Remakes and remasters can be tricky things to contend with as a gamer. On one hand, some offer a completely different experience from the original, making new players decide whether they want to experience the new version or the old. One the other hand, some offer something nearly identical with one or two new features to justify their production, forcing old fans to decide if a small difference is worth another full-price purchase. Catherine: Full Body lands somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, offering both new story beats and new gameplay features. The question is: does it actually strike the happy medium between new and old that Atlus is obviously aiming for?
For those who missed out on the original Catherine, the story revolves around a man by the name of Vincent Brooks. He’s a thirty-something guy who’s been living in a state of arrested development for the past several years. Both he and his long-time girlfriend Katherine McBride are aware that they need to take the next step in their lives soon, but that’s something easier said than done for Vincent. So as he’s trying to drink away his worries one night, he happens to meet an attractive young woman. He finds her next to him when he wakes up the next morning, learns she’s also named “Catherine” and thus kicks-off the worst week of his life.
This still more or less sums-up the plot for Catherine: Full Body, but there’s another character added into the mix this time around: a mysterious girl named “Rin.” Vincent meets Rin right after the game begins, saving her from some kind of monster and discovering that she’s an amnesiac. He sets Rin up with a new place to live and a job at his favorite hangout/bar “The Stray Sheep.” After this, Rin is a regular sight at the bar and even interacts with the other minor characters that hang out there. Vincent’s friends will even talk about Rin from time to time, and she’ll get mentioned in text messages between characters. Rin even has a role in the nightmare portion of Catherine: Full Body too. Truly, Rin’s integration into the first half of the game is seamless; it’s almost as though she was always there. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the second half.
Unlike either Katherine or Catherine, who are both involved even late into each other’s routes, Rin becomes almost non-existent if the player doesn’t follow her route. Unless one makes a specific set of choices, Rin will suddenly exit the story and be barely mentioned by anyone again afterward. Even Vincent rarely even speaks to Rin after this happens, something that’s odd considering their dynamic during the first half of the story. Rin is of course still heavily involved if one chooses to follow her route; doing so even leads to a new set of endings and a new boss stage, but it’s still disappointing to see this otherwise well-integrated new character basically disappear if they’re not chosen. It makes one wonder why they even bothered adding Rin at all, aside from wanting to show players a side of Vincent that makes him look a little less like an immature man-child, that is.
Rin actually isn’t the only source of new information about Vincent and the gang. Atlus has added additional cutscenes along each route in order to further flesh out Vincent’s past and the nature of his relationships with Katherine and Catherine. As for endings, these are mostly the same as they were in the original game, with the addition of one new alternate ending for both Katherine and Catherine. All told, these additions make for a more coherent story and a nice bonus for fans who’ve been wanting to get to know these characters better.
Gameplay-wise, Catherine: Full Body comes in two different flavors: Classic and Remix. Classic mode is exactly what it sounds like: its block puzzles are more or less the same as they were in the original Catherine. The layouts might be a little different from what they were before, but it’s difficult to say for sure without doing direct comparisons. All the block-stacking and pushing techniques one learns from their fellow “sheep” over the course of the game work are all applicable most of the time and no new hazards or special blocks are introduced into the mix. Remix mode works just a little bit differently, though.
Remix mode stages share all the same hazard blocks and basic layout as their classic mode counterparts, but they shake things up with special linked blocks. These are actually convenient at first, allowing Vincent to do in one move what might normally take three or more moves to accomplish. As the game progresses, that convenience largely goes away. These linked blocks come in just about any shape one can think of, ranging from a two-block step to almost an entire wall and anything in-between. This means that players can’t just go on their merry way relying on the same couple of techniques to get through the later puzzles. They can’t rely on items like bells either, since linked blocks just plain don’t have any effect on them.
These blocks can be downright nasty in their configuration after the fourth night, so players are going to have to get creative if they want to proceed. It’s definitely the more challenging of the two modes. The easy and “safety” difficulties mitigate the challenge a bit, but it still manages to keep things interesting even under those conditions. Speaking of “safety” mode, it’s really just easy mode with the added option to skip puzzle sections entirely. It’s a nice option to have, but it’s only useful for those who either have no interest in playing the game or want a way to rush through the story and see all the different endings.
When not frantically scrambling up block towers in Vincent’s nightmares, players can hang out at The Stray Sheep with Vincent’s friends and the other regulars. This portion of the game works almost exactly as it did in the original, only this time players can access both versions of the puzzles they clear instead just classic (since that was the only option back then.) The only other change is the addition of music from Persona 3, Persona 4, Persona 4: Dancing All Night and Persona 5 to the jukebox. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of either playing the arcade machine or talking to everyone before the next nightmare.
Catherine: Full Body also offers players a few multiplayer modes to enjoy with friends or even just random opponents online. Colosseum returns as the local multiplayer option that lets two players compete head to head; Babel is basically what it was in the original Catherine too. It’s a randomized gauntlet that can either be played solo or with one other friend; it’s still tough as nails too, so good luck trying to complete it. The one new addition here is the Online Arena, which allows all of these modes to be played in both ranked and casual settings with full control over stage and item selection; players can also directly challenge their friends too. It’s long been held by the Catherine community that the original’s lack of online multiplayer was a major missed opportunity, so this might just be a selling point for fans in and of itself.
With Catherine: Full Body, it feels like Atlus was trying to find an acceptable midpoint between remake and remaster. As a remake, its success depends entirely on whether or not players choose to follow Rin’s route. If they do, then the story changes at least feel justified, even if one doesn’t actually like where that story thread goes. If they don’t choose Rin, though, then the whole exercise winds up feeling entirely pointless. As a remaster, however, Catherine: Full Body is successful. The game looks and sounds great, its new remix mode offers refreshing challenges to player both old and new alike, the new safety mode makes seeing all the endings easier than ever, and the addition of a fully-featured online multiplayer is sure to keep die-hard block-stackers happy for a good long while. New players and serious fans likely won’t regret picking up Catherine: Full Body on release, but everyone else would likely be better-off waiting for a sale.