Catherine review

When Catherine was 1st announced by Atlus Japan, myself and other hardcore Atlus fans were excited to find out that one of our favorite developers was going to be making their 1st HD, PS3/Xbox 360 title.  At first there wasn’t a lot of information about Catherine other than a game about men mysteriously dying in a grotesque fashion.  As the “Atlus Faithful” discovered more about the upcoming game, they were surprised to find out that the new IP (Intellectual Property)  was not the next generation JRPG they had been longing for, but a block puzzle game with a horror story. As more details of the game released, the more I thought the title would be too niche to see a stateside release.  Thankfully Atlus Japan and Atlus USA love their fans and took a gamble by bringing Catherine to America.

First thing I would like to point out in my review is that Catherine is not an erotic, sex game that misinformed gamers would have you believe.  Now it is true that Catherine has a very mature plot, but it is not the type of mature that would use a XXX categorization.  The maturity of the story is found in the way Catherine discusses and handles the adult relationships of the characters. Most games handle character love interests like a teenage girl, “OMG! Do you like me, cuz I like totally like you.”  Catherine digs deeper into the characters relationships and explores the issues and meanings of the relationship.  There were a few times that the game asked questions about the main character’s relationship that made me think about my relationship with my significant other.  So anyone picking up this game should not be ashamed or fear looks from ignorant gamers.

The Story
“This isn’t the time to be dead.”

The story of Catherine revolves around  Vincent Brooks and his struggle to move on to the next stage of his life.  With 8 different endings, players will get to see very different conclusions to the story based on the decisions players choose for Vincent . The story is very well written and has several twists that will keep the player guessing til the end.  An awful translation of the story would have been a major down fall in this game, but Atlus USA proved that they have one of the best localization teams in the biz.  The story was greatly moved along with the superb voice acting.  Atlus USA got a top-notch crew of voice actors to bring to life the characters in Catherine.

The Gameplay
“We all have the same fate here.  If you don’t wanna die….. You’ve gotta Cliiiiimb!”

One of the big surprises of Catherine is its gameplay.  What appears to be a simple puzzle game, turns out to be a deep and complex puzzle game of moving blocks in a thoughtful and timely fashion to reach the top of a tower, before the bottom gives way.  This game is hard and will punish you for your mistakes.  Hope you like the “Love is Over” screen, cause you will be seeing it quite a few times, but don’t worry the sense of accomplishment you will receive from reaching the top of a challenging block tower will out weigh the pain of falling.  Thankfully the game does a good job of helping you improve your block skills as you continue up the tower, so old challenges are cake walks.  If you push through the challenges of the game and climb your way to the top, you will be rewarded with the ending that you as the player created.

Conclusion
“Once that hole’s been punched, there is no going back!”

In the end, Catherine is one of those rare occurrences that a smaller developer takes a chance and creates a new IP outside of their normal genre.  Thanks to a great marketing campaign and loyal fans, Atlus’s gamble paid off (Catherine sells 200,000).  For me, Catherine is one of the few games out there that does everything right and every little detail pulls me deeper and deeper into its world.  Its says a lot about a game when it makes me want to see all eight of its endings.  If this review is not enough to get you excited about Catherine, then try out the free demo on the PSN and/or XBLA.  As for me, I feel the nightmare calling my name, now remember stay golden.  On a side note, if a smaller company like Atlus USA can bring Catherine to the states why can’t Nintendo of America localize the Operation Rainfall games?  Kind of makes you question Nintendo’s faith in their fans and their Wii home console.

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