Platforms: PS4 (Reviewed), PS Vita (Japan only)
In 2011, Atlus made a peculiar little game called Catherine. It was, in some ways, an atmospheric horror game with all the personality of Atlus’s well known Persona series. It was, in some ways, a relationship simulator that focused on the trials and tribulations of being in a committed relationship, rather than the standard dating sims we are used to. It was, in some ways, a block puzzle game, that tasked you with rearranging a tower of blocks before the bottom fell out underneath you. It was, in some ways, a fighting game with a niche but powerful following especially in Japan.
It was all these things, and it’s safe to say that there was never quite anything like it, and there hasn’t been anything like it since. At least, there’s never been anything like it except… it. Catherine: Full Body is a re-release of Catherine, but Atlus takes their re-releases seriously. There is so much new content here you’d be forgiven if you thought it was an entirely new game.
If you missed Catherine the first time around, here’s a short breakdown. You play as Vincent, a 32 year old coder who is in a long term committed relationship with his girlfriend Katherine. One day, Katherine starts dropping hints that she might want to get married, and this stressed Vincent out. At the same time Vincent meets a younger girl, Catherine, who seems totally happy to just have a completely noncommittal hedonistic relationship with him. By day, Vincent has to work out who he loves, what type of relationship he wants, what future he wants, and what is important to him.
By night, Vincent and the rest of the city’s young men are sucked into a nightmare world where they are all transformed into sheep. There, they are forced to climb stacks of blocks, running from the abyss and their greatest nightmares below. If they can out climb these infernal stacks, they will reach a church confessional where they bear truths about themselves, or perhaps even escape the nightmare for another night. If they can’t, then they meet a gruesome death in the real world.
Catherine is one trippy experience, but it’s one you should have. It feels like a Persona game and hits all the same beats. You have a mental realm with vague religious undertones interacting with a physical realm with social gameplay. You have a nefarious mystery happening in the background that you have to unravel. You have an incredibly likeable cast of characters each with their own lives, wants, and desires that interweave with the plot. It’s an incredible story with quirky gameplay and it stands up there with some of Atlus’s most trippy games.
So what are you getting from Catherine: Full Body that you didn’t get from the original?
First of all, you really do kind of get a whole new game. You can play this in either original mode or remix mode, and remix mode has a completely new set of levels with a completely new set of mechanics. Heck, they even came up with new levels for the mini-games. There are more than 500 stages to play, which Is absolutely nuts as far as new content goes.
The entire game has been given a facelift, and it’s not just an HD texture hack. It looks like it was developed for the PS4. There are new models, new textures, new NPCs, new environments, even 20 new anime cutscenes. There are even 21 new tracks composed by the legend, Shoji Meguro himself.
There’s also more story. Catherine: Full Body introduces a brand new love-interest: Rin. She’s a young girl with amnesia that Vincent happens to meet up with before his troubles start. Rin ends up taking a job at the Stray Sheep bar, the main locale of the game’s relationship sim elements, as a pianist. The closer you get to Rin, the more likely it is that Rin’s piano playing can actually help you out in puzzle segments by halting the collapse of the stage.
You do kind of have to seek out Rin’s story elements, but it’s remarkable how well she has been inserted into the story. Alongside the new animated cutscenes, there are brand new in-engine cutscenes involving her as well. She fits so naturally into the game, partially because they managed to get back all the old voice actors to reprise their roles. This also means that there are yet more endings to the game as well, three for Rin and one extra ending for Catherine and Katherine.
It’s hard to get too deep into the story without getting into spoiler territory, so let’s talk about gameplay. There are a ton of new quality of life improvements that make puzzle segments easier and more fun to play. For example, hanging on an edge now causes everywhere you can travel while hanging to light up. This makes it easier to prevent situations in which your only choice is to fall off and die.
For people more interested in the story than the puzzle gameplay, there is a new Safety difficulty. Safety completely removes any threat from the game. You can’t die, there’s no time limit, stages don’t collapse, traps don’t trigger, you can set Vincent to “autoplay” if you can’t get past a level segment, and you can even skip puzzles all together. Believe it or not there are quite a few people who liked Catherine primarily for its story and relationship sim elements and not for its puzzle elements. This new mode caters directly to them.
In the original, you were able to see choices that other players made in “confessionals” found throughout nightmare stages. These usually revealed something about Vincent and other players, though the statistics got muddied as people went for different endings.
The online functions of Full Body have been greatly expanded. For example, you can now run into other players as you play the game. You’ll get to see the death statistics of other players worldwide every time you go into a level. You’ll even get to see where other players died in each level, cluing you in to dangerous parts.
Outside of the single-player mode, the game’s multiplayer has been completely revamped. First of all, you don’t have to unlock it by beating the game first. Second, you can play multiplayer online, like you could in any good fighting game. This online mode comes with a fully implemented online ranking system. Of course you can always play casuals as well. This is going to make the competitive Catherine players very happy.
If the game’s Japanese release is anything to speak of, you can look forward to quite a bit of DLC for Catherine: Full Body. First, they released 10 different voice packs for Catherine, all filled with voice actresses notable for playing targets of lust in other media. There was a full Persona 5 crossover (considering that Catherine apparently canonically takes place in the Persona universe) with a Joker skin for Vincent, the Phantom Thieves giving supporting dialogue in puzzle stages, and a playable Joker in multiplayer and Babel stages. There was also a swimsuit DLC, and several other playable multiplayer characters as well.
Who should buy this?
I’ve mostly talked about additional content until now because there is just so much of it. I’ve been playing Catherine: Full Body for about a month now and I still don’t think I’ve seen it all!
However, there remains one major question: Does Catherine hold up eight years after its initial release.
A million times yes.
Replaying Catherine was like coming back to an old friend. All the old puzzles were immediately familiar. All the characters popped off the screen as if I was watching an old movie that I had saved in my collection for posterity. Atlus knows this, as the introduction welcomes you back, assuming that you have tried Catherine before and only paying small lip service to soon to be new fans.
Yet even as the game was so familiar it was also completely new. The sheer amount of new content is hard to deny. Heck, even the game’s menus have been given an overhaul to make them more like Persona 5’s snazzy stylish menus. I jumped right into remix mode and had a blast seeing all the new challenges the game had to offer.
I can’t imagine not recommending Catherine: Full Body to… well everyone really. If you have never played Catherine before, now is the perfect time to catch up on what you missed. If you already have, the new content is more than worth Full Body’s price tag. If you disliked the original Catherine I’d still suggest checking Full Body out since its new modes will probably allow you to enjoy the story while minimizing frustration.
Catherine: Full Body is hands-down one of the best ports Atlus has ever made, and probably one of the best ports ever made, period. As I said before, there’s really nothing quite like Catherine and this is the definitive version, one I think everyone should own.