In 2011, Atlus surprised the world with their unusual Crazy game Catherine, which touched on topics that are rarely seen in interactive works, such as family, betrayal and responsibility. In 2019, an updated reissue was released, subtitled Full Body. If the original Catherine had a lot of problems that undermined its status as an "adult game", then Full Body has even more of them.
Catherine is dedicated to the emotional turmoil of a 32-year-old man named Vincent Brooks. He has been in a relationship for many years with Katherine, a dominant careerist who seeks to control his life and insists on a quick wedding. Vincent himself is a rag and gouging, not ready to make such a serious decision and dreaming that everything remains the same. One day at a bar, he meets a pretty young blonde 10 out of 10 who takes an active interest in him - they drink together, have fun talking, and the next morning he finds her in his bed. And her name is also Katherine, only in English spelling her name does not begin with K, but with C.
Throughout the Crazy game, Vincent toils with internal contradictions. He is ashamed of the betrayal, but he cannot tell about it and hope for forgiveness. He is not ready to marry, but Katerina Sr. says that she is pregnant. Katerina Jr. continues to be in his bed in the morning, although he does not remember at all that he called her to him. And she also demands loyalty. And sends nudes. And, since Vincent is a rag, he is not able to seriously talk to any of them.
And every night he has nightmares, the death of which leads to death in reality. In them, he climbs up a wall of cubes that collapses into the abyss, which he can pull and push, turning into a makeshift staircase. Dice have different properties - some slide, others explode, others cannot be moved - and the passage of the Crazy game requires the skillful use of a wide range of tactics. Vincent will be prompted between levels by other people who have fallen into a nightmare - only they all look like sheep. A mysterious voice regularly asks him tricky questions, and the final stage of every nightmare greets Vincent with a boss who chases him down and kills him if he wasn't quick enough to climb up. The boss personifies some of his fears: a bride, for example, or a child.
Approximately half of the Crazy game is played by this platform-puzzle gameplay, while the other half is played by cutscenes and dialogue in a bar where Vincent drinks with friends every night. He also meets other visitors to the bar in nightmares (the memories of which, alas, he does not retain in reality) - the right remarks in communicating with them will help them not to give up and die. Finally, both Katerinas write him SMS, to which he can respond in different ways (but all the scenes with them go through the same scenario without the participation of the player).
That's basically the whole Crazy game. The puzzles in it are good, the gradations of difficulty levels are built very competently (easy is really easy, you will go crazy on difficult, and then you yourself will have nightmares about these blocks). Fans of this will find a lot of interesting content in Catherine. But let's be frank: puzzles in the spirit of "sokoban" are not something for which people will lay out 3,500 rubles. Not something for which this game is remembered and praised.
Let's start with the fact that it is connected with puzzle gameplay in a very conditional way. Yes, Vincent's climbing to the top can be interpreted as a metaphor for both his attempts to escape from what he cares about and his personal growth, and the wall collapsing down as a reminder that there is no turning back, as well as time for indecision. Yes, a couple of the bosses I mentioned already tell us what he's afraid of. But this, as you can see, takes a couple of lines in the description. And it takes many hours to spend for the monotonous dragging of cubes here. This is the Sisyphean labor that the game dooms us to without any serious reason.
For trying to put adults with adult problems at the center of the story, the developers certainly deserve a like. The Japanese generally do this very rarely: for the most part, their Crazy games are devoted to saving the world from some incomprehensible garbage, theomachism, overcoming, pathetic speeches about what humanity is capable of. And here is a down-to-earth life story. Is it cool? Well, it would be cool if this earthiness and vitality didn't turn out to be clickbait.
For most of the Crazy game, Vincent hesitates to tell either Katherine of the other's existence. Nothing happens, no special introspection is added - the game just pulls rubber through a series of comedy scenes where Vincent behaves ridiculously and constantly tries to come up with some kind of explanation or excuse. It is difficult to call a solid and smart Crazy game, half of which is suitable for a film adaptation with Rob Schneider in the title role.
In Catherine there is a scale, the value of which changes according to the answers chosen by the player - in the dialogues in the bar, in the answers to Catherine via SMS, in the polls that Vincent takes after each stage of the puzzle in the nightmare. Chaos on one side of the scale, order on the other. She regularly appears on the screen, emphasizing her importance: almost all the player can do in these peaceful segments is to influence the position of the arrow. Now, realize that a Crazy game that pretends to be serious, deep, about the complexities of adult life judges all actions on a binary scale.
And she does it in the most curvaceous way. It is obvious that the cheerful Katerina Jr. personifies chaos and freedom, and the sad Katerina Sr. - order and bonds (marriage). But if in SMS Katerina Sr. write polite refusals to all her remarks, then the Crazy game will consider politeness as a desire for order, like the same girl whom we dislike with our remarks. A positive answer to the question "Is it true that all men are stupid?" is considered chaotic, as is the admission that you rely on yourself when making decisions, and not on the opinions of other people.
But the ending depends on this scale. And if you answer the questions asked honestly, as your heart tells you, then the arrow will most likely go not far from the middle, and you will not see a normal ending.
Continuing the theme of different endings, it should be noted that the Crazy game begins to branch only at the very end. In other words, the person who played the most decent Vincent, who renounces the temptress and wants to get married, and the one who ignores the texts and calls of Katerina Sr. and stares at the nudes of her hot friend at every opportunity, right up to the very, very end, will follow the same path, watch the same scenes.
Among which, for example, Vincent's decision to part with Katerina Jr. and marry his longtime partner, who wipes his feet on all the player's attempts to set Vincent on the path of chaos and bring him together with a cheerful blonde. In his light, the endings, in which he asks Katerina Jr. to return literally a day and a half after parting and turns out to be the main chaos of the universe, seem to be sewn with white threads.
And when the Crazy game begins to branch, it is as opaque as possible. During the last nightmare, Vincent is asked four questions - throughout the previous game they moved the arrow on the order and chaos scale, but this time the first question does not matter, and the remaining three affect the ending to the same extent as the scale that we before that they saved the whole game. One wrong answer - and instead of confessing his love to a seductive blonde, our hero decides that he does not need a relationship. One. Damn. Answer.
Speaking of these endings. I noted earlier that Catherine's earthiness and vitality turn out to be clickbait. The fact is that the game very skillfully creates the illusion of these qualities at the beginning (everything supernatural unfolds in a dream, and there are no complaints about this). However, closer to the finale, the illusion collapses. The supernatural isn't just real, it's at the heart of the Crazy game. Katerina Jr. is a succubus, a professional swindler of men. That is, the fact that she ended up in Vincent's bed, as it were, is not his fault: maybe she even teleported there.
Ironic, isn't it? The game about responsibility itself spits on it, frees the hero from it. Katerina Sr. is not actually pregnant - the choice of the younger one no longer carries any consequences. Since Katerina Jr. is a succubus, we can say that she does not exist in reality - so Vincent, it turns out, did not cheat at all, and there is no problem, you can go down the aisle. Why then was it all?
If in the middle of the Crazy game it was possible to talk about the ambiguity of the situation in which the hero found himself, then by the end it is not. There is a clear main villain of supernatural origin, and after defeating him, we watch how ... Vincent goes to live in hell with Katerina Jr. and becomes the main demon there? It looks like Disgaea, not like "a game for adults and smart".
In the original Catherine, none of the characters were, relatively speaking, good. Vincent is a rag, a liar, an unfaithful partner. Katerina Sr. is aggressive, unforgiving, trying to control everything. Katerina Jr. is potentially unfaithful, manipulative, dangerous. On the one hand, because of this, it was difficult for them to empathize. On the other hand, welcome to adulthood, everything is complicated here and all the assholes (including the player). But the authors of Full Body took and placed a real angel in the Crazy game - a new heroine, Rin. The features of which everyone guessed from the very first trailer, after which she was nicknamed "Trapterina".
She has amnesia. She is pure and innocent like a child. She is eternally grateful to Vincent for helping her out. She plays the piano in such a way that everyone is delighted. She plays the piano even in her nightmares, helping Vincent and the other sheep deal with obstacles. She cheers everyone up, smiles at everyone. And she is also he.
Here one would think that Catherine decided to become progressive, to reveal to us the topic of homosexual relationships and the considerable difficulties associated with them. That by choosing Rin, Vincent will lose some of his friends, will be forced to sacrifice something - well, as happens in real adult life. Ah, if only.
First, in order to actually be able to choose Rin, you must correctly answer each of the series of new questions scattered throughout the game. One mistake - and you will not see new content, at the end of the Crazy game Rin will simply disappear, and then everything will be like in the original Catherine. That is, again - a guide to the teeth and no honesty in the answers.
Secondly, everyone, without exception, reacts normally to Vincent's decision to enter into a relationship with a guy. There is no ambiguity here: advice and love, everyone throws confetti into the air, cheekbones cramp from cloying.
Thirdly, when switching to Rin's scenario, the mood of the game changes a lot - you can very clearly see where the original ends and the shameful fanfic begins. Vincent, tormented by internal conflicts until the very end of the Crazy game in a normal playthrough, suddenly becomes purposeful, self-confident, loudly declaring his feelings. Parting with Katerina Jr. passes without a beating. Parting with Katerina Sr. goes as smoothly and even positively as possible. In a game about relationship difficulties, all problems are solved without a hitch by a wave of a magic wand - and Vincent turns from a trembling sheep into a hero who flies to the end on the power of love, which knows no restrictions in the form of gender or... race.
Fourth, Rin is not a boy. The whole topic of possible homosexuality goes to the trash, the game slides into an outright farce: Rin is an alien angel. And his evil brother, who is also an alien angel, is unhappy that the dirty primitive man wants to keep Rin for himself, and sends meteorites to Earth that will destroy all of humanity, if Vincent does not prove that people are not hopeless, passing another bonus set of cubic puzzle tests.
Remember how I said that Catherine favorably differed from other Japanese Crazy games that were dedicated to “saving the world from some incomprehensible garbage, theomachism, overcoming, pathetic speeches about what humanity is capable of”? Full Body turned Catherine into just that. Into the most banal, vulgar, long set of clichés. We no longer think about the hardships of adulthood, we do not shudder under the yoke of responsibility - we are fucking saving the world in the name of love. This is the worst thing that could be done with the already not perfect Catherine.
The developers of the original Catherine failed to finish the game in the same great way it started. The triumph of supernatural elements killed the ambiguity, put an end to the questions asked by the Crazy game. The authors of Full Body added their own script, which goes against the rest of the game in tone and theme, but in the plot and staging is as vulgar and inappropriate as possible.
The Crazy game has its strengths: puzzles, in Full Body, which received a ton of new content with a variety of shapes instead of simple square blocks, and a good soundtrack, and realistic dialogues with excellent localization, and excellent acting in the English dub, and nice art design, and a clear picture in the PS4 version. But in the most important thing, Catherine gave up slack - and Full Body even more so.