The Golden Playhouse is open again. Catherine: Full Body Switch is giving people outside Japan the first opportunity to officially play the game on the go. (The PlayStation Vita port wasn’t localized.) It’s an experience, though one that doesn’t come without its sacrifices to make it happen. Those eagerly anticipating it could consider it more proof of the system being a true “all ages” device with mature content for adults and an encouraging harbinger of Atlus support for the systems. Others will see it as the most compromising version of the game.
Catherine: Full Body follows the life and times of Vincent Brooks, a man pulled in many directions. He’s comfortable with his life and okay with how things are going with his longtime girlfriend Katherine. However, after she brings up marriage, he finds himself flirting and waking up with Catherine, a woman he met at his local haunt. Which also happens to be where Rin, an amnesiac young woman he helped when she was being stalked, now plays piano. Oh, and Rin is his new neighbor too. These relationship problems alone would be a lot to deal with, considering his responses to situations alter his current alignment.
Except Vincent is also caught up in the nightmares. There are mysterious deaths happening around the city, and men find themselves climbing blocky towers and answering questions about their views on relationships night after night. As you’d imagine, this is a situation where dying in the dream means dying in real life, so he’s left to sort out his relationships and attempt to preserve his future by dealing with those closest to him during the day and constantly scaling towers at night.
The basic progression in Catherine: Full Body remains unchanged from the original game. You witness important moments involving Vincent and the people who matter to him during the day. You respond to texts from potential love interests and talk to people people hanging around Stray Sheep. Maybe you see his “chaotic” and “lawful” alignment change and maybe push him toward Catherine, Katherine, or Rin.
At night, you go through a few floors of portion of the tower, attempt to outrun a grotesque boss inspired by someone or something Vincent dealt with during the day, and answer questions about relationships. The “new possibilities” in this version mean Rin is a romance option, both Catherine and Katherine get new endings, Persona 5’s Joker makes a cameo as a playable character, and there are new voice options for Catherine. It works.
Options are also in place to allow people only interested in certain elements to prioritize them, which is convenient. People here for the story and the thrill of pursuing the three love interests can lower the difficulty and turn on auto-play option in the tower to progress. People who want to play the puzzles can skip all story scenes, even if they haven’t already seen them and jack up the difficulty for the nightmares, quickly unlock all the tower options, then head into endless, solo, cooperative, and online multiplayer options. (It was impossible to find Ranked matches ahead of launch, so I can’t speak to their quality and stability.)
As with the original versions of both Catherine and Catherine: Full Body, there are story beats that can be problematic for many reasons. This is a game where many members of the cast are flawed individuals and we’ll see people like Vincent, Catherine and Katherine making morally questionable decisions (including issues regarding consent). More importantly, it has the common Atlus issue of not treating LGBTQ characters with the respect they deserve. There are games that handle gender and identity better. Two characters in particular deserved better, with the same person from the original release being treated poorly.
So the real meat of this version of Catherine: Full Body is how this port handles. As you might expect, there are compromises. The actual puzzle elements run really well! I primarily played in handheld mode and it seemed to maintain a steady 30fps even when bosses were on my tail, sheep were trying to shove me, or blocks were falling away. But when it comes to actually rendering story scenes and some of those big bads, the Switch version takes a visual hit. Especially if you are coming to this from a previous release.
This sacrifice is most noticeable during story segments. If you’re in a close-up shot focusing on one or two characters with nothing going on, Catherine: Full Body’s Switch version looks fine. People’s faces are clear and you’re able to focus. But the more people show up on stage or the more it pulls back to show off the environment, and the fuzzier things get. It’s like you’re at an ophthalmologist and you’re gradually having different lenses shifted out. Yes, there’s this sort of ephemeral quality regardless of platform, but it feels a bit more noticeable here. It feels like the bosses lose a bit of the definition they have in the more powerful ports, but it isn’t detrimental to the experience.
Catherine: Full Body is about the prices people are willing to pay, in more ways than one. In terms of story, we have to see what sorts of sacrifices Vincent is willing to make to accommodate his comfort, bridge gaps with people around him, and survive. With the port, we’re seeing what had to be done to get it working. If that means a little bit of blurriness and feeling like you might be due for a new prescription, especially in handheld mode, so be it.