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by Ethos

Catherine Demo Impressions & Such (Happy Valentine’s Day)

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Man oh man. Sorry I’ve been a little scarce this week gents and ladies; but I’ve been rather busy as it were. It’s Valentine’s Day today – on a Monday – so the preceding weekend was a very, uh, taxing one at work. Because I work in a restaurant. And Valentine’s Day (along with its corresponding weekend) is the occasion for many, many romantic steak dinners. I had yesterday off, but I did nothing except file my taxes and watch I Love You Phillip Morris. (Which is a good movie, by the by.) I needed a day to do jack shit.

I work today, but not until later, 5:30 in the evening to be precise. It is now 12:43. Surprisingly, I’ve already been up nearly five hours, which is highly atypical. In that time, I’ve cleaned my apartment, done a decent bit of loafing about, and played through the demo for Catherine, which is available over Xbox Live. If you’re in Japan, that is.

Well, you don’t have to be in Japan, but you need a Japanese account, which I have. So I downloaded the demo, which is almost entirely in Japanese, and played through it. Despite my utter inability to comprehend any text or speech, it was still interesting. I can’t say that it enthralled me, but it held my attention, and made me curious – though not exactly anxious – to see the final product.

To begin, the game’s hyper-stylized presentation is certainly an attention-grabber. The Atlus logo drips crimson blood, the music is dark and moody, and the colors are somewhat muted to ensure nothing ever looks bright or inviting. You’ll notice all of this before you even get past the menu screen, which is one of the more bizarre menu screens in recent memory.

After starting the demo you’re dumped into a gameplay scenario. You take on the role of some dude named Vincent, who’s caught in some crazy dreamworld with naught but his underwear and a pillow. I couldn’t understand any of the Japanese tutorials, but it didn’t matter, because the game is quite easy to pick up – you ascend a giant staircase of sorts; but to proceed, you have to push and pull several blocks, in what becomes one, long continuous puzzle to the top. There are extra lives and coins to collect on the way if you’re so inclined. It’s interesting enough, but this is clearly not an RPG, for those still wondering.

After completing the stage, which took mere minutes, I was able to see what appears to be the other half of Catherine’s gameplay: cutscenes. Suffice to say, this wasn’t terribly interesting to me, because it was all in Japanese, and I don’t know Japanese. I can say, though, that the 3D animation for the in-engine cutscenes is actually pretty good. It looks like a next-generation Persona game, which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s not as hyper-realistic and shiny as, say, Dead Space 2 – but it looks very attractive in its own right.



There was one point at which I was able to access my cell phone and read messages, which was intriguing, even though – once again –  it was all in Japanese. But, it does hint at the possibility of a Social Link-esque gameplay mechanic, where Vincent must maintain his relationships with the game’s two main female characters – Katherine and Catherine. (See what they did there?)

Next, I was dumped into another gameplay scenario, which was exactly the same as before – except this time, I had a big nasty monster hand pursuing me from below, so I had to move up those stairs fast. Still, it wasn’t terribly difficult, I made it on my first attempt. It was fun, though.

I wasn’t able to glean a whole lot from a Japanese demo, but Catherine looks… interesting. For some odd reason, when I play it, I think of  a Japanese Heavy Rain. Which makes little sense, because the gameplay is nothing like Heavy Rain… aside from the part where there’s very little gameplay to speak of. From what I’ve read, Catherine won’t be a very long game, which seems good if all there is to it is staircase-ascending interspersed between cutscenes.

Catherine looks like it could be a unique gaming experience, complete with an intriguingly dark and bizarre premise that has undeniable appeal to anyone who can appreciate some good old Japanese weirdness. But, while the demo answered a few questions, it left me roughly as confused as before. I’ll need the final product before I can predict if I’ll even like the game.

Well. I still have a good four hours before work. We’re supposed to start a new theme week tomorrow, although we probably won’t, mostly because we haven’t come up with one. In the meantime, here’s at least one more gaming confession for the week: While – unlike Ethan – I’ve completed several 2D Zelda games, such as A Link to the Past, Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons, and Link’s Awakening, I never could bring myself to finish the original Zelda for NES. In fact, I’ve only ever gotten past the first dungeon. I honestly can’t stand it, it’s a terrible game to me. Same with Zelda II, though I think the world is more willing to forgive me for that one. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I’ve never actually played The Minish Cap for GBA. I own it, though. Have for years. Maybe I should break out the ‘ol GBA and give her a go. Or buy a 3DS and download it. I am getting a thousand bucks from the government in a week or so. Last year I used it to go to Toronto. (That was almost exactly a year ago to date, now.) Maybe this year I’ll just buy a bunch of electronics. One thing’s for sure: I need a new TV in a bad way.

Oh, and I don’t usually do this, but…


For fuck’s sake, America, I don’t ask that you enjoy good music, just have the decency to respect when it is – inexplicably – recognized for being good music in place of the usual suspects. Jeezus.