First off – I didn’t actually *play* Catherine in the strictest sense of the word. Rather I sat and watched my husband play it. I do this quite frequently. I generally have one of two reactions – 1. I determine that I would hate playing the game, stop and consider why other people like it, and then go back to playing WoW; or 2. I watch him play, engrossed, until he does something “wrong” and then I itch to yank the controller away until he is done playing then play it myself so I can do it right.
Demon Souls and Brothers in Arms were part of the first category. Valkyria Chronicles and Persona 4 were part of the second.
Catherine is the first game that has fallen solidly between the two. The game is a action puzzle game, by Atlus’s Persona team. I was very excited about the game, because I am such a fan of Persona 4. The action portions of the game consist of what is essentially a huge puzzle block tower the player must climb. The “social” portions are of the player and the other characters in the game hanging out at a bar.
Honestly, after watching him play a few stages, I was completely convinced not only would I not want to play this part, but I would be bored to tears. The methods of moving up the tower are unchanged, regardless of the trick blocks, enemies, and boss events that try to break it up. Once you have figured out the general moves, you have figured out the game.
However, the “social” part of the game was utterly fascinating. The surreal encounters, the background characters, the strange effects thrown about, it all added up to an exceptional world that was interesting. I could crawl into the world portrayed and spent hours simply getting to figure out all the weird stuff going on. I do think however that the point of the mysterious murders will be lost on most American players.
So the Boss is killing young men who are of the appropriate age and economic status to get married and have kids, but are unwilling to do so because they like their freedom. They want to remain independent and “having fun” as opposed to settling down.
It doesn’t make a ton of sense to American Culture, but in Japan, where a negative birthrate is literally affecting the stability of their culture and society, it would seem completely logical. The Boss is taking out the men who are causing this problem. Essentially saying, “Get with it, or get out of the way.”
The game also does some very interesting things with it’s Order and Chaos meter, in addition to using it to determine the one of 9 possible outcomes. I love that the “canon” of the game changes based on your order/chaos level and responses to questions. It makes me wonder though, if they did a sequel, would they do it like Persona, and ignore the previous entry’s “canon” or chose one to make it the “correct” ending?
While I didn’t play Catherine myself, I do believe it is an interesting game to experience. There is a demo, which should be played, but even so the game stands true with other Atlus games as beautiful, fascinating, relatively fun although possibly grindy to play, with interesting insights into Japanese culture. Though mostly it just made me want to play Persona 4 again, or think about what awesome things they might be doing for Persona 5.