Catherine Classic (PC) - better late than never

Catherine Classic (PC) – better late than never

Years after seemingly being forgotten, the creators of Persona release the first of two remasters for their provocative puzzle hybrid.

The thing we most enjoy about politicians and other busybodies getting riled up about sexual content in video games is the fact that, broadly speaking, there is none. There may be skimpy clothing in abundance but even supposedly adult-minded games, like Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto, can barely mount the courage for more than a soft focus shot of someone’s breasts.

This prudish attitude is entirely the fault of the American market and if the French or Japanese had their way things would be very different. In fact they are in Japan, where low budget hentai titles flood the PC market and indulge every form of debauchery known to man and tentacle monster. But that’s hardly any more mature an attitude and comes no closer to trying to portray that which obsesses every other form of art in existence: love.

Coming from the creators of Persona, the level of confident storytelling and subtle characterisation in Catherine is all the more impressive given how inexpertly other games handle the same subjects. This isn’t a simple Hollywood love story, where two people who have only known each other for minutes instantly fall for each other. It’s a story about a thirtysomething man with commitment problems and two very different women that he must choose between.

Catherine Classic (PC) - Vincent has some serious issues

Catherine Classic (PC) – Vincent has some serious issues

As the game begins Vincent’s long term girlfriend Katherine ups the ante regarding their relationship and begins talking about marriage and even parenthood. Vincent’s reaction to this is something close to terror, as he retreats to his favourite watering hole, the Stray Sheep, to whine to his semi-sympathetic friends.

It’s there that he meets the younger and more seductive Catherine, and after waking up with her the next morning his troubles – both psychological and otherwise – really begin.

As you might gather this is not the usual sort of set-up for a video game, but the presentation is wonderfully assured, with a mixture of anime cut scenes and some excellent cel-shaded visuals. The dialogue won’t win any literary awards but by video game standards, and especially considering the subject matter, they’re very good – a notch above the earnest but sometimes unconvincing voiceovers.

If you’re wondering where the video game aspect comes into it, it’s first important to point out that this is not a role-playing game in any shape or form. Most of the storytelling takes place in the Stray Sheep bar and other enclosed areas, and although you can wander off and talk to people as you wish there’s no other action of any real kind. Or at least not in the waking world anyway…

Vincent’s dreams revolve around a strange block-pushing puzzle game and this is where the other kind of life and death decision is taken. Each stage takes place on a crumbling tower where Vincent is pursued by a perverted image of his most current fear.

His goal is to make it to the exit at the top, moving blocks to create stairways or removing them so that the ones above fall into a more useful pattern. Although gravity is in effect in that sense, blocks only have to be touching along one edge to remain suspended in midair. As the game progress additional obstacles come into play, such as icy blocks and extra antagonists, but the basics remain the same.

Catherine Classic (PC) - hopefully this is all a prelude to a full sequel

Catherine Classic (PC) – hopefully this is all a prelude to a full sequel

The puzzle game does figure into the main plot – an early news report reveals that young men are being found dead in their sleep and Vincent meets a range of transformed sheep-men in his dreams – but the connection with the rest of the game is often tenuous at best. That’s not to suggest it’s not fun in its own right, the fact that the game has its own esports scene proves that, but it and the story sections do feel barely related at times.

The game features a morality system of a sort, where you’re presented with a tough but binary quandary at the end of every puzzle stage. How you respond to events in the real world, including a simple but flexible text-messaging communication system, also factors into the movement of a scale between law and chaos. This isn’t a measure of good and bad morals though, but instead societal norms.

Accordingly there are eight different possible endings to the game, although we were disappointed in the direction the story took in its final hours. It doesn’t come completely out of nowhere, if you bear in mind the rest of the events, but it does cheapen some of the game’s more intelligent attempts to address issues such as commitment, love, companionship, and even the sanctity and importance of marriage.

Catherine (the game, not the woman) certainly isn’t perfect but it’s a bold attempt to ignore all accepted wisdom about what a video game should be and what it should talk about. It’s also seven years old at this point, so to say this new PC version is late is something of an understatement.

Although the game does run at 4K, with an unlocked frame rate, this still feels more like a port than a true remaster, which is all the stranger given that Catherine: Full Body – a proper remaster featuring new content and a new love interest – is being released this year on PlayStation 4.

There’s no indication yet whether this PC version will receive the same content, so we can only assume that this was released ahead of it simply to raise awareness of a great, but now largely forgotten, game. It certainly never ushered in a new age of more sexually-charged video games and that’s a shame. But perhaps this belated revival can help share the love.



Catherine Classic

In Short: An adult video game that is neither exploitative nor pretentious, but instead weaves a fun yet incisive tale about all too human characters.

Pros: Compelling characters and excellent presentation, with visuals that have aged very well. Fun and surprisingly competitive puzzle element.

Cons: The puzzle sections have only a tenuous connection to the rest of the game. Some mediocre voiceovers and hit-or-miss end game.

Score: 8/10

Formats: PC (reviewed)
Price: £14.99
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Atlus
Release Date: 10th January 2019
Age Rating: 18

Email [email protected], leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter

ADVERTISEMENT