Catherine is about as weird as video games come. On the one hand it’s all about romance, with Vincent getting himself caught up in saucy situations having to decide between two similarly named women who represent two very different stages of life and maturity. On the other hand the actual game has you in your polka dot boxers pushing blocks around and climbing them.
It’s quite simply unique. For that reason alone, a remaster of the game is worthwhile for those who’d like to return to the game or who, as I did, downloaded it from PS+ to my PS3 and then never got round to actually playing it. As I sat and played the Catherine: Full Body enhanced remaster for the first time, I think I now realise how silly that mistake was to make.
This is no mere port. It goes far beyond just upping the resolution by adding a third potential love interest, adding a bunch of new cutscenes and story around her, and giving you remixed puzzles that up the challenge of the block-pushing and climbing nightmares.
Rin might not have a name that echoes Catherine and Katherine – personally I’d have called her Kathryn or Katrina – but her impact on the game’s story is immediate. In fact, the very first thing you see is Rin running away from a towering, stomping menace that’s chasing her through the alleyways of the city. Luckily she runs around a corner and bowls Vincent over in the process, and he helps her to escape.
It’s not until after completing the first sequence of the game – meeting his girlfriend Katherine, enduring his first nightmarish puzzle, and then discovering just why he’s had a bad night’s sleep – that he’s sat bickering with his friends at the Stray Sheep bar and we meet Rin again. It turns out that she’s suffering from amnesia, not knowing her name, who or what was chasing her, nothing. It’s rather lucky that she ran into Vincent, who’s helped her apply for a job at the Stray Sheep and become its pianist, and even moved her into the recently vacated apartment right next to his.
It’s all terribly convenient, and it’s part of why it feels to me that Rin sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the game. It’s inevitable, in a way, simply because her story has to be interspersed with the other parts of the narrative, but her luridly pink bob is so alien, her overall look not out of place in something like Hyperdimension Neptunia or other neon-infused anime-style games, and her characterisation so strongly contrasting to the other characters you meet in the opening hour.
Still, it will be really interesting to see how her story develops and interweaves with the original tale of love and coming of age. Her appearances won’t simply be in the Stray Sheep, but also within Vincent’s dreams, as she appears between stages at the keys of her piano.
She might end up as a reassuring sight, even if you’re not trying to follow the path through the story to romance her. That could be especially true when tackling the game in Remix mode – known as Arrange mode in the Japanese release. This overhauls the entire game’s puzzles with the added challenge of dealing with connected blocks. They can be twos, threes, fours and more, all connected in different Tetromino-like shapes, and come alongside all the old blocks and gameplay mechanics.
Even so, playing the first couple hours of the game, it feels like Atlus have done a good job of making Remix mode accessible to newcomers such as myself. The goal is ultimately the same, to climb to the top of the tower of blocks, pushing and pulling them create ledges for you to clamber up on step at a time. The game still teaches you the basics of how to climb and navigate the towers, adds immovable blocks into the mix, spike trap blocks, collectables and the sheep that are also racing to survive as the bottom of the tower crumbles, it’s just that there’s linked blocks to deal with as well.
There’s a lot here to like, whether you’ve got all the good, bad and true endings the first time around and want to explore Rin’s story with some new challenges, or if you’re complete newcomer. This is unusual and quirky a game as ever, and on a personal level, I’m glad it exists because, if there’s one good thing that’s come from previewing Catherine: Full Body, it’s that I actually want to play more. Now, do I plug my PS3 back in, or wait until September?