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.
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.
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.
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.