and difficult choices, a tale that hurls its protagonist through a gauntlet of emotions and in the end delivers a brilliantly authentic and compelling experience of adult love and, maybe fair bit of supernatural craziness depending on the choices made along the way.
This combination of hardcore puzzle game and relationship drama allows Catherine to craft a video game experience like no other. And of-course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the game’s beautifully stylized anime graphics and animated cutscenes, courtesy of the famed Studio 4 °C.
Catherine is an incredible game, one of Atlus’ best, and I hope that many more will be willing give it a shot with its PC release.