Puzzle-platformer Catherine was a very interesting take on the genre when it released back on PS3 and Xbox 360. While it launched in 2011 and was one of the rare Xbox 360 releases from Atlus, I only played it years later on PS3 and was pretty blown away by the aesthetic, atmosphere, and the music more than anything else. The gameplay for the original was fine but there were far too many difficulty spikes. When it was made playable on Xbox One via backwards compatibility, I had a chance to revist the game and think it has aged pretty well. When Atlus announced an enhanced version of Catherine for PS4 and PS Vita in the form of Catherine: Full Body, I was excited to play it yet again and quite enjoyed the Japanese demo when it launched. For countries outside Japan however, the PS Vita version was dropped, making it a PS4 only affair. Fast forward to today and Catherine: Full Body has an English demo available for free on PSN for PS4 and I’ve finally played it without skipping cutscenes like I did with the Japanese demo and come away quite impressed with it, though some aspects of it leave me skeptical.
Before getting into the gameplay improvements and additions, I’m very happy that Atlus USA managed getting Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Persona 4), Laura Bailey (Spider-Man, Persona 4), and Michelle Ruff (Tales of Vesperia, Persona 3) to voice Vincent, Catherine, and Katherine respectively. Most publishers of Japanese games haven’t been able to get Troy Baker or Laura Bailey back for their respective roles over the years and it is great to see them return for this because their voices made Catherine’s leads so memorable in the first place.
While some fans have a lot of problems with the way Atlus does enhanced ports or re-releases of their games from past generations on current hardware, one aspect that always stands out is how they make the games more accessible. For example: Etrian Odyssey II is pretty hard for newcomers to get into with its difficulty even though I find it evenly balanced. Etrian Odyssey Untold 2: The Fafnir Knight fixed that by adding more options to reduce difficulty that allowed more players to get into the series. In Catherine: Full Body, puzzles and difficulty are a non-issue for those who just want the story. Aside from various difficulty options, there are now multiple accessibility options that let players either watch a playthrough of a level or straight up skip a puzzle. This coupled with the undo option means even players without the skill to solve some of the harder puzzles will be able to enjoy the story here and experience all the game has to offer outside puzzles.
At this point, Atlus seems to enjoy doing a new enhanced port of an older game and adding a new female character or a new love interest. This has been the case with Persona 4 Golden with Marie, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux with Alex, or even the upcoming Persona 5 Royal and Kasumi. While the original Catherine had Catherine and Katherine, Full Body adds Rin who is someone Vincent runs into right in the beginning.
In terms of story content, the demo only had one new cutscene where Vincent runs into Rin and then the usual opening moments from the old game with a few new things condensed for a demo where Vincent wakes up from a dream and has had interactions with both Katherine and Catherine. It is going to be interesting to see if Atlus manages to make what was already a pretty content packed game in terms of story content even more captivating with a new character. Reason being, past efforts like Marie in Persona 4 Golden felt very tacked on.
In addition to accessibility options, there are two ways to experience puzzles here in the demo. You can play classic which is just like the original Catherine or play a new remixed mode that has unique blocks that add another layer of depth to the already great puzzles. The demo only had a few puzzle levels but the remixed mode seems like the way to go for when I play the full game.
One area that could’ve been better is visuals. It is good to see Catherine brought to PS4 but a lot of it still looks dated and I was hoping they would get this running at 60fps on the PS4 Pro at least given it is a last generation game. The interface and cutscenes look very nice but this doesn’t feel like it is all a PS4 version of Catherine could’ve been after experiencing the visuals only in the demo.
Catherine’s soundtrack is pretty spectacular. The opening for Full Body is new and it is really great. Catherine: Full Body definitely has one of the more stylishly animated introduction videos in recent years for a game. The demo didn’t really have a lot of new music sadly but the voice acting is excellent so far with the returning cast. You can even switch to Japanese voices if you want since this release has dual audio support.
Overall, I was already excited to play Catherine: Full Body in English based on the gameplay improvements in the Japanese demo. Being able to listen to the same great voice cast return and sound exactly as I’d hoped has made me want to experience the story even more. I wish the demo included online play since I know loads of people who are only buying it to play online. Being able to see how the netcode worked would’ve really helped here. There’s still time for them to do a timed weekend online demo or something prior to release. As of now, Catherine: Full Body is looking like a nice enhanced release of one of Atlus’ more interesting games.