Are you committed to your lover, or do you want excitement? Are you the type to be tied down to one person, or do you want to have fun with many partners? These are the questions asked by Atlus’s new and first HD game, “Catherine,” for the PS3 and X-Box 360. With all the hype surrounding this game, including having both female protagonists on the passes at this year’s E3, one question must be asked- is it another hit like Persona 3 and 4?
If you’re a fan of Atlus’ titles over the years, the answer is a resounding yes. If not, it’ll definitely be interesting enough to capture your attention, but ultimately, its killer difficulty might be too much for you.
The game’s story is about Vincent Brooks, a thirty-year-old computer technician who is unsure of his life. His longtime girlfriend Katherine is wants him to marry her but Vincent is unsure. He then meets a cutie named Catherine and cheats with her. Meanwhile, Vincent has weird dreams, where he is forced to climb block walls while in his boxers. He also has goat horns on his head during this process. This dream also corresponds with mysterious deaths of young men who cheat on their partners.
The coolest part of Catherine is its great story. It has a good mixture of horror and relationship drama. Atlus did a stellar job of making a game with the premise of a cheating guy with horror and in the end did not make it seem like a b-movie. Because of this, you’ll want to see how Vincent’s relationships end up all the way to the end.
Praise should be given to the voice acting as well. The majority of the voice actors do a very good job in their roles, many of which are regular voice actors in previous Atlus games such as Persona 3 and 4. Troy Baker plays an excellent Vincent. Michelle Ruff as Katherine makes a great co-star. Laura Bailey as Catherine does a decent job, though sometimes her voice does get annoying.
However, regardless of this, the gameplay can be hit or miss. It is broken up into two parts: the daytime interactive part where you talk with people inside Vincent’s favorite bar, “The Stray Sheep” and the “nightmare” puzzle solving stages.
The nightmare section consists of moving blocks to create a path for Vincent to climb up to the top and reach the goal. These stages range from challenging to infuriatingly hard. In fact, in Japan, Atlus had to make a patch for the game because Japanese gamers complained about the difficulty. The US version has this patch, but it is still hard. Some people may hate the game because of this or give up on it altogether. Regardless, once you sit down and think about it, completing these stages does feel rewarding.
Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with a good challenge, although some may not feel the same way and will find these stages too frustrating and will never want to play them ever again.
While these parts are difficult, the other scenes provide a good change of pace. The bar section of the title has Vincent hanging out drinking, talking to bar patrons, receiving text messages from both girls, and play the arcade game, “Rapunzel,” which plays like a 16-bit version of the main game, but without a time limit. It’s also a bit harder. Nonetheless, while this section is good, there should have been more to do to spice things up even more.
Inbetween the levels and bar scenes, the anime cut-scenes are gorgeous and very pleasing to look at. The in-game graphics, though not as pleasing as the cut-scenes, are still very well done. Atlus has said that this engine is what they plan on using for future Shin Megami Tensei games.
The music, composed by Atlus regular Shoji Meguro, range from original scores, like the game’s opening theme, to remixes of classical songs like Bach’s “Little” Fugue in G Minor. The original songs are very well done as usual for Meguro. The remixes are a hit or miss. While songs like “Little” Fugue in G Minor are great, others just seem to just be there and are hardly heard in the game.
In the end, Atlus has released a game in “Catherine” that will please all Atlus faithful. The puzzle section may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are still worth trying out and there is a sense of accomplishment after completing them despite the difficulty.
Everything else about “Catherine” makes it worth a purchase.