Combining a mature and dark love story about the repercussions of infidelity with fast-paced puzzle-platforming may sound like a confusing recipe for disaster, but nine years ago a certain studio in ATLUS somehow managed to make it work with 2011’s Catherine. Fast-forward to the present day, and we now have Catherine: Full Body, a re-release of the bold classic that introduces an entirely new character, Rin, to the narrative, along with a plethora of new endings and gameplay extras – but just how well does this title hold up on the Nintendo Switch in 2020?
Once A Love Triangle…
Catherine: Full Body’s unusual narrative unfolds over the course of several days, centered around the love life of Vincent Brooks, a weary man in his thirties who is seemingly burdened by his relationship with his girlfriend, Katherine McBride. Even though they have been together for a good five years, Vincent cowers at the prospect of taking the next step and settling down with Katherine, and would much rather things stay as they are. But alas, a wrench gets thrown into the works when another night at the bar leads to a fateful encounter with the titular Catherine, a seductress who presents Vincent with the possibility of breaking free from the shackles of his current relationship and all the pressure it entails. However, it comes at the costly price of committing infidelity which society frowns upon.
From then on, the outcome of Vincent’s now turbulent love triangle is thrust into the player’s hands, as you are made to answer numerous questions throughout the game about the ideas of relationship, love and morals. While the results of your answers are shown in a little meter that shifts between two distinct colours, the dilemmas presented are anything but a clear-cut dichotomy. And unless you are seriously gunning for a specific ending, it’s hard to not feel personally invested into the answers you give as they encompass relatable (and sometimes uncomfortable) predicaments actual people face and make you really think about the values that you, as a person, hold. One little feature I personally liked in particular was the pie chart shown afterwards that reveals how other people (or players if you’re connected online) answered the same questions, adding a subtle element of societal pressure that complements the themes of the story.
All of that being said, the narrative isn’t just about Vincent and his two love interests, as his actions can affect the lives of those around him too. The supporting cast of the story are anything but forgettable, with each of them harboring their own personal struggles that gradually unravel as Vincent interacts with them in the social sim segments. And just like how it was with the two women, Vincent’s choice of words can affect how the other characters’ story arcs are resolved as well. It’s this theme of constantly having to make decisions throughout the story that makes Catherine: Full Body the thought-provoking game that it is, instead of just being a barebones story about mindless lust.
… Now A Love Quadrilateral
And how can we talk about Full Body without talking about the re-release’s most substantial addition: Rin? As the newly introduced third love interest of Vincent, Rin’s distinctly adorable and innocent demeanor allows Vincent to be a little more at ease whenever they’re together. It can be a little jarring to see Vincent not be the usual trainwreck that he usually is, but perhaps it’s testament to how effective Rin’s comforting presence can be to someone in such a sticky situation.
Rin’s story arc and romance is probably what many players would be most curious about in Full Body, and in the interest of avoiding spoilers I won’t go in-depth about how things went down. All I can say is that just like the character, Rin’s route was definitely unique, with additional scenes and even stages that I strongly encourage you to experience for yourself. It definitely enhances the already amazing narrative that the original Catherine had set up eight years ago, and I enjoyed it a whole lot as it managed to make itself distinct from the other routes.
However, this brings me to one of my bigger gripes with the game, which is how after a significant plot moment Rin’s presence in the story becomes seemingly non-existent if you end up in either Katherine or Catherine’s route instead, leaving behind a glaringly obvious loose end. It’s such a shame especially considering how well Rin was weaved into the earlier story moments, but if anything it makes playing through Rin’s route all the more crucial to experiencing everything Catherine: Full Body has to offer.
So what’s my overall take on the story? To put it simply, it’s provocative in every sense of the word. Some story elements might be a little too bold and not go down well with everyone, but Catherine just wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t so. And for me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Climb Your Fears
While there’s a ton of things to say about the story, it’s the actual gameplay that makes Catherine: Full Body really stand-out. In the day (or to be more specific, evening), Vincent spends his time interacting with others and making tactical decisions on how to handle his love interests in a social sim segment set in a bar, but it is only when he hits the hay in the dead of the night does the real Catherine experience truly begin.
Transformed into a sheep-man clad in his polka-dot boxers, Vincent is forced to literally escape his nightmares, which take the form of a tower of blocks that he must arrange to form staircases and bridges. And as the game progresses more mechanics are thrown into the mix, with a plethora of blocks and traps with unique effects of their own, fellow sheep-men who are more than willing to sabotage your progress to survive, and the occasional giant, grotesque thing that wants you dead. Catherine: Full Body keeps you on your toes at every moment, and the best part is that there is a ton of flexibility when it comes as to how you want to conquer each tower by utilising several techniques and items.
Depending on your experience with puzzle and/or platformer games, the gameplay may sound either too straightforward or too daunting for your liking, but Catherine: Full Body has several features that help cater the experience to the individual player. Easier difficulties stop blocks beneath you from crumbling and give you more time to come up with a way to scale the tower, and even provide an ‘undo’ feature that gives you more leeway in case you mess up. And if you’re really stuck at a certain segment or just playing for the story, there’s an ‘autorun’ and skip feature for you to use as you see fit.
On the other hand, those who are looking for a challenge can opt for a higher difficulty, which gets rid of those aforementioned safety nets and changes the experience into a more hectic one. Catherine: Full Body also introduces a brand-new ‘Remix Mode’, which turns the difficulty up to eleven as blocks begin to have different sizes.
The best part about Catherine: Full Body gameplay-wise is that it has a ton of replayability. Even though clearing all the story stages and reaching any one of the thirteen endings won’t take more than around 15 hours to do, more additional bonuses are unlocked and new story tidbits are revealed with each ending you reach. Furthermore, there are also additional game modes such as a challenge mode called Babel, in which you try to clear bonus stages as fast as you can, and online multiplayer (both competitive and co-op). There’s even an in-game arcade machine that, in a very meta fashion, mimics the gameplay of Catherine itself. There are a ton of things to see and do in this re-release and I foresee myself sinking even more hours into this engaging title.
Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
Graphically-speaking, Catherine: Full Body on the Switch runs at a consistent 30 FPS, with little to no noticeable drops even during the puzzle-platformer segments. The typical texture and resolution improvements compared to the original are also present, which I really appreciated as the game’s stylized aesthetic is one of its selling points.
The anime cutscenes by Studio 4 °C interspersed throughout the game also serve as good eye candy, capturing Shigenori Soejima’s unique art style well and emphasizing some of the more dramatic (and sometimes exaggerated) moments of the game. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that the old and new cutscenes were quite consistent in terms of their quality.
With all that being said, admittedly the Switch version of Catherine: Full Body does lose out to the PS4 version in terms of loading times and visual fidelity, albeit not by a very significant margin. Nevertheless, the Switch version does have something going for it by including all of the previously DLC-only content from the get go, along with some new exclusive ones. Being able to change Catherine’s Japanese voice to that of my favorite seiyuu added another degree of personalisation for my experience, and as a fan of the Persona series, I was thrilled at the prospect of playing as Persona 5’s Joker in the Babel and Colosseum mode. All without spending a dime on any microtransactions.
Overall, the game still looks solid on the Switch, and you’re anything but missing out by opting to play it here.
Love Is In Your Hands
The advantage of playing Catherine: Full Body wherever you want due to the Switch’s portability cannot be understated. Being able to play an engaging puzzle-platformer in short bursts on the go and then enjoying the social sim elements at my own pace or listening to the in-game jukebox in the comfort of my bed made for a highly enjoyable experience that cannot be replicated on the PS4 version.
Also, the game runs almost as perfectly in handheld mode as it does in docked mode, as compared to other resource-hungry titles on the Switch which pretty much demand being played while docked to get a serviceable experience. I really hope ATLUS maintains this level of quality in their future releases on the Switch, if not better.
Most importantly, not being restricted to the big screen means being able to watch the game’s… steamier scenes with privacy. Just like how Vincent only looks at the racy pictures Catherine sends him where he can’t be seen. How meta indeed.
Catherine: Full Body is the perfect entry point for those who have missed the original, and has more than enough meaningful new content for those on their second foray. The plot can be at times unpredictable and uncomfortable, and it’s definitely not perfect, but it’s this very boldness that allows the game to provide an insightful look at the struggles of adult life and human desire that you can hardly find anywhere else.
If you’re looking for something to fill that ATLUS-shaped hole in your heart, give Catherine: Full Body a shot. And the Switch version is the best way to do it.
- A provocative story with a diverse cast of flawed yet relatable characters
- Addictive puzzle-platforming gameplay that can be tailored to the player’s preference
- Lots of replayability in the form of additional stages, new endings and multiplayer modes
- The visuals look amazing on the Switch, whether handheld or docked
- All the previously DLC-only content is included in the cartridge, along with additional Switch exclusive content
- Some story elements might not suit everyone’s tastes
- Lack of proper closure for Rin’s story arc if you end up with the other love interests
- Reaching your first ending doesn’t take that long
- Slightly longer loading times and poorer visual quality compared to the PS4
Verdict: This soup has an unusual flavor unlike any other, but once you end up liking it you’ll definitely crave for seconds! And there’s a ton of additional servings to go around.
Soup Temperature: 9/10
A review copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.