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Developed by Atlus, Catherine has made the jump to the U.S markets from Japan where it was known as キャサリン
Kyasarin. What we got here is a treat for both fans of anime and for those who
are looking for something different, because this is something you never played
before. Catherine, is about Vincent who works in the tech industry and spends late nights with his friends at a bar.
Vincent’s love life revolves around his girlfriend Katherine (That’s Katherine
with a “K”) who he has been dating for several years. Katherine wants to take the relationship to the next level
but Vincent is unsure of what to do.
The main plot in Catherine takes off when an attractive,
seductive blonde enters Vincent’s life. That would be Catherine with a “C”. After
a late night at the bar with Catherine, Vincent wakes up next to the blonde
bombshell. He realizes that
he cheated on Katherine and thus begins his quest to get out of this
situation that he has found himself in. Should he be faithful to Katherine and
marry her? Or pursue a relationship with Catherine in whom he is mildly interested?
Worse yet, the situation has plagued him with chronic nightmares that threaten to kill him in real life. During Vincent’s nightmares, he will have to survive
various puzzles and boss stages that are based on his real life.
The puzzles play fairly identically, making them repetitive.
By rearranging a sequence of blocks, Vincent is expected to climb to the
top of a tower, which has a Mario feel to it. When the game starts to throw in heavier
blocks, blocks made of ice, blocks that explode, you’ll quickly find out
that Catherine is a tough challenge which might turn off some.
Once you best the puzzles, you’ll be back in the real world
and will be able to explore the story. Every time Vincent had a nightmare, I
wanted to get through the puzzles as fast as I could to continue the story
simply because I wanted to know more about the plot. The cast of characters are
great and help to flush out the plot but you can easily skip over this, which
could make the plot thin for those who do so. Over time you will know what to expect from Catherine’s night and
day formula. Vincent’s puzzled-filled nightmares can often be tense and require
players to rapidly think them through. While in the real life sequences you spend your
time leisurely with Vincent friends at bar drinking beer. It’s this structure that helps give Catherine its unique pacing.
Catherine’s strong point is presenting mature themes that aren’t often in found games. Themes
of marriage and being single are rarely touched in video games and make this one of the most mature
games on the market. But when you get into how the game plays and into the story,
you’ll realize that there’s a lot more to it than just plot. Every time Vincent completes a stage during his nightmare, he is subjected to questioning about his decisions. This is one of the few games that makes gamers ask about their love life. Those who are honest, will find Catherine to be a more immersive experience than some were expecting. From the
difficult puzzles, to the conversations to partake in, and choices to make, Catherine packs a lot.
The morality system is a nice touch, but I often found myself
taken out of atmosphere because of it. Every time you make a decision, either
good or bad, you see a morality bar showing your actions. I think it would have
been much better to keep that hidden from the audience because it would have felt like a more personal experience. Yes the themes do that to an extent, but I always
found it easier to choose between Katherine and Catherine because I would see that morality bar.
A few problems I have with the game are critical mistakes that keep it from being a great game; Catherine’s story will take you six to seven hours to complete. It does have multiple endings and online leader boards which increase the replayablitiy. You may see a few things different from your first playthrough but it isn’t enough for me to justify my 60 dollar purchase. Ultimately, Catherine is still a short-lived experience, but one that is perfect for anime fans.