A wise man once said relationships are like a fine wine. You begin to appreciate its complexity, texture, and taste once digested properly, and the buzz that follows is but a bittersweet feeling of fleeting euphoria. However, you can still have too much of a good thing – a sentimentality that Vincent Brooks faces at a pinnacle moment in his life. Sitting in the Stray Sheep Bar, partaking in copious amounts of wine-drinking with friends and citizens all too willing to feed into his troubles, Vincent really begins to understand just how far the rabbit hole of relationships goes. The building blocks of love, destiny, and a chance encounter are a sip of wine away – welcome to Catherine: Full Body.
Catherine: Full Body, a remake/enhanced version of the 2011 video game Catherine by Persona developer Atlus, is more of the same – and that’s fantastic. The game focuses on Vincent Brooks, a conflicted man experiencing the weighty decisions at a crossroads in his life that we all possibly face: marriage. His girlfriend of five years, Katherine, is ready to make that leap, settle down, start a family, and lead an honest life. Vincent, however, can’t handle the pressures of marriage quite yet. Instead, he succumbs to lustful desires and begins an affair with a younger woman he meets at the Stray Sheep Bar. This only leads to nightmares that escalate in insanity as Vincent comes to terms with his unforgivable sins.
Catherine: Full Body is a complex game, both in its story and gameplay, and not one that’s easy to digest at first.
Catherine: Full Body is a complex game, both in its story and gameplay, and not one that’s easy to digest at first. Vincent, as a protagonist, doesn’t score much sympathy points initially as his drunken escapades leads him to cheat on his long-time girlfriend, leaving little reason to actually care about his plights. Without spoiling anything, this is where Catherine: Full Body gets interesting. As we peel back the layers of the affair between him and his mistress, the bubbly and upbeat Catherine (yes, they have the same name), we slowly unravel the deeper implications behind the nightmares, his unwavering stubbornness, and the immense guilt that quite literally suffocates him in his dreams.
The gameplay is split between two segments (or states): awake and asleep. During the day (and mostly through the night), Vincent confides in his close friends, acquaintances at the bar, and his girlfriend, where players must make decisions that somewhat affect the ending you receive. This is done through interactive dialogue choices, responding to text messages by constructing your own sentences, and generally speaking to others in the hopes that you begin to understand where you went wrong. Almost every main character in Catherine: Full Body, as expected from the minds behind Persona, is layered and interesting. I say almost, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
There’s a dark underlying twist to the entire ordeal, and the pay-off is something that requires plenty of suspension of disbelief to work…
The side characters, such as your friends, the bartender, and the waitress, are all able to converse with Vincent about his problems and their own. This adds a lot of depth to their personalities, as not everything is one-sided when starting off. This is especially evident with both Katherine and Catherine, whose clashing personalities really begin to tear at Vincent’s conscience. There’s a dark underlying twist to the entire ordeal, and the pay-off is something that requires plenty of suspension of disbelief to work, but once it clicks, you’ll appreciate just how substantial, charming, and bonkers of a story Catherine: Full Body really is.
The nightmare sections are where the meat of the gameplay resides. When Vincent succumbs to his nightmares, he awakens in a strange dimension where he is tasked with ascending increasingly difficult and taller block structures to escape, all the while the blocks beneath him fall to the depths. Players must learn the differences between certain blocks, their gimmicks, and how to move forward, or upward, as quickly as possible. The first few stages of these puzzle segments are fairly easy to grasp, but once the game assumes you have the hang of things, things ramp up to some insane difficulties – almost unbearably so. With enough patience and perseverance, though, the challenge can be overcome.
That’s just the basics of the puzzle-platforming gameplay here, as Catherine: Full Body introduces a multitude of new features to boost the original game. The introduction of a Safety Mode ensures that players are able to skip challenging puzzle sections altogether, or autoplay them, in order to get to the more narrative-driven pieces. If you just want to hone your block-puzzle skills, two new modes, Classic and Remix, offer standalone gameplay. Classic offers the same puzzles featured in the campaign, while Remix shakes things up by giving Vincent the ability to link blocks, adding a bit more challenge to the formula.
However, the biggest addition to Catherine: Full Body is the third potential love interest, Rin. After saving her from an attacker in the streets, Rin begins working as a pianist at the Stray Sheep Bar. Her interactions don’t directly affect the main story, though it does open up a few key endings that differentiate itself from the original. Rin harbours secrets of her own, and getting to the bottom of some of them is riveting, but unfortunately her story arc adds little to the original game overall. If this is your first time playing Catherine, I’d rather recommend sticking to the main path first as the campaign (and its pretty ingenious pay-off) is a lot better for it.
Rin harbours secrets of her own, and getting to the bottom of some of them is riveting…
Sadly, the only thing holding Catherine: Full Body back from being on the level of Atlus’ acclaimed Persona games is something that has stuck around since the original: the puzzles. It’s easy to see why these nightmare sequences needed a place in the overarching narrative, and they can be fun in doses, but the rate and difficulty in which they escalate – especially towards the last few stages – can be frighteningly challenging. Some wonky controls also make certain blockades a bit of a chore to navigate. I’d suggest lowering the difficulty around these stages as even playing on Normal can be frustrating, and detracts from the pacing of the main story.
I still can’t recommend Catherine: Full Body enough. It’s the quintessential way to experience Catherine, especially for those who may have missed out on this gem of the decade. The story, a relatable one of regret, commitment, and facing the music, should resonate with those looking to get emotionally invested in a great, timeless romance. Its weirdness is accentuated by its almost otherworldly story elements, but deep down at its core, Catherine: Full Body is a terrific, very human tale of moving on – the finest glass of wine you’ll ever have.
Catherine: Full Body
Catherine: Full Body is the best way to experience one of this decade’s gaming gems – a vibrant, addictive, and often thought-provoking fantasy romance with a terrific twist.