Catherine

Catherine is a creation of the Atlus Persona Team, a group of developers with a ravaging fan base and a ridiculous urge to feature unique mythology in their games. Catherine follows suit, but not in the format one would expect from the masterminds behind Persona and the Digital Devil Saga. Instead they took the action puzzler route, which may not be the best genre for their strong story-telling, but definitely creates an experience unlike any other game out there.

Story

If I had to choose an area where Catherine excels at, it’s story. This should come as no surprise with the Atlus Persona Team at the helm. This is their craft. I’ve always considered J-RPGs to be stronger overall when it came to story-telling as opposed to their open-world American RPG counterpart. While Catherine is not a J-RPG, it’s story is just as strong as any that one would find in a Devil Survivor or Persona game.

For those who aren’t familiar with the world that the Atlus Persona Team usually creates they should know that they utilize a brand of mythology not commonly found in modern day gaming; or actually, even modern day literature. They have a penchant for educating us on the more obscure deities of past. This, to me, is wonderful because it not only feels original, but also provokes one to do some research; since the deities have a history outside of the game.

Art and Sound

The voice acting for Catherine is another strong point to the game. Those who are fans of the Persona series will be familiar with some returning voices. It’s top-notch voice acting.

It is, however, met with a problem: the game’s script. It’s not a matter of ideas, the story, as I mentioned, is fantastic. The problem is that I wish they had adjusted the lip-syncing for the dialogue they created, as opposed to creating dialogue for the lip movement. It works sometimes. For example, in films like Spirited Away, and it’s not completely horrific. It’s just that some scenes are significantly more jarring because of the choice words.

Why is she smiling when the words she speak and the tone she conveys are obviously that of sadness?

As far as the art direction is concerned, I adore it. It’s magnificently macabre, as are all Shin Megami Tensei games. It’s not the strongest game graphically, but they get it done with their choice art.

Gameplay

The main genre for Catherine I’d say is a puzzler. The action aspect of it is more of a topping on the sundae, or the pepperoni for the pizza. It can get very action heavy, but it’s a puzzler at it’s heart.

The way it works is the main character, Vincent, has to push/pull/manipulate blocks in order to reach the top of a tower. If he doesn’t do so, he will die in the dream and therefore die in real life. While it’s simplistic-sounding in this regard, the gameplay is impacted by boss powers, enemies, items, and special blocks.

The truth is, I do enjoy the gameplay, but at the same time it’s not the greatest system. First off, the game is really difficult. On the other hand, I also feel very accomplished when I beat a later stage. No surprise there, this is the same company that brought us Demon’s Souls. As to whether or not the story is worth the difficulty is up to the gamer, and to me it was definitely worth it.

Final Thoughts

Catherine weaves this wonderful line of originality.

Yes, the gameplay is reminiscent of Q*bert. Yes, the mythos that the game uses is borrowed, not created.

Isn’t that what originality is though? It’s the process of taking old ideas and making it new. Catherine pulls it off so well. Never before has it made me feel so good to complete a difficult puzzle. The story is just so rewarding and compelling. I do understand though, that this game isn’t for everyone, but I also believe that everyone should check it out.

Rating: 4/5