Something I find consistently annoying is that many games I’m interested in are currently in limbo as to whether they will be released in Europe. This situation led me to import the Demon’s Souls and Persona 3 Portable from the US whilst other high profile titles such as Mistwalker’s The Last Story have been cancelled entirely. One of my most highly anticipated games this year that is presently in a similar state is Catherine.
“Catherine” is an upcoming puzzle/horror game for PS3 and 360 from Atlus and the team who most recently created Persona 3 and 4. The demo consists of two block puzzle based nightmare sequences with cutscenes in between and is available for download through the Playstation Store if you own a Japanese PSN account. The story revolves around Vincent and his girlfriend Katherine who wants him to marry her. When his friends tease him about how he will be committing to Katherine for the rest of his life, he cheats on her with a second girl called Catherine. Around this time Vincent starts having nightmares where monsters are trying to kill him. After a friend of theirs dies in suspicious circumstances, a rumour goes round that if you die in these nightmares; you will die in the real world too.
The nightmare sequences use block puzzles that to me felt like a reverse Mr Driller. Here, the objective is to climb to the door at the top of the pile of blocks to escape. You can only climb one block at a time so you need to push blocks to create makeshift stairways. If you remove a row of supporting blocks, the row above will drop down onto it. These are the basic dynamics as shown in the demo but there are some obstacles to success. One of these is that there are a limited number of continues although you can gain more by picking up pillows. You will also need to make use of tools, such as the ability to place a block on an adjacent square. In the demo, if you make a bad move with one of the blocks, you can undo it with the Select button but this seems to be exclusive to easy mode, meaning that if you make a mistake on normal or higher, then you’ve just lost another continue. Other obstacles you will face will come in the form of monsters. In the demo, this is a giant woman climbing the tower, chasing Vincent and stabbing him if she gets too close. Finally these sequences use a combo system for scoring and give you a trophy based on your performance.
The game is apparently running on Gamebryo, the engine most famously used in Elder Scrolls: Bethesda’s recent RPGs although probably wouldn’t notice it. The graphics are superb and give the appearance of anime in 3D, with attention to detail present in the way the characters are animated. The anime cutscenes from Studio 4C are gorgeous and gel with these in-game visuals. What little I heard of Meguro’s soundtrack sounds quite eclectic, with an emphasis on strings but still with some more jubilant funky sequences as seen in P3&4.
Catherine was a game at the top of my most wanted list ever since I saw the first trailer and after playing this demo this certainly hasn’t changed. Its sexual-horror aesthetic has potential to be disturbing on a more fundamental level than most other games. I’m also interested to see how far the nightmare sequences will end up going, both in terms of complexity of the puzzles and the or the monsters chasing you as you solve them If you have a PS3, I’d recommend setting up a Japanese account just to try this and if you haven't already, check out a subtitled version of the marriage trailer on the internet.
Please Atlus, bring this game west. I just can’t quit Catherine!