As of yesterday, the Catherine demo has hit the Xbox Live and PSN Japanese marketplaces. What’s Catherine? It’s the newest creation by the Atlus Persona Team, and the first Atlus Team title to officially partake in the realm of HD. The game stars Vincent, a man who starts having nightmares the night he meets the girl of his dreams: Catherine. Regular ol’ nightmares would be fine, except for the fact that if Vincent dies in his nightmares, he dies in real life.
If you haven’t already created a Japanese account – do it! It’s a pretty simple affair, it’s free, and it doesn’t take much time. For those of you who can’t make one, feel free to hit the jump and see what Catherine is all about.
For starters, to find the demo on the PSN, log into the JP Playstation Store, and access the second tab on the left side of the menu – you’ll find Catherine as one of the first entries – it’s a pinkish square box. While it is a bit of solace that the options and main menu are in English, the controls are not – so you really have to wing it initially before you get the hang of it!
Now before you get all giddy that this is the next big thing, keep in mind that Catherine is primarily a block-moving puzzle title that runs on the Gamebryo Engine. Yep, you read that right. During his dreams, Vincent must escape monsters who want to rip him limb from limb by climbing up a series of block based staircases. Catherine herself, to me, seems to be a Succubus, which is apparent due to the fact that the game is highly sexualized. Vincent is torn between his girlfriend of five years, Katherine, and, well, the sultry [and probably evil] Catherine.
While a lot of you are probably considering close this page out right now, as a fan of Intelligent Qube, I actually don’t mind the gameplay at all. Think of it as an Intelligent Qube that ascends instead of the action taking place horizontally – much like a vertical shmup compared to a “hori”.
If you’re expecting me to understand everything that’s going on, I only have a very small understanding of conversational Japanese, and zero comprehension of kanji, so bear with me! For the purposes of this demo, you can only select the Golden Theater mode (the Story mode), and the easy difficulty.
Once you jump in, you’re greeted with a pretty awesome grindhouse-esque anime cutscene, featuring various film genre homages such as detective noir, space exploration, and even the horror classic The Ring. Vincent’s actions are pretty simple to control; or at least in this demo they are. He can jump up blocks, and either push or pull them, as well as control the camera, and rewind an action with the select button – on paper, it doesn’t look like a whole lot.
Surprisingly, despite how simple the gameplay seems, it’s actually pretty deep, and frenetic. Vincent’s tower is constantly crumbling, and you have to push and pull your way to the top, with various powerups, cash, and extra lives to pick up. You have ten lives (which are represented by pillows), and from what has been reported, if you run out, the game is over. Once you actually get to the top of the first demo tower, you’re greeted with a lengthy cell shaded anime cutscene featuring a meal between Vincent and his [non-demonic] girlfriend Katherine.
If you don’t understand Japanese at all, you can probably skip it. After that, there’s another lengthy cutscene in a bar with Vincent and his buddies, and then it’s onto the second, and last level of the demo. Both cutscenes have a very Quentin Tarantino “diner talk” feel, as not a whole lot of action is going on. If I had to guess, Vincent lives a pretty boring life by day, but in his dreams, he’s getting a bit more excitement. Whether Vincent will crave this excitement (and subsequently, Catherine over Katherine) later in the game is yet to be seen.
After that cutscene, there’s another level (Level 2: The Prison of Despair). During this stage, you apparently have the limited ability to create your own block wherever you see fit: and just as well, as demonic giant hands holding a bloody fork are constantly in view, trashing the blocks below your feet! This level plays out basically the same as the first one, and after you’re done, you’re rewarded with three minutes of various cutscenes showing what the game will be like, including a pretty intense scene where Catherine meets Katherine, and is not happy about it.
The only reservation I had with Catherine was that it probably wasn’t exciting enough to warrant “twenty hours” (as previously reported by Japanese magazines) of play. While the cutscenes and side sections are going to be pretty exciting, I doubt many gamers will want to move blocks for a minimum of ten hours. Thankfully, there’s at least a multiplayer mode for two players – details are scarce, but you can bet we’ll be covering Catherine as much as possible in the coming months.
If you need help making a PSN account, feel free to contact me!