Catherine is an adult and mature-oriented puzzle video game developed and published by Atlus for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It is self-described as an "unconventional romantic horror".
The game was released in Japan on February 17, 2011, and in North America on July 26, 2011, in Europe on February 10, 2012, and in Australia on February 23, 2012. Catherine was later released as a full downloadable game for the PlayStation Store in February 2012, and was also released on the Games on Demand service for Xbox 360 in April 2012.
In November 2016, Catherine was made available on PlayStation Now, meaning the game can be streamed to PlayStation 4 and PC. In December 2016, Catherine was made available on Xbox One using backwards compatibility.
On January 10, 2019, Catherine was ported to PC by The Eccentric Ape and titled Catherine Classic. Unlike the console versions, the PC version has dual audio, 4K support, unlocked framerate, and the Axis Mundi bug has been fixed so it is now beatable in solo mode.
In February 2019, an enhanced port/remake Catherine: Full Body for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita was released in Japan, although the Vita version will likely only be released in Japan. Atlus mentioned Full Body would be localized and come to the West in 2019.
The story revolves around Vincent Brooks and his subsequent affair with Catherine during the course of a week. During the day, Vincent can freely explore and talk to his friends at the bar, listen to music at a jukebox, send and receive text messages, order drinks and play an arcade game. There are 8 possible endings based on the various choices the player makes throughout the game. During the night, however...
The game begins with a framing device: Trisha, the Midnight Venus, hosts a television program called the Golden Playhouse, which will this evening relate the tale of a man named Vincent Brooks. The events of the show form the gameplay proper, which is sometimes rendered with a watermark in the corner.
In the American neighborhood in which Vincent lives, there have recently been a number of bizarre incidents in which people die in their sleep with a look of anguish on their faces. Strangely enough, the only common link is that all of the victims are young men. The story quickly spreads throughout the media, attracting widespread attention and theories as to the unexplained cause of death. A strange circulating rumor begins to spread that if a person dreams of falling, then they must wake up before they hit the ground or they will be unable to wake up at all and will die. Dubbed "The Woman's Wrath", it is said that all of the dead men cheated on their partners.
Vincent is at a restaurant contemplating marriage to Katherine McBride, his lover of five years, who starts pressuring him to get married. He's fine with things the way they are now, but Katherine has set her sights higher than that. Vincent is torn by the indecision and hasn't come to any conclusions on his own.
That night at The Stray Sheep, the bar he frequents with his friends Jonathan "Jonny" Ariga, Orlando Haddick and Toby, he meets a mysterious woman named Catherine. Although there are many vacant seats, she sits next to Vincent and turns out to be exactly his type. The two end up spending the night together at Vincent's house.
After meeting Catherine, Vincent begins to have nightmares every single night, which he believes may be related to the rumors. In these dreams, he and several other men, who appear to each other as sheep, must escape from various horrors trying to kill them, for if they die in their dreams, they will die in reality. As dreams and reality begin to blend together, Vincent must not only fight to survive, but must choose between Katherine and Catherine. Vincent can't force himself to bring his new relationship with Catherine to an end.
Katherine increases the pressure by revealing that her period is late and that she believes herself pregnant, while Catherine manages to arrange to be in Vincent's bed almost every morning, despite his not remembering having invited her over. A further complication arrives in the form of phone calls from a man named Steve Delhomme, who defines himself as the boyfriend of Katherine/Catherine and threatens retribution upon Vincent. However, neither of Vincent's girlfriends knows a man named Steve, and Steve's description of his girlfriend does not match either of the women Vincent is involved with.
After a week of unrelenting nightmares, Vincent finally decides to break off his tryst with Catherine. The next morning, he awakens without nightmares and without Catherine by his side, but she suddenly appears in his room when Katherine comes to visit. After a heated exchange of insults between the two women, Katherine, due to Vincent's betrayal and Catherine's constant insults of her worthlessness to Vincent and Catherine's superiority to Katherine, snaps with despair and moves over the kitchen sink searching for a kitchen knife while still facing Vincent and Catherine, but to no avail, for Catherine predicted this and has taken the knife in advance.
Vincent attempts to calm down Katherine by telling her that he had already called off his affair with Catherine, thus causing Catherine herself to snap with rage and jealousy, blaming Katherine for Vincent's confusion and claim that if Katherine went away, Vincent could finally be free, and attempts to kill Katherine with the kitchen knife, barely cutting Vincent at his right lower rib cage, but ends up herself impaled in her stomach while seemingly having the upper-hand on Katherine while they are both on the ground.
While Catherine lies bleeding and dying, Vincent shoos a terrified Katherine out, trying to protect her, but the two find themselves trapped in another puzzle maze, and Catherine, unwilling to give up Vincent, attempts to stop his and Katherine's escape; Vincent must escort Katherine out, reaffirming that his heart belongs to her.
However, when he wakes up from this nightmare, Katherine has no recollection of the events, and confronts Vincent on the infidelity she knows he has been hiding from her. She also admits that her pregnancy was a false alarm, and that Vincent's reactions did not increase her confidence in him. Politely but firmly, she breaks up with him. Finally, Vincent, bemoaning his troubles to Orlando, discovers that all of Catherine's contact information and SMS messages (including several revealing photographs) have inexplicably disappeared from his phone. This leads his friends to admit that none of them have ever met or seen her, and causes him to doubt his sanity.
Vincent, seeking evidence that Catherine exists, remembers that the only other person he ever heard her speak to: the bartender of The Stray Sheep, Thomas "Chop" Mutton, who accidentally reveals himself to be the orchestrator of the entire recurring-nightmare situation. "Catherine" is a succubus working with him, who takes the form of each man's fantasy woman, to tempt him into cheating. If the man is tempted, Mutton uses the arcade machine Rapunzel to plant a seed in their memories which can transport them to the nightmare world, in which they climb a danger-filled and slowly collapsing tower. The purpose of doing so is both to punish them for their sins, and also to remove them from women with whom they have no intent of reproduction, freeing up those females for the "good of the species." Vincent makes a deal with him to return voluntarily to the nightmare landscape and climb the final levels of the tower, in return for which Mutton will release all other captive men. Depending on the player's previous choices, Vincent may also request one last meeting with Catherine or Katherine.
- Main article: Endings
Depending on the way certain questions and text messages are answered, Catherine has a total of eight endings based on three central narratives. The alignment endings (i.e. Catherine and Katherine) feature a good, bad, and an extended true version while a neutral "Freedom" ending only has two versions. "Bad" endings are obtained if the player's explicit choices do not correspond to the alignment meter position, calculated based on the player's other actions. "Good" endings are obtained if the player's explicit choices do match the meter; the choice of which of these appears is based on which of these choices were made. "True" endings are appended with an epilogue, taking place after Trisha formally closes the program and thanks the viewers for watching.
- Katherine Bad: Katherine leaves Vincent due to his cheating with Catherine.
- Katherine Good: Mutton and Vincent's other friends are able to prove to Katherine that Catherine is not real, and thus Vincent has not cheated. Vincent and Katherine get back together and resume planning their wedding.
- Katherine True: Same as the corresponding Good ending, except Katherine and Vincent actually do marry.
- Catherine Bad: Vincent proposes marriage to the succubus, Catherine, but she turns him down due to him still wanting a quiet life.
- Catherine Good: Vincent proposes marriage to the succubus, Catherine, and she considers it. Her father Nergal appears and objects, but Vincent insists, and Catherine agrees. Catherine transports Vincent and his apartment room into the Underworld where the two live together.
- Catherine True: Same as the corresponding Good ending, but Vincent is later able to seduce an entire harem of succubi and overthrow Nergal, becoming the King of the Underworld with Catherine as his Queen.
- Freedom Good: Vincent turns down both women, saying neither is truly what he desires, and he has his life ahead of him to find what he wants. Mutton is shocked at this turn of events and apologizes for pulling Vincent into the nightmare world. Vincent borrows some money from Mutton to place a bet on a wrestling match, but loses.
- Freedom True: Same as the corresponding Good ending, but Vincent wins his bet and uses the money to engage in space tourism, his true childhood dream. Vincent contently asks, "Why live a life without doing what you want? That's just a recipe for a life of misery."
A final ninth ending is unlocked when the player completes all the Babel challenges. Trisha breaks the fourth wall by revealing that she is actually Ishtar, one of the goddesses overseeing the entire nightmare process, and that the true purpose of the nightmares was for her to test the player for fitness to replace Mutton, the last man who successfully climbed the tower, as her consort due to his infidelity.
Catherine deals heavily with the themes of commitment, relationships, love, infidelity, sexuality and sexual abuse, maturity, while intertwining the horror and mystery of a rash of unexplained deaths of young men, rumored to be the "Women's Wrath": vengeance against the unfaithful. The game also contains examples of female-on-male-rape (Vincent by Catherine, and Archie Wallace by his mother).
The game avoids the concepts of "good" and "evil", but rather, embraces "Chaos" and "order". For example, Katherine isn't necessarily "good" and Catherine isn't necessarily "evil". Instead of black-and-white "right" and "wrong", the story focuses on grey-and-grey moral ambiguity.
For example, players can view Katherine as "wrong" because of her bossy, domineering attitude towards Vincent, lying about her pregnancy so he won't leave her, and trying to pressure him into marriage which he isn't comfortable with. Catherine can be viewed as Vincent's savior from Katherine; despite that she is a succubus who will contribute to his death, Vincent can arguably be seen as bringing this fate on himself for cheating on Katherine.
Catherine can also be seen as "wrong", since she is a succubus who enters Vincent's life, knowing that she may kill him as a result. Catherine can also be viewed as a rapist towards Vincent. While Katherine can be seen as a rational and caring counterpart, as seen when she send text mails asking about his well being, giving him cake as a present and worrying about his expenses and how in the end she tells Vincent the truth about her pregnancy being a false alarm even if it meant he might leave her.
The game does not try to shame or guilt trip the player for choosing one woman over the other and accepts both possibilities for whoever they pursue, nor does it shame the player for choosing neither women and going with the Freedom ending.
Although not always explored in-depth, Catherine contains many adult-oriented conversations, whether it be Katherine expressing desire for Vincent to stop smoking and drinking so much because they are having a baby, Morgan Cortez coping with the grief of his spouse, Daniel and Anna planning to elope, etc.
At the very end of the game, it is revealed that one of the main characters, Erica Anderson, is a transgender woman, a demographic not often represented in video games.
- Main article: Gameplay
Catherine is a puzzle-platformer adventure game in which players control Vincent Brooks, who begins having strange nightmares after his girlfriend, Katherine, begins to talk about marriage and commitment. This matter becomes more complicated for him when he meets a girl named Catherine, and begins an affair with her, and the nightmares get more and more intense. The main story mode, Golden Playhouse, follows the story between Daytime and Nightmare scenarios.
During the daytime, Vincent will converse with his friends as well as try to handle his relationships with Catherine and Katherine. Most of this time takes place in the Stray Sheep bar where Vincent can save and send text messages from his phone, talk to customers, order drinks, play a minigame titled Rapunzel or listen to a jukebox containing tracks from other Atlus games such as the Persona series.
The main gameplay takes place in the Nightmare stages, which occur after daytime hours are over. In a nightmarish dreamworld inhabited by other men, who are represented as anthropomorphic sheep, Vincent must climb up giant staircases that are slowly collapsing underneath him and safely reach the top. To accomplish this, Vincent must push, pull and climb blocks as quickly as possible while avoiding various traps such as spikes and ice. Climbing up steps in quick succession increases a score multiplier, and at the end of the level, players are given an award based on their score. Each stage is split up into numerous areas, culminating in a boss stage in which a nightmarish creature also attempts to kill Vincent. When Vincent is close to the top, he will hear the ringing of a bell.
Vincent can move faster depending on how much alcohol he drinks during the day and can earn pillows that allow him to retry levels. There are also several items which can be found or purchased in between stages, such as spare blocks, lightning which removes enemies and energy drinks that allow Vincent to climb more steps at a time. Vincent will die if he falls off the bottom of the level, gets caught by a trap or is killed by a boss, with the game ending if Vincent runs out of retry pillows. When playing on easy and normal difficulty, players can push the Select/Back button to correct a single block move.
In between action stages, on Landings, Vincent can interact with the other surviving sheep, save his game, learn techniques from the sheep on how to survive the climbing levels, or spend Enigma Coins on special items. By sharing this information on how to survive, they band together to give each other enough hope to continue through the trials.
- Main article: The Mysterious Meter
Throughout the game, the choices the player makes during certain sections of the game will affect the development of Vincent's character and the route the story takes place. This is represented by a meter of Freedom and Order, which can change in several ways depending on certain factors.
These factors include how Vincent types out a text message to Catherine or Katherine, how he answers certain questions, how he converses with non-playable characters, and how Vincent answers the confessionals. The game features multiple endings based on the route Vincent takes.
In addition to the Golden Playhouse (main story) mode:
- Babel Mode features four large stages playable with up to two players, although it's playable with 1 player too. Katherine is playable as the second player in Pair mode.
- Colosseum Mode (Tournament Play) features two players simultaneously playing a stage in order to reach the top first. Colosseum Mode opens up once the Golden Playhouse is completed on any difficulty.
Catherine Original Soundtrack
- Main article: Catherine Original Soundtrack
The soundtrack consists of 34 tracks, and is composed by Shoji Meguro, best known for his work in the Shin Megami Tensei series; specifically, Persona.
Catherine Sound Disc
- Main article: Catherine Sound Disc
The Catherine Sound Disc is an 11-track CD that comes with all pre-ordered copies of Catherine. These are not a subset of tracks from the full soundtrack, but remixed classical songs set to fit the world of Catherine. Most tracks are the background music to the various Nightmare Stages of the game.
The mandatory install size for Catherine on the PS3 is 2.5GB.
The optional install size for Catherine on the Xbox 360 is 5.2GB.
The North American versions lack Japanese audio, and all animation is lip-synched to the English dub.
In the PS3 version, if the English version of the game is installed while the system is set in a language other than English (ex: French), the trophies for the game will be displayed in Japanese. There is currently no way to undo this action once the trophies are earned.
Catherine has become infamous for its intense difficulty, with many Japanese gamers claiming it was impossible even on the easiest difficulty setting. The limited continues, short time limit and punishing AI were among the chief complaints.
Atlus released a Japanese patch that included a new "Super Easy" difficulty along with tweaks to make the game easier for players. This included granting more retries per pillow, and adding a drink Vincent can use to skip multiple sections of blocks.
The English version already includes the Japanese "Super Easy" patch, as well as a much more balanced and extensive difficulty overhaul that was not possible to do in a patch. Hard mode, however, has been untouched.
Catherine received mostly positive reviews from critics, with average aggregate scores of 83.00% and 78.04% for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, respectively, on GameRankings and 82 and 79 out of 100 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, respectively, on Metacritic.
IGN gave Catherine an overall score of 9.0.
The game was generally praised for its art design, style, soundtrack, story, themes, and even English voice acting.
A review by SuperButterBuns praised the game for being innovative and "weird in the best way possible".
The game received some flack for its often hard difficulty. Some players were attracted to the game, but did not enjoy the puzzle gameplay, eventually leading to a easier difficulty options as well as the ability to skip the puzzles entirely in Full Body. The game also received some criticism for its LGBT representation regarding Erica, as it's seen by some as "problematic".
- Both covers of Catherine gives the impression that it is a shallow and vapid game mainly about having sex with women, and that its gameplay is meant to give the player (sexual) pleasure. However, the game actualy contains deep themes about commitment, relationships, life, sexuality, etc. The gameplay is often the opposite of pleasure - a sadistic horror game about trying not to die in nightmares. In addition, the nudity in the game is extremely softcore, not a single nipple is seen, Catherine is always conveniently covered by an object in the foreground, and Catherine is actually a succubus meant to punish cheating men. It could be said that the saying "don't judge a book by its cover" can also extend to video games: "don't judge a game by its cover". There are also stories about fans being too embarrassed to buy physical copies of the game, and getting discouraging looks from customers and cashiers. It is likely that Atlus employees wanted it to be as awkward as possible.
- The cover has also been parodied multiple times by fans.
- Contrary to the belief that the game is set in Japan, Catherine is actually set in an "undefined American town/city". There are many hints in-game, such as the Caucasian appearances of Catherine, Toby, Orlando, Daniel Kirsch, etc. There is a lack of Japanese-sounding names. At one point, Vincent leaves his apartment and walks around the city and walks past a billboard in English.
- According to the Venus Mode Art Book, the entire game was set in a space colony, which was hinted by the "until the rain stops" countdown in a cutscene, as it is an artificial rain system. The truth was attempted to be revealed in Freedom True Ending, although it does not do enough to get this plot twist across to everyone.
- Without knowing the plot twist, some fans have speculated the space colony to be inspired by San Francisco due to the city architecture and emphasis of technology firms. Connie also mentions a ferry, implying it is a seaside city or has a large body of water in/near it (San Francisco is by the sea). However, knowing the truth, Connie seems to be talking about a spaceship ferry. The Atlus employee who claimed the game is "set in an "undefined American town/city" may have merely meant that the space colony is American-inspired or founded by Americans without wanting to spoil the plot twist.
- Katherine Alternate Ending in Full Body shows the city is by a body of water. It is unclear if the developers forget this plot twist, or if Vincent is visiting Katherine on another planet/colony.
- Persona 5 has Catherine costumes as DLC.
- The game was produced by Katsura Hashino, Persona director. The game's characters were designed by Shigenori Soejima, who also worked on Persona.
- There are PC button prompts in the console game's files, hinting there may have been plans for a PC port near the game's initial release. The PC port was not made until several years later.
- The plot of young men dying in real life if they die in their dream is a very similar plot to the Nightmare on Elm Street series, however, there is no proof of said movie series being an inspiration.
- Inside the disc of the game there is an audio file containing a remix of the wild Pokémon battle theme of Pokémon: Diamond & Pearl. It is unknown as to why such file exists.
- Catherine received two official novels, released only in Japan. These novels provide major backstory and character/story details that are not shown in the game. However, these novels spoil the game so those who wish to avoid spoilers should finish the game first. A dedicated fan translated both of them:
- Catherine on Wikipedia
- Catherine on PlayStation Store
- Catherine on Xbox Marketplace
- Catherine Classic on Steam (PC)
- Website (English)
- Website (Japanese)
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