Catherine is no stranger to scrutiny. Upon release, the game raised eyebrows for its sexually charged marketing and bizarre imagery. In the years that followed, more progressive critics came down hard on the game for its views on women and depiction of trans people. Much hand-wringing was done, then, when Atlus announced their intention to remaster the divisive game for modern consoles. While the verdict’s still out on the long-term reception, as it stands now, Catherine: Full Body is a mostly triumphant remake that made cuts in all the right places and doubled down on what made the original so memorable.
The narrative portion of the puzzler concerns Vincent, a well-meaning but generally loathsome thirty-something dissatisfied with his longtime relationship, stuck in a dead-end job, and a bit too dependent on alcohol. His life is going in a direction of somewhat stifling but comfortable mediocrity until one day, he wakes up with a vivacious young girl in his bed – with no memory of the previous night. Throw this in with the fact that men around Vincent’s age are turning up dead all over town, and that Vincent has started to become haunted by a series of freakish, recurring nightmares, and you’ve got a recipe for an extra-spicy nervous breakdown.
A New Twist
Full Body throws a new kink into the twisty narrative with Qatherine, a young amnesiac who immediately becomes fond of Vincent after he saves her from a mysterious stalker. Nicknamed “Rin,” the young woman moves in next door to Vincent and begins working in the bar he frequents every night.
As a third romance option added specifically for this version, Qatherine represents the creative team’s newfound commitment to grappling with contemporary issues of gender and sexuality. She harbors a fairly obvious secret that challenges Vincent’s preconceived notions of what relationships look like, and offers a compelling, more emotionally stable alternative to the borderline psychotic Catherine and the controlling Katherine. Qatherine, in essence, poses a question to the player – “what if the happiness you want isn’t found where society tells you?”
In addition to Qatherine, Full Body hosts a wealth of other narrative tweaks. Many insensitive lines about a major trans character have been rewritten or chopped out entirely, and much of the dialogue concerning women in general has been retooled to not come across as myopic or even misogynistic. I have mixed feelings on this, as I felt the original’s messy depiction of gender relations was affable if a bit misguided. Still, there’s no denying that Full Body’s changes make the narrative play better in 2019, and if that gets the game in the hands of more players, that can only be a good thing.
Overall, the narrative is still the compelling, trippy delve into human sexuality and relationships that it was in 2011 – just refined and retooled.
Puzzling For Dear Life
Gameplay in Catherine remains mostly untouched. Players still climb towers of blocks, pushing and pulling their way to the top in an attempt to escape a grisly fate. However, new to this version is the Remix Mode, which throws in giant, Tetrimino-esque blocks to complicate the puzzles.
Personally, I found this new addition to the mechanics to be a massive improvement. While the original’s gameplay, limited to cubes, is still as compelling and addictive as it was in 2011, the addition of these larger, more frustrating blocks make the puzzles infinitely more complex and compelling. It’s a lot easier for a player to completely bone themselves by pulling a larger cluster of blocks out, only to find themselves stuck and unable to progress. The stakes feel higher and the solutions feel like they require more precision, which is incredibly gratifying and more challenging.
Outside of the puzzles, players will still be able to amble around the bar, chatting with patrons and making generally poor life decisions. There’s nothing really new there, outside of expanded dialogue and the addition of Rin.
Gameplay was never a point of contention with Catherine, so what was already there still feels remarkably solid. But the fact that Extra Mode exists is honestly worth the price of readmission, for the simple fact that it adds a layer of depth to an already remarkable puzzle game.
The Definitive Experience
I remain convinced of Catherine’s importance to gaming in 2019. This is a game that truly paved the way for more introspective, interpersonal storytelling the AAA gaming space, and did so by taking on the sacred cow of heterosexual relationships.
But Full Body not only manages to trim the fat off of that original story, but also adds to it in significant ways. This is a game that now poses serious questions about what we take for granted when it comes to our sexuality, and how society sets up toxic expectations of both men and women. Unlike the original, Full Body lives up to its name in that it feels like a finished thesis on society’s focus on compulsory heteronormativity and all its pitfalls, as opposed to a compelling but disjointed collection of musings on the subject. It’s a college paper as opposed to a Tumblr post, basically.
Does that mean that Catherine: Full Body is the most mature take on the subject in 2019? Not really. Does it mean that its depictions of men and women is any less reductive in their scope? Definitely not. But it is a game that has something to say and says it mostly eloquently – with the occasional rough patch of awkward and clumsy dialogue.
So while Catherine: Full Body is technically a remaster of a 2011 game, which dampens its impact a little bit, it’s less a straightforward remaster and much more of a completion of an unfinished, overdue essay. For sixty bucks, you could do a lot worse, and if you’ve never played the game, this is the definitive way to do that.
4.5 Out Of 5 Stars
A copy of Catherine: Full Body was purchased for review by The Gamer. Catherine: Full Body is now available for the PlayStation 4.