Catherine Classic (PC) Review

By Renan Fontes 07.02.2019

Review for Catherine Classic on PC

Catherine is one of the most eclectic titles to come out of the last generation of gaming. A 3D puzzle adventure, with hints of dating sim elements, as well as a morality system, the story - framed through a Twilight Zone-esque television program - follows the week of one Vincent Brooks, a 32-year old man who suddenly finds himself cheating on his long-time girlfriend of five years, with a woman who shares his partner's namesake. Gameplay is brutally hard, the script is Atlus' most mature in terms of content, and the story's core themes of are targeted at a very specific audience. On paper, Catherine is a niche game with no real niche to fill. In practice, Catherine is a surprisingly tactful story about love, romance, sexuality, and gender, all wrapped around some of the most inspired game design to come out of the past decade.

For as solid a foundation Catherine has, PC ports of console exclusive titles have been rather hit or miss in recent years. Arkham Knight was so bad, it had to be pulled from shelves. Nier: Automata's initial PC release was cluttered with performance issues that severely hurt what many consider to be the single strongest entry in Yoko Taro's catalogue. With the PC announcement of Catherine Classic, a port not of the upcoming remake Full Body, but of the PS3 original, it was only natural that consumers react to said port with a healthy bit of scepticism.

Unfortunately, as is perhaps to be cynically expected, Classic does come with a set few issues that weren't present in the original release. While most systems will be able to run the title well enough, cut-scenes may occasionally begin blurred, and only come into focus after some time has passed. This can be mitigated entirely with a strong machine, but the port's optimization is still less than ideal. As far as gameplay goes, everything runs as expected at 30fps, but consumers looking for 60 best look elsewhere, as puzzle solving is as it was on the PS3 release, if not at least a bit smoother. The real issue lies, however, not in visuals or in gameplay, but in audio - specifically, dual audio.

Screenshot for Catherine Classic on PC

The original western release was locked to its English cast and, while the dubbing itself is easily one of Atlus' best - if not one of the best in the medium - the inclusion of dual audio is excellent not only for consumers looking to experience the story in its original language, but those simply looking for a change of pace. As an addition, it is very much welcome. Disappointingly, dual audio is currently glitched. While cut-scenes themselves play the Japanese audio perfectly, the gameplay features sound bites of Vincent's English voice actor, Troy Baker. Not only does it hurt immersion to hear Vincent suddenly speak in English, it stands out like a sore thumb considering how often he actually speaks during gameplay. For anyone playing in Japanese, it a problem that must be suffered and one that quite frankly should have never existed.

That said, as poorly as dual audio is implemented, everything is par for course. Classic is not the best port it could have been, but it is still a port of an excellent game. That alone warrants a play-through, especially for who have never experienced the original, or lack the means to try Full Body when it releases on the PlayStation 4. Through Vincent, the story is able to explore the nature of man through both a gendered sense, and a humanistic one. Is it human nature for man, as a species, to seek multiple partners and indulge sexually? Is Vincent's adultery simply a manifestation of an inherent, masculine desire to forgo monogamy? At the same time, there is no one concise answer offered to either Vincent or the player. Instead, it is on the onus of Vincent to find said answer for himself.

Rarely do stories with multiple endings actually manage to result in a thematically fitting conclusion for every end point. For often than not, multiple endings are meant as a means to incentivise replays and nothing more. Atlus has always been particularly good with narratively, and thematically appropriate multiple endings, however, and each of Catherine's eight finales reaches a fitting thematic conclusion. Stumbling onto an ending isn't as simple as sticking to an alignment like in Shin Megami Tensei, though. At the end of each stage, Vincent enters a confessional where he has to answer a personal question to proceed. Said questions typically centre themselves around topics of romance, ethics, or morality, but often dwell on life's simpler aspects such as "are you a pervert?"

Screenshot for Catherine Classic on PC

Answers to each question are deceptively simple, which only adds to the complexity of each confessional. There is no easy way out of a tough question, and each answer is designed to force the player into confronting something about themselves. Answers are often uncomfortable, or downright embarrassing, but this perceived malice tossed at the player from each confessional only serves to give each question more weight, ultimately leading Vincent to an ending that's catered specifically to the personality of the player. Which, in a way, implies Vincent isn't much of his own character. After all, his journey must reach eight different stopping points, all dictated by eight distinct mental paths. The narrative itself doesn't change up until the last arc (and not even by too much), but how one perceives Vincent is coated by the confessionals. This implication, however, is unfounded.

If anything, the eight paths Vincent can walk make him an all more nuanced character. He is the literal everyman: someone any audience member can relate to, while still retaining a personality of his own. Confessionals act as subtext, inferring Vincent's actions, but no answer can be wrong, meaning that how the audience perceives Vincent must always be natural. In that respect, Vincent is actually tremendously well written, as he fits into eight different moulds, all of each similar enough to one another where he can remain a consistent character from play-through to play-through, while different enough to incentivize replayability. Vincent's actions, regardless of the path, are always within the realm of believability.

Screenshot for Catherine Classic on PC

Although the story is incredibly strong, the star of the show is very much the actual gameplay. Every night in his dreams, Vincent is forced to climb a crumbling tower by pushing blocks so he can make his way to the top without falling. Each stage is very much a puzzle in its own right, with its own set of gimmicks, but there is no one defined path to the top. There are multiple different solutions to each stage, relying on creative strategies, and an understanding of the underlying mechanics. By pushing or pulling blocks, Vincent can make staircases, break down walls, build bridges, or create ledges for him to edge towards new spaces. A single block can affect the entire geometry of a section, either giving Vincent a means of progressing, or outright blocking him. Thankfully, there's an undo feature where Vincent can dial back his actions (within reason), allowing for a deeper level of experimentation.

Of course, simply pushing and pulling blocks at random will lead nowhere. As blocks connect at the edges, it's important to take into consideration the geometry of each stage before acting. How one block moves will affect the rest, potentially causing a chain reaction, and even plummeting Vincent down to his doom. With the timer in mind, this creates a never-ending loop where strategy is just as important as quick thinking. Gameplay isn't so much physically and reflex-based, as it is mentally. Though that's no to say quick physical reflexes don't play a role. On higher difficulties, Vincent will have to quickly strategize his way to the top of each stage lest he fall to his death. Although the core gameplay loop remains consistent to the very end, each stage does features its own set of unique elements that keep Vincent's perpetual climb to salvation constantly fresh. Whether it be ice blocks, trap blocks, or just massive sheep looking to tear Vincent in two, there's never a dull moment in the climb towards freedom.

Boss fights in particular make fantastic use of the core mechanics, adding a heightened sense of urgency as Vincent is periodically assaulted while making his climb. A single attack is enough to kill him where he stands, but this is where a feature like undo can come in handy. Before bosses attack, they always highlight which blocks they'll be rushing at. With the right timing, it's possible to use undo as a means of avoiding damage, and quickly build a path towards safety. More often than not, this will be a strategy that the majority of players will need to utilize to survive. Whether it's for the gameplay or for the story, Catherine Classic is a must play even if it isn't as well optimized as it should be. With time, it's highly likely that its kinked will be ironed out via patches, but it's still disappointing it wasn't released in a more polished state. Regardless, Classic is a great means of joining Vincent on his journey of self discovery for the first time, or simply revisiting one of gaming's greatest love affairs.

Screenshot for Catherine Classic on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Catherine Classic may not be the definitive way to experience Vincent's journey of self discovery, mainly due to some pesky technical issues, but it is a solid port nonetheless, with a few improvements of its own. Faster loading times, crisper visuals, and dual audio support, elevate the title from beyond just another bog standard PC port. It is unfortunate that English audio clips in when playing in Japanese, but Catherine is so thoughtfully designed, and so well-written that it's easy enough to endure the port's more disappointing qualities in favour of the incredible experience underneath. Catherine Classic is a great alternative to the PS3 original, if flawed.

Developer

Atlus

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Puzzle

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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