Thursday, June 30, 2011
Atlus Shows Off Its Girl Catherine, Some Still Sexually (and Otherwise) Confused
Last evening (or afternoon if you were on the West Coast), Atlus did an incredible (and lengthy) Ustream demo of its upcoming PS3/360 game Catherine and based on the number of press attendees plus a decent sized group of just over 20 non-press oglers, this was their most successful streaming event to date. It's no wonder, given the interest shown in the game ever since screens and videos of the Japanese version started popping up on the Internet and gamers started begging for a localization.
While the single player mode was the main draw of the event, there was a bit of multiplayer shown that made for a really nice surprise. I have the feeling THAT mode just might break up a friendship or two in the same way The Adventures of Cookie & Cream did when things got too out of hand. Then again, in Catherine's MP, it's every sheep-horned man for himself (and it's a damn good thing it's only two players onscreen, given the hilariously zippy pace and violent pillow swinging action going on with the frantic block climbing).
The presentation covered a nice chunk of the game from story to (of course) gameplay and if what was shown was any indication, Catherine will be one of those great, innovative games that divides people into a few camps as it offers up a wealth of discussion topics on everything from human sexuality, the use of smoking as a narrative device in entertainment, dreams and their meanings and how the hell do you beat that boss at the end of stage whatever. Still, even with the clarity of the lightning-paced gameplay (a puzzle hell that's a mix of Intelligent Qube, Sokoban, Crazy Climber and Q*bert), some folks were still baffled to their editorial cores in trying to describe or figure out the game during the presentation. Of course, Atlus PR reps were there to bounce many questions and comments off, so that helped out somewhat.
As for me, I "got" Catherine right away, but perhaps that's because I'm an old dude who's been playing games for far too long who also respects a developer's vision and likes it when things just *click* together. Some people seem hell-bent of trying to figure out why the gameplay is so difficult or fit the overall experience into a neat little box of weirdness while getting hung up on the lack of nudity for an M-rated title (it's NOT about that sort of titillation at all. To those writers, I say free your mind - your controller and ass will follow. Catherine is CLEARLY not a one-night stand, a weekend rental nor a simple arcade download disguised as a retail release. But you DO get some arcade fun as a bonus... let's just say you'll probably be screaming out "Rapunzel!" more than you will at "Cathy!" or "Kathy!", you perverts.
Between the absolutely beautiful presentation (HD artwork to funky typefaces and stellar sound design all show the Shin Megami Persona team at its best here) and the mix of dynamic gameplay and soulful, yet bizarre and amusing conversation sequences, it's clear that Catherine is geared more for gamers who want something with a bit more meat on its disc-shaped bones. The whole random question element is quite impressive (you'll see), some of the bar talk is racy but fits the tone of the game perfectly and overall, the presentation left me with no questions other than who to beg for a review copy. Hell, I'd be buying this on the 360 and PS3 anyway simply because I love the artwork, but my poor wallet and empty belly will be cursing me out while I'm cuddling the game packages and watching them dance on my rumbling tummy. Oh well, some games are worth the cheap noodle diet, I guess.
Between the mature content sure to generate much debate and the hardcore gameplay sure to get folks who can't keep up the pace whining for cheats before they've figured out the deceptively simple controls, Atlus's girl is certainly going to raise plenty of eyebrows (as well as a few blisters on sensitive gaming hands). As long as the media dopes looking to blame games for all sorts of non-game related real world nonsense stay away in droves, Atlus should have a hit that's controversial for all the RIGHT reasons. There's a LOT to see and do here, but I'll shut up now and save my full impressions for some of my own hands-on time with the final retail version. Catherine is in stores for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on July 26, 2011 - back shortly after that with a full review.