11/22 – Catherine

Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

When we get games that say they’re mature, they often mean mature in a blood and guts kind of way. Maybe a bit of nudity but mostly just folks being violent. It’s rare for a big name game to come around that is actually, honestly just mature. Meant for adults and not edgy teens. Today’s game may just fit the bill. Today’s game is Catherine, developed by Atlus and released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011.

Catherine is a game ultimately about relationships. Main character Vincent isn’t sure if he can commit to his long-time girlfriend Katherine, with a K. Each night, Vincent frequents the Stray Sheep Bar to get advice from his friends on what to do. At the start of the game, however, he meets a woman named Catherine, with a C, and whether by accident, drunkenness or some outside force, he begins an affair with her.

Each night, Vincent is beset by nightmares and this makes up the bulk of the gameplay. Players must solve puzzles involving Vincent climbing a large tower made up of moveable blocks in order to survive the night. Vincent can only climb up one block at a time and must move blocks around to create staircases for himself. Too slow and Vincent will fall to his death.

During each day, in between tower segments, the player is posed various questions about relationships and which woman Vincent should be with. Catherine has eight total endings based on Vincent’s choices and indecisiveness throughout the game.

Catherine received high praise for its story on release with many lauding the game’s mature look at relationships and excellent localization. In the English versions, voice actors Troy Baker, Laura Bailey and Michelle Ruff wonderfully portray Vincent and the two Catherines. The gameplay was less well received primarily for its high level of difficulty. Many fans and critics noted that the normal difficulty setting became extremely difficult in the later levels, almost requiring lowering the difficulty to Easy. While some took this on as a challenge, some were turned off from the rest of the story because of this.

Retrospectively, Catherine is a game that has received significant debate. Its look at relationships has been called both grounded and sexist in fairly equal measure. While some still look at the game as a high point in video game storytelling, some criticise it as a reflection of what relationships mean, particularly in the tech industry. An enhanced remake, Catherine: Full Body, was released in 2019 that has only added to this debate, with some accusing the game of transphobia for its portrayal of two characters in particular. Ultimately, each person who plays Catherine will come away with their own interpretation but it’s worth being aware if you’re sensitive to these issues before giving Catherine a try.

Thank you so much for listening. I know Catherine can be a touchy subject for many folks so I just want to end this episode saying I mean no disrespect towards anyone and everyone is welcome in our Video Game of the Day community. The gaming scene can be pretty toxic these days so maybe just say something nice to someone today, yeah? If you want to hear more about the games we talk about on the show, follow me on Twitter @vg_oftheday. Archives and transcripts are available for each episode on videogameoftheday.com. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day. 

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Devin "Katosepe" Sloane is a long time gamer and host of the show Video Game of the Day. He firmly believes Darklands is the pinnacle of gaming achievement and this is a hill he will die upon. Where his nickname came from is a secret to everybody.