Saturday, November 2, 2019

Catherine: Full Body - Aged Like A Fine Wine

Eight years after the original release of Catherine (aka Catherine Classic), Atlus released an updated version titled Catherine: Full Body, which among other things included a number of quality-of-life changes, remastered graphics and its main selling point, a third possible love interest for Vincent named Rin (short for Qatherine). As much as I enjoyed the original game, it was also flawed in some areas, so I was curious to see what the Full Body version had to offer, pre-ordering the “Hearts Desire” Premium Edition to go with the “Love Is Over” Deluxe Edition I own for the Classic release. After going through it once to see what a Rin Route looked like, I will say I found the Full Body re-release to be superior to the original on a technical level in just about every way, though the execution of the additional story content is a little iffy.

The story is similar to the Classic version, though with an added twist. One night, Rin runs away from a monster before running into Vincent. After it turns out Rin has amnesia, Vincent and his friends set Rin up with the apartment next to Vincent’s, as well as a job as a piano player at the Stray Sheep bar. When Vincent starts having nightmares one night while dating Katherine and after meeting a mysterious girl named Catherine, he starts seeing Rin in the nightmare as a piano player. While this already raises questions for Vincent, it turns out Rin is able to remember the nightmares the next morning while Vincent cannot.

The introduction of Rin is interesting, in that it provides something new for those who have already played Catherine Classic and adds extra replay value to the game. Additionally, the game goes out of its way to establish Rin as part of the game’s world, adding some new scenes (including new animations by Studio 4°C) and extending others where necessary; among these new scenes is a set of new endings for each romantic option, which greatly increases the replay value of the game. If you’re already familiar with the original Catherine, however, the implementation of Rin can feel a little awkward at first, though it starts to feel more natural as the story progresses, especially if one decides to go for a Rin Route; accessing and maintaining the Rin route also requires answering questions in a very specific manner (guides for this aren't too difficult to find online). Similarly to Catherine: Full Body, Atlus also has plans to introduce new characters to the Persona 5 universe via the upcoming Persona 5 Royal re-release, so it would be interesting to see how things work out in that game as well.

Rin/Qatherine, the new romance option
in the Full Body version.

The gameplay is similar to the original Catherine as well, except a number of quality-of-life changes have been introduced to both ease up the original’s infamous difficulty and provide a much smoother experience. For starters, when hanging off the edge of a block, the edges of the blocks in the row you are on now glow to indicate which ones you are currently able to grab onto, plus there is now the option (on lower difficulties at least) to let part of the stage play itself in case you get really stuck; the latter seems intended to be used only for tight situations, however when I tried out this feature in the Full Body demo just to see how it would work on an entire stage, I found that it (in my opinion) immediately removed all the fun from the puzzle stages when used outside of its intended purpose. Related, the originally patched-in Very Easy difficulty, renamed to Safety, is available from the start in the main menu, although I was able to finish the game on Easy difficulty without needing to resort to switching to Safety; there is, however, a Trophy you can get for attempting to unlock another difficulty by pressing and holding the touch pad at the difficulty selection screen multiple times.

Additionally, a few of the items have been reworked to make things easier, such as the Block item creating a 3x3 arrangement of blocks instead of generating a single block, and Energy Drinks allowing a limited number of uses (max. 3) and functioning more akin to Spring Blocks as opposed to a temporary power-up. On that note, Spring Blocks also seem to have gotten a minor redesign, with the top of the block redrawn to better differentiate it from other blocks and have it read more as a spring. On a Rin Route, there is an extra set of nightmare stages that introduce Laser Blocks, which fire a laser forward at certain intervals, adding a new layer of challenge. Another nice feature is that the narrator will remind you of the Undo feature in times where it seems like you are stuck, in addition to a new feature where Rin’s piano playing will prevent the bottom row of blocks from falling in most stages if you find yourself falling that far behind in the level.

For veterans of Catherine, the game adds a new option to play with Remix puzzles, which feature new puzzle layouts and new types of blocks that form tetromino-like shapes instead of only single blocks. While this does make levels seem easier at first, the Remix puzzles quickly establish their own challenge as you learn to be careful when or when not to use these blocks to advance and how to use them to your advantage. Interestingly, while I’m unsure whether it negates most boss powers, the game actually does take these blocks into account when dealing with certain stage hazards like Bomb Blocks or similar, with Remix blocks turning into a set of Cracked Blocks when affected in this manner.

Remix puzzles have their own level of challenge (Boss battle pictured).

Stray Sheep stages play out similarly to the original game, however there is new content in the form of being able to talk to Rin as well as new text messages from Katherine, Catherine and Qatherine. There are also new interesting sheep in the nightmare stages that you can talk to, and if you interact with them enough you can even convince them to show up at the bar in person during the late game. One notable change that I liked was that text messages are now written through a series of drop-down menus that change depending on your choices, rather than the more awkward way of having to continuously select and deselect the passages you are attempting to type. Another much-appreciated addition is a more visible indicator of the passage of time, in that a set-up similar to the scene transitions in cutscenes appears when you perform enough actions in the bar to warrant them.

As with the original Catherine, Full Body features some interesting and useful alcohol trivia when you drink enough times, however this time the game not only features all-new trivia different from the original game, it also replaces the Whiskey trivia with Wine trivia, which is fitting as the subtitle of Full Body derives its name from the drink. While this does allow veteran players to learn something different (ex. I learned that red wine derives its grading system from the female figure due to how it’s made differently than white wine), there is the side-effect of new players legitimately wanting to learn the alcohol trivia having to either play the original game or look up said game’s trivia online to learn more (not to mention a Rin Route is required to hear everything that Full Body has to offer). However, I did encounter a major glitch that appears to not be uncommon, in which on the final night I was not able to hear, or receive the trophy for hearing, all of the wine trivia, which would necessitate a second playthrough to try and hear what I missed since I’m not sure what happened to trigger the glitch in the first place.

Aside from that, the Rapunzel side game in the bar has been replaced by Super Rapunzel, which features Classic or Remix puzzles of its own depending on your choice before you started the game as well as a new hint system in case you get stuck, and completed Super Rapunzel puzzles can also be freely accessed from your in-game phone once you finish the main story so you can play them again whenever you want.

In addition to a remastered soundtrack, including a fuller version of the Super Rapunzel theme called “Rapunzel: Full Body”, the game also features a handful of new tracks, including additional pieces based on classical music. Among these new songs, a few highlights include Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata Op 27-2” and a rocked-up version of Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” from his music drama Der Ring des Nibelungen. Another standout includes the end credits song, “Ode to Rapture”, a similarly rocked-up take on Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9”, as well as its follow-up “Music Box of Joy” that plays after some endings. Additionally, some new music is added to the Stray Sheep jukebox over the course of the game, including the original versions of songs from the Catherine Classic release as well as select tracks from across the Persona series up to Persona 5.

The voice acting in Full Body is good, especially since they managed to get everyone from the original game to reprise their roles, including the increasingly high-profile Troy Baker returning as Vincent. The re-recorded audio sounds a lot better than it did in the original release, as there are no longer any audible hisses whenever someone makes an “s” sound, with the returning voice actors managing to replicate their original delivery while still utilizing whatever experience they may have had within the eight years between releases. The new audio is also performed well, with the new scenes adding depth to the actors’ respective characters, though a highlight among the new talent is Brianna Knickerbocker as the more soft-spoken Rin.

On top of all the changes introduced to the base game, Catherine: Full Body also offers some paid DLC, including Japanese audio tracks and extra playable characters from the game’s cast for use in the more challenging Babel mode and the competitive Colosseum mode, as well as (for some reason) a pair of glasses that allows you to see every character in their underwear during gameplay. One highlight, however, is the ability to play as Joker from Persona 5 in both Babel in Colosseum, which includes audio commentary from other members of the Phantom Thieves of Heart. There is also a bundle that allows you to get all four items of DLC at once, however I’m personally more interested in the opportunity to play as Joker.

Joker from Persona 5 is now a playable
character through $4 DLC.

Catherine: Full Body is superior to the original Catherine in just about every way. A lot of the gameplay has been improved or re-balanced to make the block puzzles more interesting, plus the new story scenes and characters add to the existing story in a way that makes for a fuller experience. Alcohol trivia glitch aside, enough new content was brought to the table to make this game a good starting point for those who have never played Catherine before, in which case I would recommend starting with Classic puzzles to get the full experience of the original before trying again with Remix puzzles. If the alcohol trivia is what you’re after, I would recommend picking up the original Catherine as well, at a good price.

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