Sunday, July 31, 2011

Catherine [Review]

I want to keep this review short and concise, because the point I want to make is that I love this amazingly unique game and I want everybody to realize that. There's been a serious lack of truly memorable games coming out of Japan recently, but my need for that J-style experience I've been a fan of for so long was immediately satisfied with Catherine. I knew I could rely on Atlus to produce a great game too, since the Persona series is similarly unique and great in its own stylish fashion. But enough about that...

Initially, Catherine may seem like a glorified puzzle game, and I had fears about that in the beginning too. However, what one will discover is that the puzzles are incredibly addictive, difficult, and deeply layered in technique. There is also a great sense of satisfaction in completing them, not only because of their hair-pulling difficulty, but because they almost serve as challenges to thwart in order to continue watching the story unfold. Speaking of which, the peculiar tale of Catherine is definitely the focal point of this game.

You play as Vincent Brooks, a 32 year old who's a bit lacking in the passion needed to commit to his long-term girlfriend Katherine. He's stuck in a rut; too hesitant about being chained down by marriage but unable to let go of his responsibilities. Life decides to kick Vincent in the ass, however, after a drunken night at the bar, when he finds himself in bed next to a blonde beauty who is ironically named Catherine. All this happens while Vincent experiences reoccurring nightmares where he is a sheep climbing a tower, which, rumor has it, is a curse on unfaithful men.

The game is separated by time periods, much like the Persona games. During the day, you'll watch the story unfold at places like Vincent's apartment, a cafe, and Vincent's work lavatory. Then at night, you'll be at the Stray Sheep, the local bar and hangout. This was personally my favorite part of the game. You will be able to walk around and converse with the bar patrons, which is important because listening to their problems can determine their fates. Dotdotdot. You can also drink your choice of alcoholic beverage (Rum & Cola for me), change the music on the jukebox, and play a mini-game called Rapunzel. Finally, you'll occasionally receive text messages from both Catherine's, which you can reply to with a set of pre-written sentences. 

This talk of texting brings us to an important aspect of the game: the morality meter. Basically, the things you say to people, the way to respond to texts, and the responses you give to important questions in the nightmares tilt the meter towards whichever alignment their associated with. If it's what a selfish cheater would say, the meter hand goes to pink. If it's a general goody-goody response, you'll get a point in blue. To sum it up in a semi-spoilerish fashion, you'll be determining which Catherine you want to end up with (pink is Catherine, blue is Katherine). It's a pretty simplistic system because the alignment of the choices you make are really obvious, and you can pretty much max the meter towards one side blind-folded. Despite this, responding questions from your own heart is undeniably fun and adds a nice role-playing touch to the game.

And finally, we come to nightmares stages and the puzzles themselves. As I mentioned earlier, they are layered in technique and require stressful amounts of thinking in order to solve, which is made more intense by the time pressure imposed by the scoring system. The hubub surrounding this game is true; the puzzles are freaking difficult. Even on easy mode, you'll often find yourself stumped. With bomb blocks, spike blocks, cracked blocks, random enemies, and slowly disappearing floors, there's no end to the possibilities in which this game can cause you to tear your hair out. But as I've said, you'll soon find yourself addicted, and the amazingly rewarding feeling you'll feel will be worth it. 

To top things off, Catherine looks and sounds great. I love the anime style cel-shaded graphics; they are very stylish and look amazing in HD. The character designs are great as well, especially the sexy Catherine. The visuals were honestly the reason I was drawn to this game in the first place. Every now and then, cutscenes will be replaced with animated scenes, which are just as good and move seamlessly with the game. I loved the funky soundtrack too; it has that familiar jazzy hip-hop feel that the Persona games had. 

The game may seem a bit short when completing your first playthrough, since it won't take you any more than 10 hours. Fortunately, there's plenty of replay value to be had. There are actually 8 endings in total, so it will take you two additional playthroughs to view them all. You can focus on the other Catherine, pay more attention to different people at the bar, and if the puzzles are frustrating you, note that you can skip them once you score a gold trophy on a specific level. I worked furiously to get gold on every level so my next playthroughs would be made easier for me. I clocked in 26 hours by the end of it, and I hadn't even completed the extra "Babel" levels you can unlock. That's showing you that there's actually quite a lot to this game, and there's plenty of fun to be had when the main story is over.

Catherine is definitely more for experienced gamers, who know how to appreciate a great story and a challenge. Casual gamers may be turned off by the sheer difficulty of some of the puzzles and the deep focus on plot, so that is a fair warning. But, if you're craving that peculiar air of uniqueness that Japanese games have been known for and you just plain love video games, you simply cannot overlook Catherine. 

[C.Jin's Overall Score: 8.5/10]


Monday, July 25, 2011

[Pre-order] figma "Vocaloid" Hatsune Miku Append Ver.

Yep, I'm looking at figures again. I don't know if anyone remembers, but I got into figures not too long ago and pre-ordered two figures, but I never bought them when the time came because of financial issues. My interest died after that, but here I am again. This is the latest figma of Hatsune Miku Append Version from Max Factory. It looks amazing, the design and the colors are just really pleasing. Its set to release on August 25, and is within my price range so I've already pre-ordered! Hopefully I actually get it this time~


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pre-ordered Catherine!

Yep, I've made my first legit game purchase in a looong time and pre-ordered Catherine! I was a bit iffy at first because of the complaints about its difficulty, but I found that Gamespot and IGN had both given it great scores (8.5 and 9 respectively), so that calmed my worries almost immediately. The pre-order means I get a soundtrack and a nice artbook, which is a definite plus. Definitely excited, I'll post a review in a few weeks too!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

[PS3] Catherine Demo

I've been really interested in the American release of Catherine for awhile now, and I finally got to play the demo! Honestly, the demo is kind of lackluster. The majority of the demo is cutscenes, and the only gameplay we get is the puzzle sequences. What I'm hoping is that the puzzles aren't the main bulk of the game, mainly because I hate puzzles and it would be boring.

Though, the trailer that plays right after the demo shows a loooot more. There are sections of the weird dream world where you can control the main character (Vincent), and make some interesting role-playing decisions. You can even explore the bar, and play mini-games and probably interact with the people. I'm anticipating a deep role-playing aspect to this game, similar to how Atlus handled the Persona series. I really see a lot of Persona in this game, especially with the whole "make decisions to make or break a relationship". This interests me a little more because I'm in a relationship, pushing a year now, and all this discussion of commitment and relationships should be very interesting...

And of course, the graphics are gorgeous. This, along with Valkyria Chronicles, shows just how amazing cel-shaded anime graphics can look on current gen consoles. The character designs (yummy Catherine~) are a major pull-in for me as well. Hopefully, this game doesn't disappoint. If it were a little cheaper, I would have pre-ordered it, but I might just wait for a price drop. Still, I really do want this game. What do you think?


Monday, July 11, 2011

Devil May Cry 4 for Sale!

I recently bought Devil May Cry 4 and needless to say...I was very disappointed. Sure, the combat system is just as awesome as it has always been, and I had plenty of fun with DMC3. But after playing such amazing games like inFamous, Assassin's Creed 2, and Vanquish, this game feels incredibly underwhelming. It feels like a game stuck in an older generation.

First of all, the visuals are up to par with current gen standards, but the textures and lighting aren't quite as impressive as a majority of games on the top ten list. Environments are bland, and you're stuck in the same old place for a long time. Not to mention, when you're done with half of the game, you're just forced to go through the SAME levels and boss fighta a second time but in reverse.

But its not the visuals that make this game feel dated. The game still plays like a simplistic horror survival game from ten years ago. You solve boring, inane puzzles, and just fight battle after battle to progress. In an age where auto-saving at frequent checkpoints has become the norm, its really frustrating when you're stuck with the arcane system that Devil May Cry has followed for a decade (especially considering the difficulty). Not to mention there are still FIXED CAMERA ANGLES. They live you limited control every now and then, but its fixed everywhere else.

Anyway, this was a wasted purchase and I don't want to finish the game, so I'm putting it up on ebay for sale. It'll be $15.00; its pretty much the same condition as when I opened it because I haven't bothered with it for awhile. Tell me if you want to make a purchase cause I'm willing to sell it for the minimum price, or you can just bid.

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