Post-Review Catherine Reflections

Catherine is not nearly as sexually explicit as you horny people might have hoped. Sorry to burst your bubble.
As is customary whenever I write a review of a game, I like to take a little time on my blog and provide a little bit of a more personal reflection about it. Such is the case once again with the well-hyped Catherine, the PS3 version of which I just posted a spoiler-free review of here and hope you enjoy. While Catherine is hardly the first purely Japanese game I've ever reviewed, it's probably the most interesting one I've had the pleasure of doing for a variety of reasons. Probably the most important of these is that it helped me keep my Japanese sharp in a non-classroom context. As somebody majoring in the language in university with the intention of working over there after graduation, I always find it really important to make sure my fluency comes not just from textbooks, studies, and practice with native friends, but also the consumption of everyday, consumer media. When I actually have the time for them, that includes video games. I was never the type to idiotically think Japanese was a doable language for the sake of video games and the fact that I was never lost during the many, many conversations in Catherine, I think, is at least a little bit of the testament to the work it's taken me to get to that point. I'm certainly not fluent, but it's morbidly nice to know that topics like adultery are doable in a language other than my native English.
 
As I wrote in my review of the game, though, the game in its current state, which is to say, its non-localized form, is not worth purchasing for those that already know their Japanese fairly well. You can actually make it through to the end of the game without knowing what anybody is saying, but you miss out on so much of the characterizations and plot details that it's just not worth forking $80+ for. The actual gameplay behind it is pretty great for the most part, but you're better of playing the game in a language you understand and, most likely, at a cheaper price point when it comes overseas. You're missing out on a pretty good story in the meantime, but I imagine that'll change eventually.
 
Just like Vincent and his relationship, don't mind me if I don't proofread this post. I'm tired.
I still ultimately decided to write the review because of my position as a Japanese speaking member of the site. I know I'm not the only person who knows Japanese and I'm certainly not alone in importing this game, but as somebody who fits both criteria, I thought English-only speakers might be interested in a critical examination of the game without having to resort to translations of Famitsu or Amazon Japan reviews. Whether that is the case remains to be seen, but if nothing else, I hope it gives those who are still curious about the game a little bit more information before they decide whether to buy it themselves when it's localized. I personally think it's probably worth it, even having paid $100 for my copy, but the more information you know, the better.
 
Also, despite the hype the game had around it, both from myself and the rest of the Internet, I tried to go into the game as blindly as possible. Games like Catherine, I feel, are best experienced when you don't actually know you're getting yourself into and that was by and large the case for me. I stopped reading most news postings about the game a few months leading up to the release and didn't even try out the demo. Much like how I had previous played Personas 3 and 4 deliberately without knowing much beforehand, I wanted to make sure that happened again with Catherine. Judging by my own reactions to many of the twists, big, small, and humorous that the game had, I'd say that strategy was a success and recommend you do the same as well, if you can.
 
I should probably stop writing this since I've already been composing a lot this evening, but I'll leave you with a few little thoughts I had about the game that didn't make it into my review, provided below in bullet-point format.
 
  • The text messages that Vincent receives are probably my favorite things about the entire game. They're a simple mechanic and don't take a whole lot of time at all, but I still think they add a lot to the experience. They keep you grounded in the world and remind you that there are lives other than Vincent's own that you have to think about. Getting a sweetly worded message from longtime girlfriend Katherine expressing concern about Vincent's working hours and then being able to word the reply so he expressed his gratitude and love just felt right to me.
  • The title screen is really iconic for me. The imagery is just so distinct and that pained cry for Katherine that Vincent utters when it first loads up is just perfect. You know you're in for an intense game before you even hit the start button.
  • There's a lot of symbolism to sift through in Catherine. While it's thematically a lot more centralized than a lot of Atlus' previous works, that doesn't make it any less dense or philosophically interesting to try and figure out. I loved it. There was even some imagery that harkened back to my days of studying at Catholic school, something which I never expected a game to do.
  • I got a really weird ending to the game. I didn't bring it up in the review since that's not the place to really discuss it, but it certainly didn't turn out how I expected. It's not bad, but it's certainly made me curious how the other seven (I think that's how many?) turn out. Going to start another run soon, most likely. I gotta get my money's worth, after all.
  • Damn, they better reuse that graphics engine for later games. Stuff's absolutely gorgeous to behold.
 
And that's a wrap.
30 Comments
31 Comments
Posted by Pepsiman
Catherine is not nearly as sexually explicit as you horny people might have hoped. Sorry to burst your bubble.
As is customary whenever I write a review of a game, I like to take a little time on my blog and provide a little bit of a more personal reflection about it. Such is the case once again with the well-hyped Catherine, the PS3 version of which I just posted a spoiler-free review of here and hope you enjoy. While Catherine is hardly the first purely Japanese game I've ever reviewed, it's probably the most interesting one I've had the pleasure of doing for a variety of reasons. Probably the most important of these is that it helped me keep my Japanese sharp in a non-classroom context. As somebody majoring in the language in university with the intention of working over there after graduation, I always find it really important to make sure my fluency comes not just from textbooks, studies, and practice with native friends, but also the consumption of everyday, consumer media. When I actually have the time for them, that includes video games. I was never the type to idiotically think Japanese was a doable language for the sake of video games and the fact that I was never lost during the many, many conversations in Catherine, I think, is at least a little bit of the testament to the work it's taken me to get to that point. I'm certainly not fluent, but it's morbidly nice to know that topics like adultery are doable in a language other than my native English.
 
As I wrote in my review of the game, though, the game in its current state, which is to say, its non-localized form, is not worth purchasing for those that already know their Japanese fairly well. You can actually make it through to the end of the game without knowing what anybody is saying, but you miss out on so much of the characterizations and plot details that it's just not worth forking $80+ for. The actual gameplay behind it is pretty great for the most part, but you're better of playing the game in a language you understand and, most likely, at a cheaper price point when it comes overseas. You're missing out on a pretty good story in the meantime, but I imagine that'll change eventually.
 
Just like Vincent and his relationship, don't mind me if I don't proofread this post. I'm tired.
I still ultimately decided to write the review because of my position as a Japanese speaking member of the site. I know I'm not the only person who knows Japanese and I'm certainly not alone in importing this game, but as somebody who fits both criteria, I thought English-only speakers might be interested in a critical examination of the game without having to resort to translations of Famitsu or Amazon Japan reviews. Whether that is the case remains to be seen, but if nothing else, I hope it gives those who are still curious about the game a little bit more information before they decide whether to buy it themselves when it's localized. I personally think it's probably worth it, even having paid $100 for my copy, but the more information you know, the better.
 
Also, despite the hype the game had around it, both from myself and the rest of the Internet, I tried to go into the game as blindly as possible. Games like Catherine, I feel, are best experienced when you don't actually know you're getting yourself into and that was by and large the case for me. I stopped reading most news postings about the game a few months leading up to the release and didn't even try out the demo. Much like how I had previous played Personas 3 and 4 deliberately without knowing much beforehand, I wanted to make sure that happened again with Catherine. Judging by my own reactions to many of the twists, big, small, and humorous that the game had, I'd say that strategy was a success and recommend you do the same as well, if you can.
 
I should probably stop writing this since I've already been composing a lot this evening, but I'll leave you with a few little thoughts I had about the game that didn't make it into my review, provided below in bullet-point format.
 
  • The text messages that Vincent receives are probably my favorite things about the entire game. They're a simple mechanic and don't take a whole lot of time at all, but I still think they add a lot to the experience. They keep you grounded in the world and remind you that there are lives other than Vincent's own that you have to think about. Getting a sweetly worded message from longtime girlfriend Katherine expressing concern about Vincent's working hours and then being able to word the reply so he expressed his gratitude and love just felt right to me.
  • The title screen is really iconic for me. The imagery is just so distinct and that pained cry for Katherine that Vincent utters when it first loads up is just perfect. You know you're in for an intense game before you even hit the start button.
  • There's a lot of symbolism to sift through in Catherine. While it's thematically a lot more centralized than a lot of Atlus' previous works, that doesn't make it any less dense or philosophically interesting to try and figure out. I loved it. There was even some imagery that harkened back to my days of studying at Catholic school, something which I never expected a game to do.
  • I got a really weird ending to the game. I didn't bring it up in the review since that's not the place to really discuss it, but it certainly didn't turn out how I expected. It's not bad, but it's certainly made me curious how the other seven (I think that's how many?) turn out. Going to start another run soon, most likely. I gotta get my money's worth, after all.
  • Damn, they better reuse that graphics engine for later games. Stuff's absolutely gorgeous to behold.
 
And that's a wrap.
Posted by Daveyo520

I am still reading the review! Stop writing so much! Also the sexy isn't the part that needs to exist.

Posted by Enigma777

I still can't believe this game uses the Gamebryo engine. Guess it just shows that the bros at Bethesda can't code anything worth a damn...

Posted by JoyfullOFrockets
@Enigma777 said:
" I still can't believe this game uses the Gamebryo engine. Guess it just shows that the bros at Bethesda can't code anything worth a damn... "
Wow, I completely forgot that. When I saw it in the quick look I was stunned. Is the Gamebryo engine that flexible, or are Atlus just fucking crazy?
Posted by Linkster7
@JoyfullOFrockets said:
" @Enigma777 said:
" I still can't believe this game uses the Gamebryo engine. Guess it just shows that the bros at Bethesda can't code anything worth a damn... "
Wow, I completely forgot that. When I saw it in the quick look I was stunned. Is the Gamebryo engine that flexible, or are Atlus just fucking crazy? "
Looks like the engine is quite flexible. Civ 5, Fallout, Bully are all rather different. 
Posted by perilator666

Gamebryo is flexible and easy o use, which is why I think Bethesda kept it for so long. They've basically had the same engine since Morrowind and they just kep adding to it and adding to it. I think it just got out of hand and their games just became buggier and buggier as time went on. Really looking forward to seeing what they do with the new engine for Skyrim. 
 
Anyway, on topic here. Can't wait for my copy of Cathrine to turn up. Really hope a can follow along OK with my DESUDESUDESU japanese. Also, nice writeup, hype get!

Posted by mutha3

Your thoughts on this game are much appreciated. 
 
Can't wait till I get in my grimy little hands. GET ON IT ATLUS

Posted by Video_Game_King
@zoskia said:
" Anyway, on topic here. Can't wait for my copy of Cathrine to turn up. Really hope a can follow along OK with my DESUDESUDESU japanese. Also, nice writeup, hype get! "
If your Japanese is anything like my Japanese, you'll probably join me and Brad in the "just wait for it to come out over here" club. I'd try to improve my Japanese, but whenever I try some particle exercises or whatever, I realize one thing: I don't know what any of the words mean, and there aren't a lot of websites that help you learn more Japanese words.
Online
Posted by BrickRoad

I've been studying Japanese for nearly 2 years. I can hold conversations well enough, and if I'm playing a Japanese dubbed game I can understand a lot of the words being said. However I still need the English subtitles because once they repeat one word I don't know, I lose the entire grasp of the conversation as I try to wrestle with what I think they're saying, which isn't good for following a plot. Also, once they dip into slag and dialect, I get lost really easily. So, I'll be waiting for the English sub of this unless it's made clear the western market wont get the game. Personally, I think the game looks brilliant visually - I really like it.
 
@Video_Game_King:
 
I really recommend getting a tutor or going to evening classes, like I do. Also, get a Japanes/English dictionary, they usually have lots of verb charts and particles explainations.

Posted by Underachiever007
@Enigma777 said:
" I still can't believe this game uses the Gamebryo engine. Guess it just shows that the bros at Bethesda can't code anything worth a damn... "
To be fair, Fallout is a much more expansive game than Catherine. Must be a lot tougher to code.
Posted by Video_Game_King
@BrickRoad: 
 
Yea, that would probably help, since I don't really have any other means of actually practicing Japanese (my computer didn't take too kindly to Japanese input software I tried installing some time ago), but for the most part, I have a grasp on particles (de and wo are piss-easy, and I'm slowly picking up how the ever-vague ni works); it's words that keep me from actually learning more of the language.
Online
Posted by ArbitraryWater

As always, a great review. Despite having lived in Japan for a short period of my life, I know practically no Japanese, and am also not a big enough Atlus fan to import. Thus, I appreciate that you are both. Anticipating your eventual Gal Gun review, as it would truly take a Japanese major to understand the depth and intricacies of that game, mechanically and story wise.

Posted by Pepsiman
@ArbitraryWater: Should that game ever become stupidly cheap when I back over there this next school year, I'll probably pick it up out of very morbid curiosity, although I'll feel extremely shameful in the process. Watching that game on the Happy Hour made me really, really depressed to know that I actually understood what the hell it was saying.
Posted by ZombiePie

Watching the gameplay of Catherine makes me want to download Rodent's Revenge. Or Chip's Challenge. Man those were great games.

 Aww Yeah...Rodent's Revenge!
Moderator
Posted by RuneseekerMireille

This was a nice complement to your review, Pepsiman. You're quite right about knowing Japanese though: I have a little understanding of the language, and I still feel like I'm missing the intricacies of the dialogue. I'll probably have to go back and look up a translation guide somewhere, or wait for the English release to fully understand it.

Posted by Weltal

I'm too damn impatient so I'm watching some dude that's translateing it as he plays. 
 
It works out though cus he kinda sucks at translating and is very bad at the puzzles so he's playing it on easy and is going for Kathrine, which means when they finally translate it I can jump in and still have a good experience. Not that I wouldn't simply play the game through if it was completely the same either, I mean I played Persona 4 twice and Persona 3 around 4 times now.

Edited by mutha3
@Underachiever007 said:

" @Enigma777 said:

" I still can't believe this game uses the Gamebryo engine. Guess it just shows that the bros at Bethesda can't code anything worth a damn... "
To be fair, Fallout is a much more expansive game than Catherine. Must be a lot tougher to code. "
Yeah, people need to keep in mind that coding stuff is a huge fucking pain in the ass.
 
Its true that Bethesda efforts with the Gamebryo engine has been a complete shitshow, but cut them some slack!
 
@ZombiePie:
Intriguing. I myself get urges to play the venerable Intelligent Qube.
Posted by Pepsiman
@ZombiePie:  I totally just downloaded a played a bunch of that game again because of you. Damn, that game is still awesome, although I never got far enough to actually reach the mouse trap levels.
Posted by ZombiePie
@Pepsiman:  Multiplayer JezzBall. Think about it.
 
Or how about some team Hover?
Moderator
Posted by Daveyo520
@ZombiePie: I remember that fucking game.
Posted by ZombiePie
Moderator
Posted by Daveyo520
@ZombiePie: Yup  that has Ski Free on it. That is all you need. I played that game for hours on end. God, great stuff.
Posted by Pepsiman
@Daveyo520: YOU HIT THE F KEY TO GO FASTER WHAT
Edited by Daveyo520
@Pepsiman: Now is the time for a gritty modern remake of Ski Free in the Unreal engine. That Yeti will cause so much gore. OH MY GOD. I just realized this is what the new "SSX" game actually is, it is just a front! You will see the Yeti in the next trailer I tell you! Wake up sheeple!
Posted by awesomeusername
@Enigma777 said:
" I still can't believe this game uses the Gamebryo engine. 
When I saw that on the quick look, my mouth dropped in disgust. Then I saw how good it looked and was surprised.
Posted by MikeGosot

So... How's the horror part of the game? 

Posted by Pepsiman
@MikeGosot:  In my personal opinion, most of the game isn't scary so much as it is just grotesquely surreal. There is imagery designed to freak people out and it does an effective job of accomplishing that. Having said that, the scene where Katherine discovers the existence of Catherine is scary in that it's a lot more intense than the trailers made it out to be. You feel really, really glad you're not actually Vincent after seeing all that.
Posted by MikeGosot

Oh, one last question: 
What was your favorite character of the game? 

Posted by Pepsiman
@MikeGosot: Despite the icon I sport at the moment, I think I came to like Erica, the waitress at the Stray Sheep the most. She's a little fireball that isn't afraid to be frank with Vincent and the others, since she's just as much a part of their clique as anyone else. In a game with few other recurring women aside from Vincent's love interests, she was a very nice and very necessary addition to the cast to have on the sidelines.
Posted by Synaptic

Thanks for the post!

Posted by Bartman3010

I'm at the tail end of the game. While the story is a little out there, I feel the gameplay, story and even the symbolism have a hard time working with each other. Every time I was hoping for Vincent to turn the situation around, he would lie, prolong the situation and often times, just couldn't man up. The fact that he drinks at the bar every night is quite discouraging when he seems like that he'll work on his actions. Of course, half the game is spending time at the bar with others who suffer the curse, and the one element that's not as apparent is that Vincent becomes a role model to others that he never quits. For that is definitely believable, until one realizes that he doesn't really help himself.

I am enjoying the block puzzles, playing on Normal. Though it's easy to break the game with the 'Undo' function. For example some of the bosses will emit obstacles onto the field that disappear when you Undo an action. Anytime they try to attack, it can be cancelled out.

I have quite a bit to say about the game. Though right now, I'm at work and should probably get back to it.