Jun 30, 2011

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Catherine Live Demo Impressions

Catherine Live Demo Impressions

About a week ago, we informed you that Atlus was holding a live demonstration of their upcoming title Catherine on Wednesday, June 28. Rebecca and I were able to join in to see if we could get some of questions answered during the demo last night. I’ve summarized the demo itself, along with any facts we were able to get as we watched Atlus PR Aram Jabbari show off the first hour of the game, along with the never before seen multiplayer mode.

The demo begins with the start menu, which looks vibrant in pink, with Katherine perched on a block and Vincent chained to one below her. Starting from the beginning, we soon learn that we are viewing Vincent not in a real-life setting, but are instead watching his ordeal on a television show called The Golden Palace. To make sure you don’t forget that the experience is really a TV show, the logo for the show is always in the upper left corner of the screen. We get to see the first cut scene, which features a rather stylish hostess with a red afro who describes a bit about the story we’re about to see. This revelation explains the reason for the time skips whenever Vincent leaves the bar.

Once the cutscene is over, we are taken to the first level (or nightmare). The beginning level serves as a tutorial for the basic commands. Vincent, clad with sheep horns and some heart boxers ( just like those available in the “Love is Over” special edition), has to make his way up the tower of blocks. The goal, we learn, is to escape to the top of the tower by creating a path by sliding and climbing up the blocks as the ones below you fall down into oblivion. Each of the eight levels, or nightmares, is unique in theme and has a boss that is a representation of Vincent’s fears. We see that the first boss you encounter is a twisted representation of Katherine (who wants to settle down with Vincent).  In the nightmare version, Vincent must escape a giant set of hands and a stabbing fork that will change all the block types around him instantly, making it even harder to reach the top alive. When you complete a level, you will earn a trophy (bronze, silver, gold) based on your score. The score is determined by how much distance was between your successful escape and the last level of blocks that still remain, along with any combos you pull off. Combos in Catherine appear to be earned by how many blocks you climb in succession.

Completing this first level, we are gifted with a cutscene of Vincent waking up in his bed, and then a scene in a restaurant where Vincent tells Katherine about his dream. We don’t see much after that, as we skipped some cutscenes (partially to save time and spoliers), and the next time we see Vincent is in the Stray Sheep with two of his buddies. During his talks with them about his issues with the whole marriage deal, we get to see another aspect of the game: texts. Vincent gets a rather upset text from Katherine, as she’s out with some married friends for dinner who are showing off pictures of their families. You are given different options on how to respond to texts, such as not being able to think right now and being sleepy. You won’t just receive emails from Katherine and friends. In fact, you will get texts for any time you complete a level or earn a reward.

It is also at the bar where you gain control of Vincent (outside the dream world) and can move about to talk to the bar regulars. The actions are time-consuming, similar to how activities and social links are in Atlus’ previous Persona titles. Your actions can also affect which of the multiple endings you get, as well as determining the achievements/trophies you earn. One action you can partake in is drinking. Vincent can drink up to three times in a sitting, and the effect of the alcohol boosts his speed during the nightmarish puzzles. However, as with other actions, drinking takes time, so if you spend your time drinking, you may miss out on other activities, such as talking to fellow patrons or participating in the arcade games.

Back into the puzzle portion of the game, we meet Steve the Sheep, who is in the landing floors of the larger nightmare levels; it is here you can save during the nightmare portion. He’s a reliable way to gain information on how to play the game, and can teach you key things, such as the only way to survive is to climb the tower. There are other sheep scattered across the area, and it becomes apparent that each sheep only sees themselves as non-sheep and Vincent is just another sheep to them. When asked why Atlus used sheep, we were given the answer that it is part of the “herd mentality,” among other things (a lot of the sheep imagery has special cultural meaning in Japan, for example). Once Vincent finishes talking to the sheep and gaining new tactics on climbing the tower, he enters a confessional where a mysterious voice will question him. You are given two answers and neither are wrong, although they will affect which ending you get. When you choose your answer, you get to see a poll of what others answered on XBox Live and the PSN.  For example, Vincent might be asked, “Does life begin or end with marriage?”