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Me, Myself and Vincent

Catherine may have its fair share of issues, but we could certainly use more games like it.

Vincent Brooks stares down the barrel of some difficult decisions in Catherine. By extension, so did I.

Catherine is flawed, an experience that, with every frustrating stumble, one sighs in response, and each misstep underscoring how close to greatness Catherine was. And how it mostly blew it. And how, despite that, you should probably play it.

Every day of the week, I'd rather spend my time exploring an interesting misfire than the same old thing with a new coat of paint, mulling the lessons we can learn. Catherine is anything but the same old thing brought out for another man-this-feels-familiar trip around the deja vu block. If you're desperate for different, Catherine and Katherine are two gals worth calling up.

Atlus may have turned some off from trying Catherine with its overly sexual marketing.

For the purposes of this slab of writing, I'm going to pretend Catherine ends a few hours before it does. There's a moment, a very specific moment, where the game embraces the worst tendencies of Japanese video game storytelling. Yes, yes, I know Catherine comes from the Persona team, so to encounter supreme weirdness should be expected, and yet, here I am, trying to erase this particular twist from memory, despite acknowledging we're talking about a game whose central metaphor is block puzzles in a dreamscape full of sheep.

So…let's pretend that moment doesn't exist, or else I'm going to stop writing this. Flame away in the comments, if you must.

Still with me? Okay.

I'm 26-years-old and recently engaged, having lived with my girlfriend-now-fiancee for five years...or so. Honestly, you start to lose count, in a good way, after a while. This is what you're supposed to do, right? Find the Girl of Your Dreams, lock it down, and ascend into Adulthood. Vincent, the central protagonist (though one might argue he's really the antagonist, depending on the character's perspective), has zero interest in moving forward on his own. He's the definition of a man child, tapping his shoes like ol' Sonic the Hedgehog, patiently waiting for someone else to take control. By definition, the ball is in Katherine's court--and she passes it over.

Vincent's not paying attention, and if we continue the sports analogy, stubs his index finger. If you've ever played basketball before, you know how much that shit hurts. Consequently, he can't hold the ball. Every time he tries, his finger surges with pain, stiffened by the injury. It'd be much easier to just sit on the sideline and have everyone else take this, you know? So Vincent takes a timeout, where he meets Catherine, Katherine's opposite: a blonde, happy-go-lucky sex bomb.

Thus begins Vincent's descent into personal madness, forced to confront his hangups about the future, one that probably involves fewer nightly trips to the bar, through block puzzles. The block puzzles are a mess--thank the lord for easy mode. Only a few instances prompted contemplation of YouTubing solutions, but the lack of variety, coupled with their insistence on being there night after night ad nauseum, are probably enough to turn most people off. Are you one of those people? Are you afraid you're one of those people? Then play through the block puzzles with YouTube walkthroughs. Get over your hangups about cheating (on a game), realize that's not the point--everything interesting is happening on the other side.

Katherine's attitude may come across as forward and condescending, but everyone knows someone like her, right?

Catherine proves there are ways to comment on sex, relationships and our complicated, often contradictory, emotions through not-so-elaborately disguised dating simulation. You don't need to have a sex mini-game to address sex. You don't even need to even really show that much sex to make your point. You wouldn't catch me dead booting up a traditional dating simulator; from what I understand, what amounts to simulation in those games is enveloped in fantasy, rather than plausible reality.

As a 26-year-old who's recently set himself on the path to commitment, and someone who very much likes hanging out with their friends at bars, I can sympathize with Vincent's position. It's not to suggest my own life has much in common with Vincent, as I made the decision to get engaged with little pressure outside of "you know, it's about time," and my better half has little problem with me hitting the bar, so long as the dishes are washed on a regular basis. But there's enough commonality between us, the mutual fears over making a A Big, Fat Final Decision, that places me inside Vincent's head.

This isn't a new conversation, but that's exactly why it's interesting.

When Vincent was asked to make a choice--answering or not answering a text, declaring if lover and best friend are mutually exclusive concepts--I put the controller down and puzzled it out. What would I do? Why would I do that? I like to think I'm a better person than Vincent--I know that--but if we're doing this hypothetical situation anyway, let's run with it for a second. Presented this, what would I do? And while the ending borne from my decisions had me cursing the game with disgust, if I'm to look at Catherine The Journey instead of Catherine The Ending, I really did end up learning some important things about myself along the way.

No, I won't tell you what they were. It doesn't really matter, either.

The point of this probably-too-personal rambling is to suggest my jumbled emotional response is why you might want to play Catherine one of these days. Maybe not now, maybe not for a few years, but if you can identify with my situation, or at one point in your life once feel like you did, it's like nothing you've ever played.

I've certainly never thought this much about a game all year.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
238 Comments
Posted by patrickklepek
Vincent Brooks stares down the barrel of some difficult decisions in Catherine. By extension, so did I.

Catherine is flawed, an experience that, with every frustrating stumble, one sighs in response, and each misstep underscoring how close to greatness Catherine was. And how it mostly blew it. And how, despite that, you should probably play it.

Every day of the week, I'd rather spend my time exploring an interesting misfire than the same old thing with a new coat of paint, mulling the lessons we can learn. Catherine is anything but the same old thing brought out for another man-this-feels-familiar trip around the deja vu block. If you're desperate for different, Catherine and Katherine are two gals worth calling up.

Atlus may have turned some off from trying Catherine with its overly sexual marketing.

For the purposes of this slab of writing, I'm going to pretend Catherine ends a few hours before it does. There's a moment, a very specific moment, where the game embraces the worst tendencies of Japanese video game storytelling. Yes, yes, I know Catherine comes from the Persona team, so to encounter supreme weirdness should be expected, and yet, here I am, trying to erase this particular twist from memory, despite acknowledging we're talking about a game whose central metaphor is block puzzles in a dreamscape full of sheep.

So…let's pretend that moment doesn't exist, or else I'm going to stop writing this. Flame away in the comments, if you must.

Still with me? Okay.

I'm 26-years-old and recently engaged, having lived with my girlfriend-now-fiancee for five years...or so. Honestly, you start to lose count, in a good way, after a while. This is what you're supposed to do, right? Find the Girl of Your Dreams, lock it down, and ascend into Adulthood. Vincent, the central protagonist (though one might argue he's really the antagonist, depending on the character's perspective), has zero interest in moving forward on his own. He's the definition of a man child, tapping his shoes like ol' Sonic the Hedgehog, patiently waiting for someone else to take control. By definition, the ball is in Katherine's court--and she passes it over.

Vincent's not paying attention, and if we continue the sports analogy, stubs his index finger. If you've ever played basketball before, you know how much that shit hurts. Consequently, he can't hold the ball. Every time he tries, his finger surges with pain, stiffened by the injury. It'd be much easier to just sit on the sideline and have everyone else take this, you know? So Vincent takes a timeout, where he meets Catherine, Katherine's opposite: a blonde, happy-go-lucky sex bomb.

Thus begins Vincent's descent into personal madness, forced to confront his hangups about the future, one that probably involves fewer nightly trips to the bar, through block puzzles. The block puzzles are a mess--thank the lord for easy mode. Only a few instances prompted contemplation of YouTubing solutions, but the lack of variety, coupled with their insistence on being there night after night ad nauseum, are probably enough to turn most people off. Are you one of those people? Are you afraid you're one of those people? Then play through the block puzzles with YouTube walkthroughs. Get over your hangups about cheating (on a game), realize that's not the point--everything interesting is happening on the other side.

Katherine's attitude may come across as forward and condescending, but everyone knows someone like her, right?

Catherine proves there are ways to comment on sex, relationships and our complicated, often contradictory, emotions through not-so-elaborately disguised dating simulation. You don't need to have a sex mini-game to address sex. You don't even need to even really show that much sex to make your point. You wouldn't catch me dead booting up a traditional dating simulator; from what I understand, what amounts to simulation in those games is enveloped in fantasy, rather than plausible reality.

As a 26-year-old who's recently set himself on the path to commitment, and someone who very much likes hanging out with their friends at bars, I can sympathize with Vincent's position. It's not to suggest my own life has much in common with Vincent, as I made the decision to get engaged with little pressure outside of "you know, it's about time," and my better half has little problem with me hitting the bar, so long as the dishes are washed on a regular basis. But there's enough commonality between us, the mutual fears over making a A Big, Fat Final Decision, that places me inside Vincent's head.

This isn't a new conversation, but that's exactly why it's interesting.

When Vincent was asked to make a choice--answering or not answering a text, declaring if lover and best friend are mutually exclusive concepts--I put the controller down and puzzled it out. What would I do? Why would I do that? I like to think I'm a better person than Vincent--I know that--but if we're doing this hypothetical situation anyway, let's run with it for a second. Presented this, what would I do? And while the ending borne from my decisions had me cursing the game with disgust, if I'm to look at Catherine The Journey instead of Catherine The Ending, I really did end up learning some important things about myself along the way.

No, I won't tell you what they were. It doesn't really matter, either.

The point of this probably-too-personal rambling is to suggest my jumbled emotional response is why you might want to play Catherine one of these days. Maybe not now, maybe not for a few years, but if you can identify with my situation, or at one point in your life once feel like you did, it's like nothing you've ever played.

I've certainly never thought this much about a game all year.

Staff
Posted by supercubedude

Klepek, killing it as usual

Posted by guitarjunkie1123

We definitely are lacking in some original IPs

Posted by lockwoodx

I'd rather just watch an anime of it than play the game.

Posted by buft

games need more relationship troubles, in my house im practically playing catherine every time i pick up a control pad, play a level then try to handle the responses the wife throughs at me by spewing out canned responses. 

Edited by Creamypies

No matter the criticism this game received, it's articles like this that still keep me hopeful once this game hit's European shelves.

It's unique, for sure. And it deals with issues that no other game has ever even tried to tackle.

Keep on making original stuff, game developers!

And great read, Klepek!

Posted by scarace360

 Bangin it out of the park.

Posted by DiGiTaL_SiN

Another reason why I think Catherine deserved a better rating on the site, but whatever...

Posted by Matoya

26? I thought you were like 20

Posted by ThePickle

This should've been the review.

Posted by EastboundSpider

Klepeck - The biggest Anime

Posted by Little_Socrates

I actually still liked the twist ending, as I thought it was headed down a completely predictable and generic route up through that point. I just wish those thought-provoking questions really changed something during the game rather than just at its closure. I also wish they'd developed K/Catherine more.

Posted by Agent47
@DiGiTaL_SiN: It's not so much the game as the reviewer.In my opinion Jeff was set up to fail he doesn't like these types of games so it's no surprise he would exagerrate alot of it's cons.I garuntee you if someone else did it, it would have been higher.
Posted by Rapid

I agree Catherine has great concepts for a video game, the only preventing me from playing the game is probably the block puzzle aspects of the game.

Posted by MistaSparkle

Great write up. I would like to experience this game very much, and I actually liked the way the puzzles worked. I just hope the weird twist you were talking about isn't too overbearing...

Posted by fearxloathing

Great article Patrick! As someone on the opposite end of the spectrum (Recently broken up with future fiancee/live in gf) I am playing through with all the morally wrong decisions and I have to say it's quite fun.

Those block puzzles though.... ugh.

Posted by effjay

Wow, just noticed that GB's review for this game is at the very bottom of the list for review scores on metacritic.com. And the next score up isn't even close.

Posted by StaleCrouton

Awesome stuff Patrick. I am making my way through the game right now and find myself in a similar spot in my life as you find yourself. I'm just a single step further, having gotten married about 2 months ago. Still, it is really interesting to explore the Vincent's character. Like you said, I have very little in common with Vincent, but it is an interesting journey as I try and empathize with his struggles. Keep up the good work and lets hope Catherine inspires other developers to take gaming in some new interesting directions that allow us to explore ourselves and others.

Edited by CrimsonJester
Posted by JetForceGemini
@HandsomeDevil said:

This should've been the review.

You're right, it should have been. 
Posted by dungbootle
@CrimsonJester 
 ehehe.
Posted by patrickklepek

@JetForceGemini said:

@HandsomeDevil said:

This should've been the review.

You're right, it should have been.

The funny thing is, I completely understand Jeff's review. His critique was spot-on.

Different perspectives are cool, you know?

Staff
Posted by Elazul

Wow, this is really weird. In fact It kinda seems like Patrick is undermining Jeff's review slightly. Maybe this would've served better as a personal blog post instead of a "news" article on the front page of the site?

Edited by mutha3

Despite connecting with the story, I think the block puzzles are my favorite part of Catherine. 
 
Super addicting stuff. And the awesome style, of course.

Posted by DaBuddaDa

I think the only people who can like Catherine are those who can relate to the story, which is a really small group of mid-to-late 20 somethings. If you're younger, it doesn't resonate, and if you're older, it seems like a bunch of irrational, adolescent crap.

Posted by Vitor

@supercubedude said:

Klepek, killing it as usual

I wouldn't expect anything less.

Posted by mutha3
@Elazul said:
Wow, this is really weird. In fact It kinda seems like Patrick is undermining Jeff's review slightly. Maybe this would've served better as a personal blog post instead of a "news" article on the front page of the site?
Ehhh....its an opinion piece. Those have a place on VG websites as well, don't you think?
Posted by drag
@patrickklepek said:

@JetForceGemini said:

@HandsomeDevil said:

This should've been the review.

You're right, it should have been.

The funny thing is, I completely understand Jeff's review. His critique was spot-on.

Different perspectives are cool, you know?

I know. Most people know.  
Personally I think that ~on the whole~ we can all agree on the good parts and bad parts of a game, it's just the personal reaction to the pros and cons which becomes the biggest factor, including whether something pisses you off to a distracting, game-ruining degree, or you can just look past it to better things. 
Posted by Curufinwe

What ending did Patrick get anyway?  Aren't there like 10 of them?

Posted by Nomin

Slow 'news' day it seems.
Posted by SpaceBoat

I think I might have felt better about that bizarre twist if it just wasn't so sudden and uncalled for. It was nice to have some answers to some of the more minor mysteries, but it was much different compared to something from a Persona game where you have 25th hours and magic television worlds. Those phenomena need answers and are perfectly fine with strange explanations because the games were already revolving around concepts equally supernatural. When a game based on more realistic human emotions and interactions like Catherine tries to pull the same kind of twist, it just feels out of place.

But enough about that. I really agree that Catherine deserves playing, if only to support variety in the market, and if that sounds like a bad reason, maybe you don't really want as much change as you might think, because this is it.

Though I actually ended up enjoying the block puzzles by the end. It just took me half of the goddamn game to figure out how to do them.

Posted by Elazul
@mutha3 said:
@Elazul said:
Wow, this is really weird. In fact It kinda seems like Patrick is undermining Jeff's review slightly. Maybe this would've served better as a personal blog post instead of a "news" article on the front page of the site?
Ehhh....its an opinion piece. Those have a place on VG websites as well, don't you think?
Oh I know, It's a great read, it's just kind of odd seing it in the exact same place as the review that literally convinced me not to buy, only it a few days ago. I'm actually considering giving it a shot now, at least when the price drops a bit.
Edited by ProfessorEss

I'm interested. Unfortunately I'm not interested enough to buy it, and especially not interested enough to buy it without being able to try a demo first. 
 
It's definitely a good looking game, and as a fan of puzzle games the block aspect doesn't really turn me off - except for, as I said, not being able to try it out to see how the gameplay feels. 
 
EDIT: Nevermind, it has just come to my attention (after a quick, but late search) that there is a demo available now, which I will download and check out directly.

Posted by BBQBram

My longest relationship was torn up because of a certain Catherine if you catch my drift. So yeah, the content is very appealing to me and I'm still waiting for a PAL release!

Posted by FluxWaveZ
@Curufinwe said:
What ending did Patrick get anyway?  Aren't there like 10 of them?
Eight.
Posted by Hizang

Fantastic article! Man I really want to play this game, hurry up and release it!

Posted by mutha3
@DaBuddaDa said:

I think the only people who can like Catherine are those who can relate to the story, which is a really small group of mid-to-late 20 somethings. If you're younger, it doesn't resonate, and if you're older, it seems like a bunch of irrational, adolescent crap.

I don't see how commitment issues are exclusive to the 20-25 age bracket at all.
Posted by drew327

I must have lost it because I didn't have a 'moment' when I wish it ended.

Posted by mrfluke

@Vitor said:

@supercubedude said:

Klepek, killing it as usual

I wouldn't expect anything less.

i agree (its the only stories that i fully read on the site) but man sorry but that deus ex quicklook was annoying to watch

Posted by FluxWaveZ
@mutha3 said:
@DaBuddaDa said:

I think the only people who can like Catherine are those who can relate to the story, which is a really small group of mid-to-late 20 somethings. If you're younger, it doesn't resonate, and if you're older, it seems like a bunch of irrational, adolescent crap.

I don't see how commitment issues are exclusive to the 20-25 age bracket at all.
And I don't see why that makes sense at all since I'm 17, have absolutely no intention of ever having a girlfriend, getting married or having sex, and I loved the story up until the part where it might as well have been called Shin Megami Tensei: Catherine.
Posted by text

I seem to be the only person on the internet who loved the block puzzle stuff.

In any case, I'm not sure if "I didn't like the ending I got" is really a valid complaint. The decisions you make ought to determine how things turn out. This was also a complaint leveled at infamous 2 on the podcast, and I really don't get the mentality. If you go around killing people, you should get an evil ending. Likewise, if you made some bad decisions, you should get a bad ending.

Maybe it's the "good ending" vs "bad ending" terminology that reinforces it. A "bad" ending isn't worse than a "good" one, unless it's poorly written or something. You shouldn't confuse "good/bad morally" with "good/bad" in terms of quality. To strive for a "good" ending, instead of getting an ending organically from your choices, seems like a backwards way of approaching games so heavily based on decision making.

Posted by ThePickle

@patrickklepek said:

@JetForceGemini said:

@HandsomeDevil said:

This should've been the review.

You're right, it should have been.

The funny thing is, I completely understand Jeff's review. His critique was spot-on.

Different perspectives are cool, you know?

There are some undeniably infuriating aspects to the game (mainly the endings) but 2 stars is too harsh.

Edited by Sanj

That was a really interesting read.

Personally, I loved the "twist". I expected, nay, sought craziness from this game, and it delivered. I would have been disappointed had the game ended without it.

Also, prior to playing Catherine, I was worried that I may find the block puzzles frustrating/repetitive. But as it turns out, I really enjoyed them. There was a period when I found the puzzles really hard, but then...something clicked in my head, and I then pretty much breezed through the rest of the nightmares.

Anyway, try out Catherine folks; if not for the reasons Patrick stated, but for the fact that you may like the game more than you think.

Posted by bcjohnnie

I always like reading Patrick's stuff on the site, but thank god he stopped that basketball analogy after one paragraph... you don't need to use sports metaphors to convey the situation Vincent is in.

Posted by patrickklepek
Staff
Edited by FluxWaveZ
@text said:

I seem to be the only person on the internet who loved the block puzzle stuff.

Other people in this very thread have said they enjoyed the puzzle element. I enjoyed the puzzle segments very much and didn't find the controls to be cumbersome once I got used to them. So you're not the only one, obviously. 
 
But I completely agree with you on your ending point. I don't recall the reviewer, but someone had even docked points on the game because they disliked their ending and were "forced" to play through the game again to get a better one. It's a stupid, stupid complaint.
Posted by seek83

Very much enjoying what Klepek is bringing to the giant bombs. Please keep up these rambling posts Patrick.

Posted by wukong

"The ball is in [your] court" is a tennis metaphor, not basketball.

You guys really need a copy editor.

Posted by benjaebe

Hey, awesome article. Really like seeing more original, editorial pieces on Giant Bomb than just news.

Posted by Deathpooky

I've gone back and forth on this game. My initial reaction both to the anime-style super sexy marketing and to the block puzzle gameplay was to write this game off. But I'm at least tempted by them trying to do an adult storyline with real-life issues (ignoring the Japanese weirdness).