Catherine’s Approach to Lust, Love, and Life
A Catherine, Katherine, and Qatherine catharsis
Love is a deceptively simple concept that has the power to create heartbreaking complexity within its wake. In media such as television shows, movies, and video games, “romance” is a common trope that snakes its way into any story. It happens often enough to the point where the concept of love is largely misrepresented, being depicted as instantly gratifying and magical. The feeling of love might be just that, but the actual process and acts of love differ heavily. This garbled translation of love in real life to fiction makes games that hit the nail on the head with romance like Catherine: Full Body shine.
Atlus, the developer behind Catherine: Full Body, is no stranger to commentaries in their games — my latest article on Persona 5 details just that. Catherine is an entirely different title, though. The game is a short experience, a puzzle game with a plot that spans over just a week as protagonist Vincent Brooks tackles one of love’s scariest facets: commitment.
Vincent has been dating his girlfriend, Katherine McBride, for five-years. Katherine’s steadfast nature leads her to desire the next step in their relationship: marriage. Katherine wishes to settle down with her lover and start a family. To childish and lazy Vincent, this idea is daunting and feelings of worry anxiety develop within him. Truthfully, Vincent doesn’t even recognize if this is what he wants. He knows who he is — a drunken 32-year-old running from the responsibilities of his adulthood.
A bit later, Vincent is introduced to Catherine — a girl sharing the same name as his girlfriend. The two hit it off at the Stray Sheep, a bar the main cast of the game frequents. Catherine forces herself onto Vincent, later leading to a love-affair as the two return to his apartment. At this point, the stage of the game is set.
On top of these two love interests, Rin (later revealed to be Qatherine) is a mysterious pianist at the Stray Sheep. Rin is rather docile and passive, something Vincent takes an interest in as he is seemingly ripped in half by two separate women who yearn for his affection and commitment.
Every night, Vincent is introduced to dreams in which he needs to climb a wall of blocks. This is the brunt of the gameplay, providing thoughtful puzzling for Vincent to navigate and make his way to the top. These puzzles actually kept me interested in the game and can become difficult, adding an extra element to an already engrossing story.
Vincent’s late bachelorism, when looked at through a societal lens, is concerning. Being 32, the blatant alcoholism that Vincent indulges in every night on top of his indolent and stagnating nature breeds a lazy life, one that Vincent is comfortable in. That’s not to say Vincent is to blame for his behavior — it’s apparent that he feels pressured by society itself. With his girlfriend pushing him into marriage and his posse of drinking buddies who enable similar behaviors, it's no wonder the main character of this game feels trapped and unsure of what he wants. With this in mind, it appears that Vincent has never truly “grown-up” into adulthood, still dodging all the responsibilities as he grows complacent with himself.
Catherine: Full Body provides the player with varying questions that, when answered, help guide Vincent on his path to the loyal and dutiful Katherine or the exciting and adventurous Catherine. These questions vary, but most gauge personality and desire within a relationship.
“Does life begin or end at marriage?”
“Do you prefer an older or younger partner?”
“Who would be responsible if you cheated?”
Answering these questions ranks Vincent as a “devil” or angel”, polarizing one’s actions and thoughts as they engage in relationships. As expected, Catherine lays within the devil side and Katherine with the angel. Catherine: Full Body exhibits heavy symbolism and catholic imagery, from marriage itself to the “climbing” of each tower in hopes of reaching the wedding chapel at the top; or maybe even Heaven itself.
Catherine is a succubus who is seductive, cheerful, and carefree. She provides Vincent a life that is akin to how he currently lives — a free soul. Despite this, she is often impulsive and displays apparent commitment issues. Her views of work being a “necessary evil” and her approving nature of Vincent’s bad habits make her a tempting alternative to his current girlfriend, Katherine.
With Katherine, Vincent is forced to grow out of his relaxed and lazy ways. Katherine doesn’t approve of his drunkenness or his incessant smoking and she often ushers him into a more positive and responsible lifestyle. This clashes with Vincent’s current laziness, making one wonder why she even chooses to be with him. Love is as a simple answer as any, one that can be attributed to any relationship that isn’t quite perfect.
While some might consider this to be a black and white “good” and “bad” dilemma, a deeper glance at Catherine’s plot provides an alternative look. Staircases often symbolize progression, something Vincent is lacking in his life. The dangerous puzzles in which he endures represent Vincent climbing out of his slump in hopes of becoming more of an adult and paving a path for himself, whether that be one full of freedom and excitement or security, stability, and happiness.
Vincent’s struggle as he does his best to remedy his poor decision of infidelity guides him through his decision to grow into the man he desires (or the player, for that matter). Within this crux of stability versus freedom comes a wildcard, that being Qatherine.
Avoiding the fictional complexities of Qatherine being an alien for the sake of keeping this piece about the themes of Catherine: Full Body, it can be said that Rin represents a calm space for Vincent as he struggles to choose between Catherine and Katherine. The character is obedient and childishly naive, making Vincent feel safe and warm as he befriends Rin.
It is later revealed to Vincent that Rin is actually a male, cross-dressing as a female to avoid societal expectations of what a man needs to be. As someone who also struggles with living up to societal expectations, Vincent empathizes with Rin, and their relationship has the opportunity to bloom.
Vincent’s position gives him ample room to grow, at the cost of heartbreak among whichever lover is left behind. This is one of the lessons Catherine: Full Body teaches with love — heartbreak is common as we find our way through life, discovering who we are and what type of partner fits our needs. Whether it be the honest and responsible Katherine, the alluring and mischievous Catherine, or the compassionate and calming Qatherine, our protagonist has many options for a future lover.
Catherine: Full Body is a quick and exciting story-driven puzzle game that delves into a topic that is often misrepresented in fictional narratives. By providing varying endings, Catherine shows many different kinds of love, all of which are acceptable. Katherine McBride is my personal favorite and has my heart, her loyalty and commitment on top of wanting a family is nothing short of attractive, but to each their own.
Romance is exhilarating and often intoxicating, but Catherine: Full Body does a solid job at presenting a story of someone who struggles to discover himself as well as the type of partner he wants in his life without the superficial romantic nonsense. No matter who the player chooses, Vincent aims to be his happiest self by growing out of his stagnant lifestyle.