Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Aug 10th 2015 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Atlus, puzzle, platformer, action, ps3, xbox 360

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 and Persona 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 series.

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.

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Great review!  I've seen other reviews on the game and it was one of the first I bought when I got my PS3 last Christmas. I love puzzle games and they are especially good when enhanced with a superb storyline.

You mention that this was the fastest selling game in Atlas history when it was released and you attribute this to the make-up of the game and how players aren't constrained by Atlas' typically long RPGs. While I think that may have some bearing on sales, you can't ignore the overtly sexual content and resulting appeal of the game. There's no doubt that this had a lot to do with it too.

Thanks for the review. This will definitely push me to play the game a lot sooner. Smiley
Good article.  I've been curious about Catherine ever since I first heard about it, but still haven't purchased a copy yet.  I've been on the fence, considering whether the game's sexual themes were going to be too dominant in the story, or whether that is used more as a component, and it's the relationships that take center stage.  Now that this game can be had so cheap, it might be the time to look into it further...
This article is great.  I had heard of Persona games before, but never really got into any of them.  I think I will start with this game and possibly explore the rest of the games assuming I enjoy this one.  Thanks for the read!
My beloved and I played through this game together, and it was such a fascinating experience that way!  We talked and debated as the story developed, and while we weren't happy with our first ending (mostly because the questions didn't seem to communicate very clearly) we really enjoyed the spectrum of endings and story direction overall.  The 'ultimate Chaos' ending still kinda chills and disturbs me. Tongue

Such a great, great game, from concept to all of the brilliant subtext, the great music and voice-acting, and even the base puzzle game undergirding the visual novel is something I enjoyed enough to play on its own.  That it was used in so many ways as a storytelling device to explore the metagame's themes really brought the whole package together in intelligent (and intense!) ways.

@MetalFRO:  I was concerned about this as well, MetalFRO, and that was part of the reason I played with my beloved together.  Thankfully, the racy components are implied or covered in a very PG-13 type of way, and the sexuality is more used as a story device than an overtly exploitive display.  The occasional heavy use of the 'f' bomb and other language, combined with the running theme of the game, means that it would never be 'T' rated, but it never pushes its 'M' further than what is consistent with its intent.  Still, it's a game whose contents (especially some of the endings) will stay with you awhile. 
Great write up on this.  There is not many games now a days I play until the end.  I actually look forward to a 5 hour story appose to the 20 or 30 hours people glamour for.  But this game was a exception,  I got really hooked to this game and I played it til the end.  It did have a few difficult portions but none the less it was very unique and one of a kind.  I long for the days of a sequal to this which we will most likely never see.  This is the only game from the company I have any interest in owning due to not really caring for RPG style games.  If the company has any other good puzzle games that you know of, I am all ears. 

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