Review by BigReed

"Atlus' Persona Team enters the HD market with a deeply engrossing and mature tale"

Introduction

Catherine is a game Published by Altus and developed by their in house Persona team. Catherine's core game play has the player climbing a tower in his nightmares. The player must move numerous kinds of blocks around to create a path up to the very top. If you fail, Vincent the protagonist of the story will die. The special edition of Catherine comes with a lot of gamer “swag”. An adult male T-shirt size large, a pair of polka dotted boxers that the main character sports throughout the game, an art book/soundtrack, a long pillowcase with the beautiful blonde Catherine sprawled across it, and of course the game itself. With a price of 79.99 USD, I felt that this was a worthwhile collector's edition. Altus gives the fans a lot of practical things they can use for a reasonable price.

Gameplay

Catherine has several styles of game play during the Golden Theater, which is the “story mode” of the game. In Vincent's nightmares, you must climb, move blocks, and avoid trap blocks and enemies. There is an undo button and you can undo several of your last moves, if you made an error that prevents the advancement of Vincent. The puzzles in the game take some time to become accustomed to. Even on the Easy difficulty puzzles can be a tough challenge. The beginning stages do however; slowly introduce you into what the game expects of you. After every level of a stage there is a gathering of sheep that are also scaling the nightmarish towers, and you have the opportunity to exchange “techniques”. These techniques are normally shown prior to a stage where you will need to use them, so it is best to pay attention or even view them several times to save yourself from heartache while climbing.

There are also “boss battles” of sorts, where you must use your climbing skills to quickly ascend a shaking and collapsing tower. The more you play these stages the better you will become. In all honesty, I would suggest playing Catherine on Easy, then once completing the game switching it to Normal on your second play through. During my second play through I noticed that I had greatly improved and was easily earning Gold medals for all for all of the stages.

Outside of Vincent's nightmares the game takes place in either anime cut scenes, in game graphics cut scenes, or in a bar that Vincent and his pal's frequent. While in the Bar you can talk to customers and your friends, send text messages, play an arcade game called Repunzel, or use the jukebox to change the music being playing to other Catherine songs or even classics from past Altus games. Talking to people greatly influences the story and the game even explains to you that you should “encourage” everyone you meet. I also suggest taking part in this. You must also pay attention to the passage of time in the game because you need to make sure you speak to other people who are experiencing Vincent's ordeal.Texting in the game is also an interesting aspect. You have multiple lines of text, and can select a variety of responses. I thought it was a neat idea that worked out pretty well even though drunken texting can be a dangerous thing to participate in.

Story

The story of Catherine to me is where the game shines brightest. Altus did a fantastic job of writing the most mature storyline I've ever experienced in a video game. Now when I say “mature”, I don't mean dark color palettes, guns, and killing hordes of bad guys. I mean a realistic scenario that is so unbelievably common today that it's very surpsing that no game has tried it before. Vincent is somewhat of an underachiever. He has just switched jobs and doesn't really have any money. He has a very small one room apartment, and a workaholic and caring girlfriend Katherine. Katherine and Vincent have been dating for five years, and Katherine acts very motherly towards Vincent. From time to time she tells him he doesn't need to waste money, and that he should clean up his room. Katherine wants to get married. Vincent doesn't want to change anything and is somewhat afraid to commit. One night while Vincent is drinking at the bar, his friends decide to call it quits early and Vincent decides to stay a while longer. All of a sudden the girl of Vincent's dreams asks to sit down with him at the bar. Vincent wakes up the next morning in his small apartment and glances over to notice the blonde bombshell cuddling his arm as she sleeps. Vincent panics, he just cheated on his girlfriend of five years with a girl he doesn't even know. What adds to this is that girl is called Catherine, which is just too crazy to be true. Vincent was always a standup guy, but he caved to the pressure of marriage, and the opportunity to be with the girl that is exactly his type.

As of this review, I am twenty three years old and will be getting married exactly this time next year. This games premise really hit home to me. And I feel that Catherine as a game will only appeal to the more mature crowd, and especially the crowd who is in a serious relationship, and either waiting to get married, or are already married.

Graphics/Sound

Altus is known for their music in games. The music is part classic piano meets Jpop meets hip hop. All of the music is very catchy. The game's composer is Shoji Meguro who has also worked on most of Altus' developed games, mainly their SMT series. Over the years I have grown to love his video game soundtracks, and I'm glad that the CD of the games music was included in my purchase. During the tower climbs the game features classical musical scores of the past. There was never a time in the game that I forgot about the music. It's always noticeable and adds to the experience.The graphical style of the game perfectly translates Altus' anime style to the HD consoles. All of the visuals are sharp, and I think Altus is one of the few companies to successfully pull of the anime style without bringing over all of the stereotypes. I'm looking forward to Altus' use of this engine on their future games.

Play Time/Replayability

Catherine on my first play through took me between fourteen and fifteen hours. Every play through after that is much shorter because of the skill you have acquired, along with the ability to skip stages you previously were awarded a gold medal in. There are eight endings to Catherine. The endings are based off your Karma meter, and questions answered during the game. There are also other game modes, and even a competitive multiplayer. Catherine may have a somewhat normal play time for the story, but multiple plays of the game are encouraged and worthwhile. Catherine has very high replayability.

Final Recommendation

I knew once this game was announced that I would be buying it. Once more details of the puzzle style game play were released I became concerned. However, every aspect of Catherine is enjoyable and I honestly feel that every person who is passionate about video games should play this title. It is one of a kind and will most likely be overlooked by a large portion of the market. But for me, Catherine will be one of the most remembered games of this generation, and hopefully it will be for you as well.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/01/11

Game Release: Catherine ("Love Is Over" Deluxe Edition) (US, 07/26/11)


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