'Catherine: Full Body' Hands-On Impressions: A Surreal Journey Into the Mind of a Manchild

First released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 back in 2011, Atlus's romantic thriller / puzzler Catherine traces one man's struggle to choose between his long-term girlfriend Katherine and an enticing new relationship with a new woman, Catherine. The boozy tale of grown-up relationships, sheep-filled platforming and infidelity became a surprise cult hit, and its success far exceeded the developer's expectations. Now Vincent and his bedroom woes are back with a spiffy new remaster on the Persona 5 engine and a whole new character to fall for—a pink-haired, piano-playing amnesiac named Rin—in Catherine: Full Body.

Like the Persona series, gameplay is broken up into days, with distinct gameplay for night and day. But there's a greater emphasis on the visual novel and relationship elements in Catherine, with days largely split between cutscenes and Vincent's post-work boozing at the Stray Sheep with his buddies.

After Vincent heads to bed, you'll be tasked with navigating a variety of platforming and puzzle challenges in a tower-like dreamscape of the collective male unconscious. Will Vincent ascend to adult maturity, or slip and fall into temptation? That's up to you, but Full Body makes the platforming easier than it was the first time around by introducing difficulty tweaks that allow you to breeze through more difficult sections or simply auto-play your way through the platforming sections. As a Catherine virgin, I found the platforming sections to be pleasant a break from the visual novel gameplay, the mechanics of the ascending block puzzles were easy to grasp. However, it's nice for the less nimble-fingered among us to have the option to blow through trickier sections, should the need arise.

via Gfycat

In addition to a new character to romance, Full Body also includes new cutscenes to add depth to the Vincent's relationships. The entire original English voice cast returns, and recorded some brand new dialogue specific to the remaster. Since I didn't play Catherine the first time around, everything felt new to me, though it was good to get a bit of perspective on how the protagonist got together with his girlfriend (a new addition to Full Body), rather than simply seeing her as the career-minded nag she comes across as at first glance. All the visuals were stylish and vivid in typical P-Studio fashion, and the anime interludes loooked particularly eye-grabbing and saturated on our Samsung QLED TV set.

There's a pleasantly chill 'Persona for grownups' vibe to the proceedings, from the laid-back bar atmosphere to the chuckle-inducing bedroom banter. The interludes at the Stray Sheep are a particular pleasure, allowing you to chat with Vincent's friends, who are relatable and clever, if not very likeable. There's plenty more barflies to strike up a conversation with, like the oddball pair of identical grannies seated at the table behind you, who speak in cryptic synchronicity. Sure, some of the dialogue is a bit bro-centric, and tends to lean rather heavily on the tired old chestnut that women crave commitment while men want freedom. But it seemed to fit the story and characters, so I didn't find it problematic—at least, not in the first two hours or so of the game.

via Gfycat

Though it's become a cult favorite, players have had beef with Catherine over the years, and with good reason. The new story additions prompted renewed accusations of transphobia after the Japanese release of Full Body back in February. (Expect some pretty big story spoilers if you go looking around the internet for more context.) I'm curious to see how the localization team at Atlus handles these issues in the full game: there's a fine line to walk between being attentive to cultural differences and censorship, and it's hard to imagine how they could possibly manage to please everybody.

Catherine: Full Body comes to PS4 September 3. A PS Vita version that released in Japan will not come to the West.

Do you think Catherine could be your type of game? Did you play the original and like it, or find it problematic? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.