|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Release: January 26, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Love can be tricky. People fall in and out of relationships, lose interest, and let emotions like envy, lust, and greed make the whole love "process" painful. However, what if your very life was indeed on the line and your continued survival hinged on your decisions about your love interests? What if you had to choose to die alone, or hurt the one you love? Catherine is a new RPG/Horror game hybrid straight from Japan that poses these provocative questions. Oh, and it has a lot of sexual innuendo and half-sheep dudes too.
It is amazing that this game is coming to the US market considering it has loads of objectionable content. Sure, the US audience is no stranger to quasi-sexualized horror (look at the success of the Saw franchise), but for some reason, it is a dark area in games, and one that Catherine plunges into full-heartedly.
The game starts out as a generic dating sim. The main character, Vincent (who astute Atlus fans may remember from a brief cameo in Persona 3 Portable), has a stable relationship with his girlfriend Katherine, and they enjoy all the trappings of young love. However, when Katherine starts hinting around about getting married, Vincent goes into full-on panic mode. This is not a guy who wants to commit to anything anytime soon.
For whatever reason, this prompts him to go out for a wild night on the town. When the morning comes, he's got a wild woman named Catherine in his bed. Though the two have immediate sexual chemistry, something about Catherine seems a bit off. When Vincent goes to sleep that night, he enters a nightmarish world of sheep-like men and deadly monsters. At first, Vincent dismisses these nightmares as guilt from his cheating, but when real bodies start appearing that resemble the sheep-like men in his dream, Vincent gets worried. He can't help thinking that this all has something to do with Catherine. The story has been touted as over-the-top in terms of both horror and adult content, so it'll be very interesting to see how the localization works, considering the ESRB's harsh stance on overly violent and sexual content.
As far as gameplay, Catherine will be a mix of dating sim and action game elements, and has been compared in the Japanese press to the Persona series. By day, Vincent will hang out at a local bar, talk to friends, and make decisions regarding his complex relationships. By night, however, the action component begins. The nightmare sequences will challenge players to solve complex timed puzzles and face horrifying monsters in order to survive the night.
You're not in the nightmare alone, but whomever doesn't finish falls victim to the horrors within the dream world. Though the game certainly has plenty of murder-mystery elements, the game's supernatural elements should make it interesting to fans of the MegaTen series from which it draws much inspiration. Though this is most apparent in the game's visual styling, the game has a lot in common thematically with what seems like its spiritual predecessor, and you can expect a lot of misdirection and red herrings as you work to solve the mystery.
Catherine looks like it is going to be a very unique game, and I know I'm not the only one interested to see what kind of cuts (if any) are made to the American version. The game has been highly praised in Japan for its dark themes and ultra-difficult hybrid gameplay. There is certainly a lot to this game, and it will be a shame if it has to go through some censorship to make it past the ESRB. Still, if we get a watered-down version of the game, it's probably better than no version. The game's unique premise will certainly be engaging no matter what form it takes, and I can't wait to check it out when it releases later this year.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer