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This is Art, but is it for you??
on July 27, 2011
***This Review is Spoiler Free***
***I won't reveal anything that has not been revealed in the official trailers***
Roger Ebert wrote in his blog: "I remain convinced that in principle, video games cannot be art." Although it would be easy to bash him for his hypocrisy (he defended movies when people said they would never be an art form), the truth is he is old and out of touch with video games. I say unequivocally, that video games have surpassed movies as an art form, and Catherine is just one example why.
First thing to note, this game is ALL about the the storyline and interactions between the 3 main characters. There is a strange love-triangle between Vincent, Katherine, and Catherine. Vincent has been with Katherine for years, and is he happy? Does he want to stay with Katherine forever? A beautiful woman (Catherine) stumbles into his life, and he begins to ponder about his life. Vincent is 32 years old. This should resonate with many people who grew up in the 80s (the original "Nintendo generation"), since today most will be in their early to mid 30s. He is not married (this also resonates with many people, since today more than ever, people are not getting married until their 30s or later), has a steady girlfriend, has a job, and is actually an intelligent and sensitive guy. When Catherine shows up, he really begins to ponder his relationships and his life.
You control Vincent, and the way you interact with people has a definite outcome to the ending of the game. Will you spend your free time at the bar with your friends, or go home early? How will you respond to Katherine's and Catherine's texts? How will you interact with people in general? All your actions mean something (as in real life), and will affect the world around you! This storyline, and you determine how it will end, is told through gorgeous cartoon-like scenes, and everything is fully voiced by professional voice actors who did a fantastic job! The dialogue is mature, well written, funny, and fairly realistic. The problems you (Vincent) and other people face, is (for the most part) very real. Who has reached their 30s and has never had relationship issues? Who does not from time to time ponder how their life is going and would they be more happy if...? However, the game is not just a melodrama. It also beautifully combines horror and humor! The dialogue as I said is very well written and funny. Even during "frightening" moments, the dialogue can make you laugh out loud. The dialogue also makes you think, but let's talk about the horror aspect. To discuss this, lets also talk about the meat of the game.
The core of this game is a platform-puzzle. It takes place during Vincent's nightmares. During these stages you have to reach the top of a structure formed from blocks. First, the game has been criticized for it's difficulty. I played the game on the "Easy" setting, and for the most part it is fairly straightforward. You certainly will die (quite often) even on Easy (at least the first time you play the game), however it is not frustrating. In fact, ATLUS USA toned down the difficulty level, so that Easy for North American costumers is substantially easier than the original Japanese release. However, if you are still worried about the difficulty, ATLUS even includes a "very easy" option! I have not yet played the game on Normal, but I am certain it will be MUCH more difficult than Easy, and there is in fact a Hard level of difficulty... which will likely be quite the challenge! Anyway, the point is, do not worry too much, since you will certainly be able to get through the game. Now then, about the platforming, as I said, you need to climb. You climb a series of blocks which you can push or pull to open up paths. A simple premise, but there is a lot of skill and variety involved. There are numerous ways to reach the top, and the faster you climb the higher your score (your score has no affect on the storyline and is for bragging purposes only). This game requires thinking! If you enjoy puzzle games, you will likely enjoy this game. When you first play, the controls may seem a bit awkward, for instance, sometimes you'll find you pushed a block when you did not mean to do so, because the controls are so sensitive. It's OK, ATLUS has included an "undue" feature! You can undue your moves quickly, and try again, with no penalty! This "undue" feature is available for the Easy and Normal modes. Now then, is the puzzle-part of the game actually fun? Yes, very fun. However, if you do not enjoy puzzle games, then you should skip this game. For everyone else, welcome!
I LOVE the music in this game! It's a combination of soothing jazz, with arrangements of classic music. The music really hits the spot, and in my opinion is perfect. If you enjoy "fantasy" music (either in games or movies), then I think you will very much enjoy the music here. When the action gets fierce (and it does), the classical music also gets fierce (yes, you'll be surprised, classical music can be fierce)! When you reach the top, and have survived the nightmare, you will be rewarded with Handel's Messiah (and it sounds great)! All the classical music is arranged, which means that this is NOT the "normal" arrangements that you can purchase online or listen to at a performance. The arrangements were specifically made for this game, and not only are they lovely and catchy, but you get a FREE CD SOUNDTRACK of these arrangements if you pre-ordered the game (I believe every first print of the game comes with an artbook and soundtrack)!
You probably noticed that I did not talk much about graphics. The reason being that you have likely already seen the trailers and know what the graphics are like. They are beautiful. However, you should NOT purchase this game for the graphics. You SHOULD purchase this game if you want a game with a deep, original, and fascinating storyline. The game does not hold back on the mature content. However, keep in mind that mature content does NOT mean pornographic material! I will say this once: other than a bit of cleavage and maybe a buttocks, THERE IS NO NUDITY HERE! This game is NOT "Leisure Suit Larry", your goal is NOT to score! If you're a teenage boy (either physically or mentally) and you just want to play this game because 'Catherine is hot... oh yeah... hot' then you are going to be very disappointed. Vincent is a mature man, and the game ultimately asks just one question: What is love? There is nothing more mature in art and literature, then the question of love.
+++Original and thought-provoking storyline that is superbly presented! THIS IS INTERACTIVE ART!
+++Beautiful graphics, and fantastic music!
+++Top notch voice acting!
+++Various difficulty levels so everyone can finish the game!
+++Different endings depending on YOUR choices!
+++Humor and horror combined in a wonderful way that few games can match!
+++If you get a first print of the game, you get a free artbook and SOUNDTRACK!
-Well, the game is relatively short (first time through will be 10-20 hours). However, with different endings and difficulty levels (as well as multiplayer) you can come back for more!
-MSRP is $60. That's quite a bit. The price will definitely go down. However, you might not get the soundtrack (which would be a shame). Honestly, this is $60 very well spent, and if you get it for less, even better (but trust me, you want this soundtrack :)
Are you looking for something original, fresh, with a storyline and characters that most men AND women in their 30s can really relate to? Something with beautiful animated cut-scenes, fantastic music, and a mature storyline that is NOT about saving the world? In that case, welcome to Catherine! Catherine is the latest example of how video games can make us think, laugh, and even get teary-eyed. This is a true work of art!