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Catherine was always a game about Catherine. Sure, you played as Vincent Brooks, a non-committal dude caught between two women—his girlfriend of five years and the younger woman he's cheating on her with—but the blonde, pigtailed Catherine was always the catalyst. The two women, Catherine and Katherine, represent two sides of Vincent. Pining for Katherine is the honorable thing to do, while Catherine represents one's darker tendencies. Yet, the focus was always on Catherine, from the marketing to the twisty narrative itself.
Life has come a long way since I had that "Catherine eating pizza" key art pinned to a corkboard all through college, and Catherine: Full Body seems to know that too. The remaster, now twisted in specific ways, still has the campy tone of the original—the intro still bills itself as a romance horror—but it has a less pessimistic spin to it. New animated cutscenes flesh out Katherine and Vincent's relationship better, showing how they kindled their romance in the first place. When Catherine enters the picture, the guilt of allegedly sleeping with her is far more palpable than it was in the original game as a result. You're never told where or why it went wrong with Katherine; you're only shown when it was at its best, and it's up to you to assume what slipped along the way.
But there's another route now too, with the new romantic interest Rin. Rin's a kind-hearted person who appears way younger than both Katherine and Catherine in style, personality, and emotional maturity. While Rin is endearing as a character in the world of Catherine, as a romantic pursuit, it felt off. Their relationship feels much more big brother and little sister-esque than romantic.
The story's choice-based progression evolves in the same way as the original: in the decisions you make while hanging out at the Stray Sheep bar. There you talk to its customers and learn about their own issues, catch up with your friends, drink, play the in-game puzzle arcade cabinet Rapunzel, and even talk to Rin, who Erica and the Boss of the bar have taken in as an employee. Vincent texts Katherine, Catherine, and Rin during these segments, swapping photos and choosing text messages very carefully. The Stray Sheep has a nifty jukebox too, where you can play a number of tracks from Catherine, Persona 5, Persona 4, and more's respective soundtracks. (You bet your ass I had Persona 3's "Burn My Dread" playing on loop.)
The romances with any of the characters progress in much the same way as it did in the original, with a helpful good or bad meter depending on your dialogue and text choices. Rin's the trickiest to romance of the three, so much so that even though I purposefully flirted with Rin over text to see the new route, I had to play through Catherine a second time to see that romance through as my first journey pivoted toward Katherine. (The second time I skipped the puzzles, which you can do after clearing, to focus on the other story direction.) Like the base game, there are many different levels of endings. Full Body features new endings for both Catherine and Katherine—the latter of which I saw in one of my playthroughs is a real treat.
As a result of the extra character, there are way more cutscenes than the original game. It's a mostly inelegant solution to slide in Rin's plot, which takes place separate from everything else aside from a few instances. If anything, it's an excuse to have more screentime with Erica, the sassy waitress at the spot Vincent and his buddies regular, who was among the most endearing and least developed characters of the 2011 version. Thankfully Catherine: Full Body's localization fixes some of the frustrating ways Erica's character is handled from the original game.
The voice acting across Full Body—note, I played with English voice over, though there is now a Japanese VO track too—helps elevate the long cutscenes, at least. (This was Troy Baker and Laura Bailey before they were in everything, after all.) The visuals, as it's been ported to Persona 5's unique engine, look sharper on the modern hardware. It's not a dramatic difference, think like how Persona 5 looked on PlayStation 3 versus PlayStation 4, but it looks better than ever.
And that brings me to what you're doing when you're not watching cutscenes or boozing at the Stray Sheep: climbing up intimidating towers. Full Body shakes it up even more with its new "Remix" mode for the puzzles that make up the bulk of gameplay. In the puzzles, which are set in Vincent's nightmares, he climbs horrifying towers of blocks, pushing and pulling individual cubes to make his way upward. In Remix, Tetris-like clusters of blocks enter the mix. The puzzles are still nail-bitingly difficult, only now they have certain edges to make them more friendly to players. For instance, now there's an Auto mode so if you die, it can play you automatically back up to the point where you got stuck. I played a little bit with it on and felt like I was cheating, so I turned it off.
And it's the puzzles, to me, that are the star of Catherine: Full Body. The Remix mode's blocks add fresh complexity to the puzzles, which have already been fueling a niche competitive community for close to a decade now. Full Body's spicy shake-up will be the tequila shot it needs to keep thriving in those back corners of Evo.
It's been weird to come back to a game that I once loved so dearly. A lot has changed in the space of games, and in players' lives, since Catherine's release eight years ago. At the time, it was a bombshell; we didn't have many games so squarely aimed at adults—especially ones dealing with issues like infidelity. In 2019, that rareness is much leaner. Most triple-A games nowadays have some uber-serious, mature bend to them now.
As a result, I appreciate the campier tone in Catherine: Full Body. Even if the Rin plot is mostly a weak addition that doesn't quite sandwich into the rest of the story smoothly, with Katherine better fleshed out, the draw of both Catherine and Katherine is at least more compelling one this go-around, and the social sim elements of loitering around a bar remains a cool way to pass the time in-between hellish puzzles. I may be older and wiser now, but you can't deny the joy of climbing the shit out of a bunch of blocks.
ConclusionThe new additions to Catherine: Full Body are mostly a win, with sharper graphics, more complex puzzles (and better hand-holding for players intimidated by them), and more background on Katherine in particular. Where it lacks though is in the new romance route, which is awkwardly shoehorned in and feels too separated from the rest of the story. Still, for Catherine fans, Full Body has enough nightmare-inducing goodness to make it worth another round 'til last call.