Catherine (video game)
Uncensored North American PlayStation 3 cover art, featuring the titular Catherine
|Genre(s)||Puzzle platformer, adventure|
Catherine (キャサリン Kyasarin?) is a puzzle platformer adventure video game developed and published by Atlus for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game was released in Japan in February 2011, and in North America in July 2011, and in Europe and Australia in February 2012. Catherine was later released as a full downloadable game for the PlayStation Store in February 2012, and was also released on the Games on Demand service for Xbox 360 in April 2012. It was Atlus' first internally developed game for the seventh-generation of consoles, and was described as an "adult-oriented" title by the game's character designer, Shigenori Soejima.
Catherine was met with a mostly positive critical reception upon release, with critics praising the cutscenes, story, varied and distinctive gameplay, and puzzles, but criticizing the difficulty.
Catherine is a puzzle platformer adventure game in which players control Vincent Brooks, who begins having strange nightmares after his girlfriend, Katherine, begins to talk about marriage and commitment. This matter becomes more complicated for him when he meets a girl named Catherine, and begins an affair with her, and the nightmares get more and more intense. The main story mode, Golden Playhouse, follows the story between Daytime and Nightmare scenarios. During the daytime, Vincent will converse with his friends as well as try to handle his relationships with Catherine and Katherine. Most of this time takes place in the Stray Sheep bar where Vincent can save and send text messages from his mobile phone, talk to customers, order drinks, play a minigame titled Rapunzel or listen to a jukebox containing tracks from other Atlus games such as the Persona series.
The main gameplay takes place in the Nightmare stages. In a nightmarish dreamworld inhabited by other men, who are represented as anthropomorphic sheep, Vincent must climb up giant staircases that are slowly collapsing underneath him and safely reach the top. To accomplish this, Vincent must push, pull and climb blocks as quickly as possible while avoiding various traps such as spikes and ice. Climbing up steps in quick succession increases a score multiplier, and at the end of the level, players are given an award based on their score. Each stage is split up into numerous areas, culminating in a boss stage in which a nightmarish creature also attempts to kill Vincent. Vincent can move faster depending on how much alcohol he drinks during the day and can earn pillows that allow him to retry levels. There are also several items which can be found or purchased in between stages, such as spare blocks, lightning which removes enemies and energy drinks that allow Vincent to climb more steps at a time. Vincent will die if he falls off the bottom of the level, gets caught by a trap or is killed by a boss, with the game ending if Vincent runs out of retry pillows. In between action stages, Vincent can interact with the other sheep, save his game, learn techniques or spend coins on special items. When playing on easy and normal difficulty, players can push the Select/Back button to correct a single block move.
Throughout the game, the choices the player makes during certain sections of the game will affect the development of Vincent's character and the route the story takes place. This is represented by a morality meter, which can change in several ways, such as how Vincent types out a text message to one of the girls, how he answers certain questions and how he converses with non-playable characters. The game features multiple endings based on the route Vincent takes, and has over twenty hours of gameplay. In addition to the Golden Playhouse mode, Babel Mode features four large stages playable with up to two players, while Vs Colosseum features two players simultaneously playing a stage in order to reach the top first.
The game begins with a framing device: Trisha, the Midnight Venus, hosts a television program called the Golden Playhouse, which will this evening relate the tale of a man named Vincent Brooks. The events of the show form the gameplay proper, which is sometimes rendered with a watermark in the corner.
In the neighbourhood in which Vincent lives, there have recently been a number of bizarre incidents in which people die in their sleep with a look of anguish upon their faces. Strangely enough, all of the victims are young men. The story quickly spreads throughout the media, attracting widespread attention and theories as to the cause of death. A strange rumor begins to spread that if a person dreams of falling, then they must wake up before they hit the ground or they will be unable to wake up at all and will die.
Vincent is at a restaurant contemplating marriage to Katherine McBride, his lover of five years, who starts pressuring him to get married. That night at The Stray Sheep, the bar he frequents with his friends Jonny, Orlando and Toby, he meets a beautiful and mysterious woman named Catherine. Although there are many vacant seats, she sits next to Vincent and turns out to be exactly his type. The two end up spending the night together at Vincent's house.
After meeting Catherine, Vincent begins to have nightmares every single night, which he believes may be related to the rumours. In these dreams, he and several other men, who appear to each other as sheep, must escape from various horrors trying to kill them, for if they die in their dreams, they will die in reality. As dreams and reality begin to blend together, Vincent must not only fight to survive, but must choose between Katherine and Catherine. Katherine increases the pressure by revealing that her period is late and that she believes herself pregnant, while Catherine manages to arrange to be in Vincent's bed almost every morning, despite his not remembering having invited her over. A further complication arrives in the form of phone calls from a man named Steve, who defines himself as the boyfriend of Katherine/Catherine and threatens retribution upon Vincent. However, neither of Vincent's girlfriends knows a man named Steve, and Steve's description of his girlfriend does not match either of the women Vincent is involved with.
After a week of unrelenting nightmares, Vincent finally decides to break off his tryst with Catherine. The next morning, he awakens without nightmares and without Catherine by his side, but she suddenly appears in his room when Katherine comes to visit. After a heated exchange of insults between the two women, Katherine, due to Vincent's betrayal and Catherine's constant insults of her worthlessness to Vincent and Catherine's superiority to Katherine, snaps with despair and moves over the kitchen sink searching for a kitchen knife whilst still facing Vincent and Catherine, but to no avail, for Catherine predicted this and has taken the knife in advance. Vincent attempts to calm down Katherine by telling her that he had already called off his affair with Catherine, thus causing Catherine herself to snap with rage and jealousy, blaming Katherine for Vincent's confusion and claim that if Katherine went away, Vincent could finally be free, and attempts to kill Katherine with the kitchen knife, barely cutting Vincent at his right lower rib cage, but ends up herself impaled in her stomach while seemingly having the upper-hand on Katherine while they are both on the ground. While Catherine lies bleeding and dying, Vincent shoos a terrified Katherine out, trying to protect her, but the two find themselves trapped in another puzzle maze, and Catherine, unwilling to give up Vincent, attempts to stop his and Katherine's escape; Vincent must escort Katherine out, reaffirming that his heart belongs to her. However, when he wakes up from this nightmare, Katherine has no recollection of the events, and confronts Vincent on the infidelity she knows he has been hiding from her. She also admits that her pregnancy was a false alarm, and that Vincent's reactions did not increase her confidence in him. Politely but firmly, she breaks up with him. Finally, Vincent, bemoaning his troubles to Orlando, discovers that all of Catherine's contact information and SMS messages (including several revealing photographs) have inexplicably disappeared from his phone. This leads his friends to admit that none of them have ever met or seen her, and causes him to doubt his sanity.
Vincent, seeking evidence that Catherine exists, remembers that the only other person he ever heard her speak to: the bartender of The Stray Sheep, Thomas "Chop" Mutton, who accidentally reveals himself to be the orchestrator of the entire recurring-nightmare situation. "Catherine" is a succubus working with him, who takes the form of each man's fantasy woman, to tempt him into cheating. If the man is tempted, Mutton uses the arcade machine Rapunzel to plant a seed in their memories which can transport them to the nightmare world, in which they climb a danger-filled and slowly collapsing tower. The purpose of doing so is both to punish them for their sins, and also to remove them from women with whom they have no intent of reproduction, freeing up those females for the "good of the species." Vincent makes a deal with him to return voluntarily to the nightmare landscape and climb the final levels of the tower, in return for which Mutton will release all other captive men. Depending on the player's previous choices, Vincent may also request one last meeting with Catherine or Katherine.
Depending upon how the text messages, The Empireo level (stage 9) questions, and pre-The Empireo level questions are answered, Catherine has a total of eight endings based on three central narratives. The alignment endings (i.e. Catherine and Katherine) feature a good, bad, and an extended true version while a neutral "Freedom" ending only has two versions. "Bad" endings are obtained if the player's explicit choices do not correspond to the alignment meter position, calculated based on the player's other actions. "Good" endings are obtained if the player's explicit choices do match the meter; the choice of which of these appears is based on which of these choices were made. "True" endings are appended with an epilogue, taking place after Trisha formally closes the program and thanks the viewers for watching.
- Katherine, Bad: Katherine leaves Vincent due to his cheating with Catherine.
- Katherine, Good: Mutton and Vincent's other friends are able to prove to Katherine that Catherine is not real, and thus Vincent has not cheated. Vincent and Katherine get back together and resume planning their wedding.
- Katherine, True: Same as the corresponding Good ending, except Katherine and Vincent actually do marry.
- Catherine, Bad: Vincent proposes marriage to the succubus, Catherine, but she turns him down.
- Catherine, Good: Vincent proposes marriage to the succubus, Catherine, and she considers it. Her father Nergal appears and objects, but Vincent insists, and Catherine agrees. Catherine transports Vincent into the Underworld where the two live together.
- Catherine, True: Same as the corresponding Good ending, but Vincent is later able to seduce an entire harem of succubi and overthrow Nergal, becoming the King of the Underworld with Catherine as his Queen.
- Freedom, Good: Vincent turns down both women, saying neither is truly what he desires, and he has his life ahead of him to find what he wants. Mutton is shocked at this turn of events and apologizes for pulling Vincent into the nightmare world. Vincent borrows some money from Mutton to place a bet on a wrestling match, but loses.
- Freedom, True: Same as the corresponding Good ending, but Vincent wins his bet and uses the money to engage in space tourism, his true childhood dream.
A final, ninth ending is unlocked when the player completes the "Axis Mundi Babel" challenges. If so, Trisha breaks the fourth wall by revealing that she is actually Ishtar, one of the goddesses overseeing the entire nightmare process, and that the true purpose of the nightmares was for her to test the player for fitness to replace Mutton, the last man who successfully climbed the tower, as her consort due to his infidelity.
Vincent Brooks (ヴィンセント・ブルックス Vinsento Burukkusu?)Voiced by: Kōichi Yamadera (Japanese); Troy Baker (English): Vincent is the game's main protagonist. He is a 32-year-old office worker at thin life between independence from one's parents and marriage. He has no ambitions in terms of love and romance. He is under pressure to marry Katherine, but wants to continue his carefree ways of living alone. His life changes when he unexpectedly meets a mysterious beauty named Catherine at his local bar, the Stray Sheep. Dreams and reality begin to blur together, and he seemingly becomes trapped in a different world within his nightmares.
Catherine and Katherine
Catherine (キャサリン Kyasarin?) Voiced by: Miyuki Sawashiro (Japanese); Laura Bailey (English): Catherine is a mysterious 22-year-old woman who has a charming face and a "well-proportioned" body, which makes men turn and stare. She also has a "Koakuma (Gyaru) air" about her, which happens to be Vincent's type, and the two end up spending the night together after she seduces him. Her carefree behaviour begins to disturb Vincent's life. It is after meeting Catherine that Vincent begins to have nightmares. Catherine is featured on the PS3 version's cover art.
Katherine McBride (キャサリン・マクブライド Kyasarin Makuburaido?) Voiced by: Kotono Mitsuishi (Japanese); Michelle Ruff (English): Katherine is a 32-year-old mid-management level employee at an apparel maker. She and Vincent are from the same town and were classmates at school, and after a chance meeting at a school reunion they strike up a relationship. Katherine suggests marriage to Vincent, which he is not ready for. Katherine is featured on the Xbox 360 version's cover art.
- Orlando Haddick (オーランド Ōrando?) Voiced by: Hiroaki Hirata (Japanese); Liam O'Brien (English): Orlando is a divorced 32-year-old software engineer, a long time friend of Vincent, and also a regular at the Stray Sheep bar. He also frequents the Kappa Heaven sushi bar during the day. Orlando is carefree in both his words and actions, has become disenchanted with the idea of marriage and advises a worried Vincent against it. He suffered a lot when he and his former wife split over financial problems, and still feels betrayed because of it. He later appears in the nightmares as "Sheep with red hat", guilty over his pride being the cause of why he refuses to start anew with his ex-wife.
- Jonathan "Jonny" Ariga (ジョニー Jonī?) Voiced by: Takehito Koyasu (Japanese); Travis Willingham (English): Jonny is a 32-year-old used car salesman. He's Vincent and Orlando's old friend, a bachelor, and also a regular at the Stray Sheep bar. He works at his used car lot and plans on continuing the family business. He has high ideals regarding marriage, stating that he believes marriage should be with one's destined partner. Despite that he has a girlfriend, he is not interested in marrying her because of his long-time feelings for Katherine. He later appears in the nightmares as "Smoking Sheep" due to his guilt of refusing to progress with his girlfriend and betraying Vincent for loving Katherine.
- Tobias "Toby" Nebbins (トビー Tobī?) Voiced by: Kishō Taniyama (Japanese); Yuri Lowenthal (English): Toby is a 23-year-old used car salesman and a colleague of Jonny's. He is also a regular at the Stray Sheep bar. Toby is very young and inexperienced, and professes a strong desire to get married and start a family, saying that the moment he finds "The One" he will marry her. Because of this, he is the only one of his friends not to have nightmares. He has a thing for older women and has a crush on the Stray Sheep's waitress, Erica, whom he eventually starts dating.
- Erica Anderson (エリカ Erika?) Voiced by: Junko Minagawa (Japanese); Erin Fitzgerald (English): Erica is the Stray Sheep's 32-year-old bar waitress and Vincent's childhood friend. She has a bright personality and is up to date on town gossip. Toby has a crush on her and loses his virginity to her. It is revealed during the Lovers' true ending that she is transgender, something that was alluded to throughout the game, and was previously known as Eric. Due to preventing Toby from being in a relationship that could result in children, she begins to have nightmares.
- Thomas "Boss" Mutton Voiced by: Norio Wakamoto (Japanese); Kirk Thornton (English): Boss (known as "Master" in the Japanese version) is Stray Sheep's owner and barkeep. The player will go through him to make friends with new customers. Though he references past wives and a somewhat sordid history, very little is known about him and he is seldom seen without his sunglasses. Later in the game, he reveals himself to be an incarnation of Dumuzid the Shepherd as well as the architect behind the nightmares.
- Mysterious Voice (Astaroth) (声 Koe?) Voiced by: Junko Minagawa (Japanese); Yuri Lowenthal (English): A strange voice that talks to Vincent from a window of a confession booth, making cryptic remarks and judgmental observations as Vincent endures the nightmares. It can talk to Vincent outside of the Nightmares too, mostly informing him of what is to come in the next Nightmare while Vincent is washing his face in Stray Sheep's bathroom, or remarking on Vincent's drinking at the Stray Sheep.
- Trisha (Rue Ishida) (石田☆ルウ Ishida Rū?) Voiced by: Junko Minagawa (Japanese); Erin Fitzgerald (English): Trisha, the "Midnight Venus" is the host of Golden Playhouse mode who sports a large red afro. She provides an introduction to the game's modes and will text Vincent concerning his achievements in the Nightmare stages and to provide him with hints. She reveals herself prior to the final stage of the game's "Babel" challenge mode to in fact be Ishtar and the true identity of Astaroth, and breaks the fourth wall by telling the player she was waiting for them to show exceptional climbing skills via Vincent so as to find a replacement for her consort, Dumuzid, of whom she had grown tired due to his cheating.
- Nergal (ネルガル Nerugaru?) Voiced by: ?? (Japanese); Jamieson Price (English): Catherine's father, who appears in two of the game's alternate endings of her. Himself being a powerful demon, he doesn't agree with Catherine's and Vincent's relationship but quickly bends to Catherine's will. After the one of the ending's credits he's seen again, as a being inferior to Vincent.
The game's existence was first hinted at in the PlayStation Portable game Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable. In this game, Vincent appears at Club Escapade on certain days, though in the game he never reveals his name and is simply referred to as "Man Drinking Alone" in his dialogue boxes. The game was also mentioned at Konami's TGS 2010 booth.
Producer Katsura Hashino stated less than two weeks after its announcement that Catherine has actually been in development for quite a while, saying: "the Persona 4 development team would switch back and forth between developing Catherine's first stages and polishing up Persona 4. A playable demo was released on January 27, 2011, in Japan, but was later removed from PSN. It has since been put back up. To prevent gamers from posting spoiler videos, specifically those after Night 8 of the game, or hosting live streams of the game before its intended street date, Atlus posted a humorous public service announcement picture of an in-game sheep, warning gamers who post spoilers on video sharing sites, such as YouTube and Nico Nico Douga, run the risk of having their accounts banned. In response to players' complaint on the game difficulty, Atlus released a patch with a new difficulty mode called Super Easy mode for the PS3 in March 2011. The patch for the Xbox 360 version was released on March 31. To promote the game, Tokyo restaurant Collabo Dining offered a Catherine-themed drinks and meal menu between February 17, 2011 and March 31, 2011.
Atlus made an announcement on March 1, 2011, confirming the game would be released in North America in summer 2011. Prior to the official announcement, GameStop accidentally made the game available for pre-order on their website, revealing a more definitive release date of July 26, 2011, which was later officially confirmed. In North America, due to the game's somewhat risqué cover art, an edited version was used on a "small percentage" of launch copies at select retailers in consideration of more "sensitive" shoppers. As of July 2012, North American and European copies of the game have a bug that renders the single-player Babel Mode level Axis Mundi unbeatable. This affects both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game.
Talking on the official PlayStation Blog, Atlus PR Manager John Hardin stated that there are no plans for a sequel as of 2013, and that it'd likely have to be a "prequel or spiritual successor sort of thing" due to the game's endings lacking a setup for a sequel, although he would like for it to happen, saying it "would be cool".
On May 2, 2011, Atlus announced that Catherine would receive a "Love is Over" deluxe edition in North America. In addition to either the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 version of the game, it includes a pair of boxer shorts identical to those worn by Vincent; Vincent's T-shirt, worn by Catherine, featuring four heart containers reminiscent of those found in The Legend of Zelda series, one-and-a-half of which are full, with the word "Empty" beneath them; a pillowcase featuring artwork of Catherine and the game logo; and a replica of a pizza box from the game's "Stray Sheep" restaurant, which serves as the external packaging. The cover art of the game included with the deluxe edition is the original, unedited version. Atlus had said that the deluxe edition would be available only in "very limited quantities," with stock built according to pre-order demand. Despite the game's sales and pre-order numbers, the Deluxe edition is still available for purchase at MSRP.
Pre-orders of the game, either standard or deluxe (North America only), included a "sound disc" (soundtrack CD) and art book. For the soundtrack, composer Shoji Meguro chose to arrange classical music in order to emphasize the game's horror aspects, and to make it more "Persona-like".
Kadokawa Games published a novel based on the game on May 20, 2011.
Catherine received mostly positive reviews from critics. It holds average aggregate scores of 82 and 79 out of 100 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, respectively, on Metacritic. In an import review, GamesRadar gave the game a 5/10, praising the story but criticizing the game's difficulty due to random enemy AI, though they later gave the English release 8/10, citing crucial changes had removed most of the game's annoyances. Some Japanese gamers have complained that the game is too difficult, even on the easy setting. Atlus has since released a patch that includes a Super Easy mode, which is included in the English version. IGN gave the North American version of Catherine an overall score of 9.0. Computer and Video Games gave the game an 8.0. Tom Bissell of Grantland.com, the sports and pop culture website owned by ESPN and run by Bill Simmons, was pleasantly surprised by the game and gave it a very positive review, which included a listing of its eerie qualities.
The PlayStation 3 version topped the Japanese charts in its opening week with over 140,000 copies sold while the Xbox 360 version came in 7th with over 21,000, and was able to outsell Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, which was released on the same day, by a margin of two-to-one. The game has also been commercially successful in America, selling 78,000 copies across both systems to consumers in its first six days, making it Atlus' biggest launch yet for a game. The game has sold around 500,000 copies by the end of 2011, being a huge success for the company. The game sold 260,000 copies in Japan and 230,000 in North America by the end of 2011.
In December 2011, Catherine received the award for "Biggest Surprise of 2011" from TeamXbox, with Dead Island as the runner-up. In GameSpot's 2011 Game of the Year awards, Catherine was nominated in the categories of "Best Puzzle Game", "Best Story", "Best New Character", "Best Voice Acting", "Best Original IP", "Best Ending", and "Best Puzzles". The game has also received an Annie Award nomination for the "Best Animated Video Game" category, alongside another adventure game Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. In IGN's "Best of 2011" awards, Catherine received the award for "Best PS3 Story" and had been nominated in the "PS3 Game of the Year" category. IGN has also given Catherine the overall "Best Story" award and nominated it for the "Best Video Game Trailer" award. GameZone gave the game the "Best Original IP" award and chose Vincent as the runner-up for the "Best New Character" award. GameZone also chose the game as the runner-up for the "Best Puzzle" award. 411mania gave it the "Most Original Game" award. 1UP.com gave it the "Most Daring Game" award and chose it as the runner-up for the "Most Surprising Game" award. The A.V. Club chose it as the third best game of the year. Famitsu awarded it the Rookie Prize in its 2012 awards ceremony.
In 2013, Liz Lanier of Game Informer included "Catherine / Katherine" among top ten female villains in video games, stating that "...Vincent can't catch a break between Catherine seducing him one minute and manipulating him the next; Katherine isn't much better with her passive-aggressive push toward marriage. Considering both appear as horrifying boss battles, they can easily be any man's worst nightmare." In 2014, David Auerbach of Slate found Catherine sexist, writing that its treatment of relationships and sex exemplified a misogynous tendency in video game culture that became a topic of media discussion over the next several years. According to Auerbach, the game is "a bellwether for what tech culture and gaming have come to mean for a lot of men: a safe playspace from the realities that they believe women force on them."
Since its release, Catherine has appeared on several lists of the top games of the seventh generation era of video game consoles. In August 2012, IGN placed the game at number eighteen on its list of "The Top 25 PlayStation 3 Games", with editor Colin Moriarty praising it as "authentically unique" after calling it an example of something "that's so radically unlike anything else that came before it that it's hard to ignore." The next year in September 2013, Catherine ranked twenty-fourth on IGN's updated "Top 25 PlayStation 3 Games" list, with Moriarty stating that "the puzzles are both challenging and fun, but what makes Catherine truly stand apart is its daring subject matter and its unapologetic nudging to make us confront some incredibly uncomfortable – but tempting – situations." In November 2013, Hardcore Gamer ranked the game seventy-ninth on its "Top 100 Games of the Generation" list, while Complex placed it at number eight on its list of "The 25 Most Underrated Games Of the Last Console Generation". That same month, PlayStation Universe ranked Catherine number seventy-three on its list of "The Best 100 Games Of the PS3 Generation", stating that its "core puzzle-platforming offers nerve-wracking excitement" and praised its "engaging, authentic story." In January 2014, Catherine was included on Game Revolution's list of the "Top 7 Most Underrated Games Of Last Generation", with editor Alex Osborn describing it as "One part block puzzle game, the other social simulation, Catherine is like nothing you've ever played before." In May 2014, IGN ranked Catherine sixty-fifth on its "Top 100 Games of a Generation" list, praising its themes, story, and puzzle gameplay before calling it "one of the most refreshingly adult games of this past generation." The next month in June 2014, the game placed at number sixty-one on IGN's list of the "Games of a Generation: Your Top 100" as voted by readers of the website.
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