Have you ever had a nightmare where you are being chased up a tower of blocks by an evil giant deranged baby, or have demonic sheep that want to push you off to your doom? I hadn’t until I played Catherine: Full Body! Taking a huge departure from what you would expect from games developer Atlus, who are renowned for their Role Playing Game series, Persona, Catherine: Full Body is instead a merge of two genres – during the day it’s a social simulation visual novel with distinct adult themes, then at night the gameplay changes into a twisted nightmare hellscape of tower block puzzles.
Atlus also have a tendency for releasing remade/enhanced ports of there titles a few years down the line and Catherine: Full Body is no different, with it being a greatly enhanced port of the originally released ‘Catherine’, which came to PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and the Xbox 360 back in 2011, with a PC port launching back in 2019. Catherine: Full Body also saw an initial release back in late 2019 on the PlayStation 4 and now, almost a year later, the game debuts on the Nintendo Switch.
The story of Catherine: Full Body follows Vincent, a man in his early 30’s, who is struggling to come to terms with his adult responsibilities. Set in Vincent’s local bar, the Stray Sheep, which is where he meets with friends to get drunk and escape from his issues, the story mainly focuses on Vincent’s relationship with his long-term girlfriend, Katherine.
Vincent is unable to fully commit to Katherine and is unsettled by the talk of marriage. As such, he finds himself led astray and ends up drunkenly cheating on Katherine with the provocative blonde bombshell and aptly named ‘Catherine’. Where Catherine: Full Body greatly departs from the original game is by further complicating Vincent’s relationship issues by adding a third love interest, the rather innocent and cute Rin, who begins to work at the Stray Sheep as a piano player and also moves in as Vincent’s next-door neighbour.
Rather surprisingly, considering that the inclusion of Rin as a main selling point of the re-release, your choices can have a major impact as to how much or little Rin plays within the relationship part of the story. You can literally make the games relationship thread follow that of the original release, however, Rin’s inclusion is seamlessly included into the game through new and re-recorded cutscenes – altogether, Atlus has done an incredible job of fitting including her in a natural way.
The story elements of the game play out by allowing you to roam the Stray Sheep, chatting to your friends and the strangers that dwell at the bar, whilst the multitude of story branches are determined by your email interactions with the female protagonists and within the confessional booth located in the nightmare sections of the game. How you respond to these choices affects a morality meter that isn’t technically good vs bad, but more in favour of the female protagonist that you have the most interest in.
The variety of choices create a total of 13 different endings to Catherine: Full Body, some of which are entirely new to this edition of the game. This does offer a good amount of replay value, however, some of the endings are rather weak and unsatisfying. The game took me just under 10 hours to complete on the initial run through but you came cut that time down dramatically on subsequent playthroughs by skipping cutscenes, and even the puzzle elements, on the ‘Safety’ difficulty setting.
I would definitely recommend seeing at least one ending for each of the female cast, especially Rin’s relationship branch, as not only does it offer you some more bonus nightmare puzzle stages but the story is brilliantly handled, with an excellent twist, and has an absolutely bonkers ending.
As a whole, the story is incredibly strong and engrossing – it’s not often you find a story that centres around morality and cheating on your loved one. A real highlight is the banter between the heavily male-dominated friendship group which at times is often hilarious and feels incredibly authentic due to how well written it is.
The Nintendo Switch has a multitude of visual novels and even now, having grown up with Nintendo consoles, I’m often quite surprised by how much mature and dark content Nintendo is allowing on the Switch, which you would never have found on the older Nintendo generation of consoles which were very ‘child friendly’. This is certainly not a game for the younger audiences, hence its 18-rating, as there is an abundance of strong adult themes present throughout with the inclusion of sexual references and partial-nudity.
The infidelity that Vincent partakes in plays on his mental health and stress levels which has a major impact on his sleep. Vincent begins to have nightmares where he literally has to climb for his life before the tower crumbles or have evil monstrosities, such as nightmarish versions of his love interest, chase him up the tower. This is where the gameplay of Catherine: Fully Body drastically switches from a visual novel to become a block puzzle game, and an often frustrating and tense one at that, especially on the higher difficulty settings.
These nightmare challenges focus on rearranging the blocks to open pathways for Vincent to be able to climb to reach the top. As he climbs the tower collapses beneath him so Vincent needs to outpace this or he will fall to his death. It all sounds like a very simplistic mechanic, however, with the stress of having a timer and the depth to some of the puzzles with not only standard blocks to traverse but ones with additional functions including traps or slippery surfaces, these sections can really be quite a challenge.
Thankfully, there are items to collect to assist like a pillow that will return you to the last checkpoint if you die or a bible that will remove all enemies. On the note of dying, the Full Body edition adds a multitude of gameplay difficulty options and this most definitely helps if you are finding the nightmare puzzle sections rather vexing.
The ‘Full Body’ release goes a step further and now even includes a new ‘Safety’ mode which removes the timer and most of the threats, adds an autoplay function where you will automatically climb the shortest route, or you can just skip the puzzle section in its entirety and just focus on the game’s story.
For those that have played the original release, Catherine: Full Body has you covered by giving you the option to play the story stages in either Classic mode with unaltered stages, or Remix mode which features a new block type that greatly affects the puzzle layout and how you traverse the tower. This is definitely recommended for those wanting more of a challenge from the get-go or just want to have a completely refreshing experience from the original.
For those that enjoy the nightmare stages and really want to test their skills, Catherine: Fully Body builds upon the games optional modes, Babel and Colosseum, by including additional stages. Babel is a one or two-player game mode with four main themed towers to climb where the arrangement of block patterns change each time you challenge a stage, while the Colosseum mode instead pits you against another player to see who can reach the top or last the longest.
Also included is a dedicated competitive Online Arena mode with a full ranking system. I waited until after the game release date to see how well the online mode functioned. It’s a little bit hit-and-miss and that could largely be because the install base of the game isn’t huge yet. Sometime I would connect to a match really quickly and would have no issues – it’s incredibly good fun trying to rush up the blocks before your opponent or manipulate the blocks so they are trapped and can’t progress. It’s really satisfying pushing a block they are standing on off the edge so they fall to their doom.
Unfortunately, I’ve also had occasions of lengthy waits for a match and lag issues where it has got so bad that the match has frozen and forces you out. Hopefully, connection issues will only improve over time once more people are playing the game.
Lastly, the Full Body edition even adds more stages to the Super Rapunzel arcade mini-game that you can find within the Stray Sheep. This quirky pixelated mini-game follows the same block puzzle principles of the core gameplay and now offers double the amount of stages taking the total over 500. I do, however, have to question whether the game really needed more of the same style of puzzles as a mini-game. I feel that something different would have made a nice alternative, even if the reasoning for this mini-games inclusion as a block puzzler is mentioned in one of the endings.
Visually, Catherine: Fully Body is a real treat. The attractive anime cutscenes are of high-quality and the art direction is really stylish and vibrant. This is especially seen at the Stray Sheep setting, where there are even some minor visual tweaks and improvements when compared to the original release by giving the bar better lighting and sharper colouring. Also, the nightmare puzzle environments aren’t as ‘foggy’ as they once were in the original, however, these dungeon styled environments, featuring prison cages full of sheep or torture devices, lack some creativity and often come across as quite bland. For me, it isn’t until you reach Rin’s bonus stages that the nightmare environments really start to visually excel – but I won’t spoil that surprise…
Complimenting the all-round production quality within the game is the excellent voice acting on offer. Troy Baker stars as Vincent and, as expected, does an incredible job of expressing Vincent’s mood swings and making him highly likeable, even if he is technically being unfaithful to his partner. The supporting cast is voiced just as strong and help to create characters that are entertaining and highly believable.
Atlus is also renowned for having strong soundtracks within their games through composer Shoji Meguro, and Catherine: Fully Body is no different with an exceptional track listing of catchy tunes ranging from jazz, classical, rock and hip hop influences. These tunes can also be played in the jukebox located in the Stray Sheep and even includes a multitude of songs from the Persona series.
In addition to the story, gameplay modes and different difficulty settings within Catherine: Full Body, this edition also includes the DLC that released for the 2019 PS4 release.
This features the Catherine ‘Ideal Voice’ Set which gives you nine new Japanese voice dubs for the Catherines; Horn-Rimmed Glasses that allow Vincent to see many characters in their swimsuits and underwear (this isn’t as perverted as you may think and is quite amusing to use at times); Persona 5 Joker Character and Commentary Set which makes Joker a playable character in Babel and Colosseum modes, and lastly the Catherine Playable Character Set which makes other cast members, such as Orlando and Erica, available as player characters in the Babel and Colosseum mode too.
Also, in addition to the above DLC which is also on PS4, the Switch edition comes with three more voices for the Catherines. You can have Kana Hanazawa (Marie in Persona 4 Golden), Ayana Taketatsu (Labrys in Persona 4 Arena), and Marina Inoue (The Female Protagonist in Persona 3 Portable).
Is the ‘Fully Body’ edition of the game worthwhile if you have played the original Catherine? Absolutely, as this edition comes with a vast quantity of extra stages and, with the story featuring a new female love interest and being able to remix the stages, there is plenty of appeal to replay the game again even if you have already completed the original version. The Nintendo Switch version of this game offers nothing over the PS4 version, apart from three new voice sets and the included DLC, but it does run perfectly and is very suited to playing on a handheld system, of which, the Switch is the only way to do so outside of Japan where the game also released on the PS Vita at the same time as the PS4 release.
The Nintendo Switch is really becoming the console of choice for visual novels/Adult-themed narratives and Catherine: Full Body is definitely one of the most engaging and enjoyable I’ve played on the console. Vincent’s journey questions the morality of relationships in a very interesting and often humorous manner, while the game also offers some of the best written and entertaining cast of characters in the medium. While the visual novel aspect of the game was perfectly handled, the block puzzle stages might not appeal to all. These did very much grow on me over time as I found myself becoming a traversal wizard, offering unique gameplay like no other on the market.
Catherine: Full Body£44.99
- - Compelling and mature storyline with likeable and well-voiced characters
- - Unique take on the visual novel genre with the addition of puzzle stages
- - Quality anime style cutscenes
- - A high amount of replay value with multiple endings and a vast quantity of puzzle stages
- - Variety of difficulty settings to make the game as challenging or easy as you require
- - Puzzle stage mechanics won’t appeal to everyone
- - Nightmare environments are rather uninspiring
- - Some endings are disappointing
- - Online mode is temperamental with connection and lag issues