As a fan of story based games, I have to say that I love a game that takes you on a ride. Catherine
is the kind of game that you can sit back with, relax, and watch an incredibly compelling social dilemma unfold before the protagonist's eyes. Lately, I've been thinking about companies from Japan. So many people have been crying out about the doom and gloom of the market and how Japanese development has been lagging behind while the Western world advances. This couldn't be further from the truth, as Atlus is one of Japanese gaming's oldest surviving names, but fastest risers in the global market. Persona 3
got the name out, Persona 4
kicked the door open, and Catherine
broke the door's frame. Persona 5
is currently one of the most anticipated Japanese developed games since Atlus presented its masterfully crafted initial trailer. Catherine
was released in Japan and North American in 2011, with Europe and Australia getting a release in early 2012. The plot revolves around infidelity and is one that many of us have likely heard about, if not experienced first hand. Vincent, the games protagonist, gets caught up with a blonde-haired, blue-eyed young beauty named Catherine one night after all of his friends leave him alone at the bar. From here, the player chooses whether he wants to court her for the long run or remain faithful to his girlfriend, Katherine. The girls represent the ideologies of "Law" and "Chaos." Law is doing the right thing no matter how much it might hurt; Katherine is a structured being in complete charge of her life and represents Law. On the other hand, Catherine is more of a loose cannon that Vincent can't seem to get rid of no matter what decisions you make; she represents Chaos. Which one of these ladies will you choose, or will you choose the single life?
The main Shin Megami Tensei
games are all full role playing games, while Catherine
is a puzzle game. The visual novel forms the narrative style of Catherine
, dating sims do the same for the Social Links of Persona
, and monster capture implements breeding through fusion for the main SMT
So, why was Catherine
the fastest selling game in Atlus' history when it released? It likely has to do with the fact that puzzle games are more appealing to someone who doesn't have much time to game. Atlus RPGs are all long, but a story on par with one of their role playing games in a bite-sized format is an easier sell to the more time-constrained crowd. In Catherine
, Atlus gives the player the ability to replay the game through unlockable, multiple endings, extra stages, which adds more story along the way.
Despite the closed nature of the areas you can explore in the game, Catherine
gives the player great freedom and power to affect the world within the game. The social elements of Persona
are here in a much simpler format; however, you don't see the consequences and can't view how well your relationships with most NPCs are going beyond the game's Law and Chaos bar (which only affects the Katherine and Catherine dynamic for endings). All of the analysis is up to the player, and this is the core of Catherine's
design. Vincent has reflect on his situation at every corner he takes in this game, so the developers leave it up to the player to find their own answers as they unlock more secrets of this world of nightmares.
The puzzles are meant to challenge and teach you skills to help you navigate the levels. These are not collected anywhere so that you can view them at your leisure, they must be committed to memory. These skills are shared between levels by speaking to certain sheep. They're basically strategies of how to move and maneuver on the blocks. Most of the time, you'll be forced to figure these strategies out before you even get a chance to find out about them, which can get you stuck early on. In Catherine
, the levels falls out from beneath you and the tension feels similar to that of a game of Tetris
when it starts to get out of hand and you start messing up. The learning curve starts rather steep despite the relative ease of the early levels; I even struggled and got mostly bronze trophies on the first few days. The last couple of days were a near constant stream of gold trophies for me, as everything was finally clicking and I could more easily run through these levels without losing the multiplier.
The characters in this game are fantastic, and are the main reason why Atlus has become a rising force in the game industry. Other companies that might be stagnate, have forgotten that it takes an entire cast of compelling characters for a game to succeed, not one cool looking bada@# to carry everyone else. All Atlus' games seem to have an entire cast of well-written characters that fill their niche well. Whether you like everybody is up to your personal taste as there are a few nods to more mainstream anime tropes in a few characters throughout their games.
If you've been missing out and want to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to Atlus, but do not want to commit to a full length role playing game, then I would recommend Catherine.
Even people who are not big puzzle fans can enjoy this game, since its not entirely focused on the puzzle game mechanics. For those interested in obtaining a copy, Catherine
is currently available on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 for all regions.