Like a Fine Wine
Catherine is a game I remember being excited for because it had Katsura Hashino at the helm as director and producer. For the uninitiated, he led the development of the Persona series since 3. In the long gap between 4 and the critically acclaimed 5, all I had to tide myself over was this puzzle game. Catherine: Full Body provides a pleasant trip down memory lane, and the new additions made it feel like a brand new experience. On nearly all accounts, this remake improves the game's quirky narrative and challenging puzzles.
For those unfamiliar, Catherine: Full Body is a tale of two genres. On one hand, Atlus challenges players with a fresh take on puzzles. On the other hand, Catherine focuses heavily on a branching narrative, where your little choices impact Vincent’s overall story. It doesn’t pull any punches, and every decision you make eventually leads to a memorable climax. At the end of the day, if you value narratives and thoughtful puzzle design, Catherine: Full Body presents a great mix of both.
Catherine: Full Body Review | A Compelling Narrative Redone
From the start, you can tell this game is weird, but in a good way. You play the role of Vincent, a man at a crossroads in his life. He must choose between marrying his long-term girlfriend Katherine or dating a younger girl named Catherine. Meanwhile, he has frightening nightmares that force him to climb a crumbling tower alongside an army of sheep. If he falls in the dream, he dies in real life. While climbing the tower, a disembodied voice asks him various questions about romantic relationships. These queries make Vincent—and, by extension, you—ponder the choice between stability and youthful freedom.
Full Body takes the narrative one step further by adding a new character to the mix named Qatherine—pronounced exactly as you’d expect. Rin doesn’t have any memories, forcing Vincent into an impromptu guardian-like role. Depending on your choices, you can guide him to fall for the new love interest. This dynamic adds a new layer to the old narrative, and it changes scenes you might have seen before in unexpected ways. I adored every scene that involved Rin. The way Vincent changes around the pink-haired amnesiac makes him an even more likable protagonist.
Catherine: Full Body Review | The Power of Little Choices
Without spoiling Catherine: Full Body too much, the narrative hits many ridiculous yet enthralling story beats. You don’t get the sense that Vincent’s a hero, because he isn’t one. Everyone criticizes his infidelity, and he often struggles to make decisions. While he wastes away at the Stray Sheep, you guide him through conversations, nudging him toward different answers to various questions. These choices, along with the ones from the nightmares, affect his internal moral compass. When it comes down to big decisions, Vincent inevitably makes those himself based on how you’ve shaped him.
This setup provides a cathartic window into the life of someone who doesn’t necessarily deserve a happy ending, and it keeps him distant from the player, too. You aren’t playing as Vincent; instead, you lead him toward outcomes that you want. If you want him to claw his way toward a better life, you can aim for that. If you believe he’s an irredeemable scumbag, Atlus provides plenty of endings for you to give him his just desserts. After all, Full Body adds five new endings to the mix, bringing the full count up to 13.
While I can’t speak to all 13 endings, the two Full Body ones I’ve seen add a new layer to Vincent’s character. The endings in the original go in absolutely insane directions, and the new ones deliver a similar vibe, especially the true ending with Rin. That one may be over the top, but it feels weirdly at home within the larger world of Catherine.
Furthermore, the excellent animation work from Studio 4°C, along with the superb voice acting, really brings the characters to life in the cutscenes. By the time you reach the end of your journey, you’ll feel an attachment to Vincent and the lost souls who frequent the Stray Sheep.
That being said, if you’re averse to anime-style fan service, this title might not be for you. Full Body finds random excuses to showcase scenes and pictures of the girls in unnatural positions for the sake of fan service. We didn’t need to see Katherine wear her high school cheerleading uniform, but it’s still shoehorned into the story. Furthermore, some story beats go way off the beaten path, to the point where some might lose the plot.
Catherine: Full Body Review | Remix Adds New Ways to Play
Despite some hitches, the narrative drew me to Catherine: Full Body and the puzzles kept me wanting more. Every night, Vincent has to climb a tower one block at a time. Vincent can push and pull most blocks, and these pieces can defy gravity as long an edge touches the edge of another block. He needs to secure a path to the top in order to survive.
Much like its predecessor, Full Body eases you into the puzzles, especially since most won’t be familiar with these mechanics. There just aren’t many other puzzle games like it. Between stages, certain NPCs will discuss techniques that you can learn to be successful. Incorporating them into your repertoire becomes key to success, especially on the higher difficulties. The floor under you constantly crumbles into an endless abyss, so you have to make complex decisions quickly. Sometimes, that abyss becomes infinitely more terrifying thanks to a twisted imagining of one of Vincent’s fears. These nightmares really drive home the sense of dread and tension.
I played the game on the second hardest difficulty. At first, everything felt like a breeze, but the later puzzles can really stump you. As the frantic classical music plays, you'll be left racking your brain for a solution as adrenaline pumps through your veins. One puzzle that stood out was only ten steps tall. The implied simplicity gave way to the need for truly innovative solutions. Every time you conquer a difficult stage, you get a rush of dopamine that is so satisfying.
For longtime fans who previously played Catherine, the Remix option changes the game completely. In this mode, the developers tweaked the puzzles, adding new Combination Blocks, larger shapes made of smaller blocks. At first, I didn’t see the real challenge they brought, but I quickly regretted my own naivety. All my Catherine muscle memory from eight years ago didn’t help. I had to change my approach to the Remix levels, and it felt like a new game all over again. Specific endings also add an optional extra stage at the end, which features one of the coolest settings in the game.
Catherine: Full Body Review | Catherine with Benefits
Aside from a completely revamped story and remixed puzzles, Catherine: Full Body is chock full of extra features that will keep you coming back. For cooperative minds, the Babel game mode reprises its role. Not much has changed here, but it’s nice to see it return. This mode challenges players to climb four towers, each one harder than the last. The skill ceiling is high (pun intended) in this game mode, even if you bring in a friend to cooperatively tackle the towers. Nonetheless, Babel’s challenge will humble you if you thought the story puzzles were easy. This adds a few more hours of game time for the more hardcore fans.
Perhaps the most obvious changes lie in its new online capabilities. Atlus noticed the small yet burgeoning competitive Catherine scene that grew around the Colosseum game mode. This mode pits two players against each other, and whoever climbs the tower first wins. Full Body adds new stages to the Colosseum, primarily the new Remix levels from the story. Furthermore, Atlus took the competition to the next level by adding online play. While it wasn’t available to test before the review, it’s a good move on Atlus to add it.
Catherine: Full Body Review | A New Reason to Love
Long story short, Catherine: Full Body has aged like a fine, full-bodied wine, even if you played the original. For fans of twisted, branching tales, the 13 endings will surely satisfy. If you like novel takes on the puzzle genre, look no further than this gem from Atlus. When you take the story and extra modes into consideration, you’ll find more than enough to keep you busy. Inquisitive minds will find a lot to chew on here, and the wacky yet thrilling story of Vincent’s adultery pleasantly goes to heights you wouldn’t believe.
TechRaptor reviewed Catherine: Full Body on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by SEGA of America.
- Puzzles Provide Good Challenge
- Narrative Accommodates Many Outcomes
- Characters are Likable Despite Flaws
- Fan Service is a Bit Much
- Puzzles Aren't for Everyone