Tag Archives: atlus

WW #10 Persona 5

Due to the subject matter of this entire week, some items may be NSFW. Barring some terrible graphics, we’re sorta aiming for PG-13 screenshots here, but, given everyone has a different threshold, anything potentially offensive will be behind the “Read More” links du jour. Just so you are aware…

Also, this article will absolutely contain spoilers for Persona 5, assuming that is something you are concerned about.

GrabbySo, as I mentioned on this site a couple of times last year, Persona 5 could have been my “Game of 2017” in a much less interesting year for gaming. This is entirely because of the general “style” of the game, and how, if I had unlimited technology and budget back when I was approximately 12 (or whatever year I first played Final Fantasy 6), I probably would have made something very much resembling Persona 5 (though probably shorter). Cool thieves, cool tunes, emphasis on “role playing” as well as dungeon sneaking: it all kinda clicks together to be the perfect JRPG in my mind.

Or at least my 12 year old mind.

This is because I know when I’m being pandered to, and it probably has something to do with an entire high school full of women that only want to jump “my” bones. So, with that thinking in mind, I’m going to approach Persona 5 from the perspective that it couldn’t be more built for horny boys if it tried. And, as a corollary to that, the game is rather off-putting toward that entire “other” gender.

With that in mind, I enlisted a guest. Rosella, please say hi, or something like that.

Rosella: Hello! I am excited to be here to say inflammatory things about a generally beloved game.

Goggle Bob: Excellent! So what’s your relationship and/or past with Persona 5?

Grabby!Rosella: So I was a big fan of Personas 3 and 4, and played both of them multiple times. I preordered the ultimate “Take Your Heart” Edition of Persona 5 and was very excited to finally get my hands on it, but, uh, it didn’t quite work out that way. I streamed P5 for a little over 113 hours, when you count all the times I had to pause to rant about how the game seemed to have a giant “Women Aren’t Real People” sign on it. It was an experience.

Goggle Bob: And so we’re here to talk about said “experience”. Again, I’m theoretically the target audience for this, and, while the whole thing should supposedly wash over me and be generally subconscious, even I was a little put off when the final(ish) dungeon takes a time out so the female cast can hop back into bikinis.

Rosella: Of course, you can have them in bikinis the whole time with the free swimsuit DLC!

Goggle Bob: DLC I will not publicly admit to using…

Rosella: I will, and I am extremely upset that Yusuke’s beach outfit did not come with lobsters.

Goggle Bob: Just to put you at ease:

Crusty

Rosella: The one and only time I thought “Man, I’m glad Yusuke was in this scene”

Goggle Bob: Yes, well, speaking of which, given P5 is a gigantic, 100 hour experience, we could recount every last bit of the game until the end of time and still not cover everything. So, with that in mind, let’s take a more focused look at the female cast. Would you like to start with anyone in particular?

Rosella: Makoto Niijima was my (one) romance during my playthrough, so she holds a special place in my heart.

Goggle Bob: Haha, we seem to have that in common. I mentioned it in my original P5 article, but I seem to gravitate toward the student council across Persona games

Rosella: To me, she just seemed like the person with the most healthy relationship with our protagonist. She’s trying to re-examine her life and figure out which of her goals are actually hers and which ones she picks up just because she “should,” and our protagonist helps with that. It’s very charming!

Goggle Bob: And she just incidentally can punch demons through walls.

Rosella: And rides a motorcycle.

Goggle Bob: A motorcycle that is parenthetically attached to a ridiculous dirty joke.

Rosella: Oh no, did I miss something incredibly obvious?

Goggle Bob: Haha not obvious: There’s a keyhole on Johanna’s seat. It’s a reference to the myth of how certain chairs were used to confirm future post-Johanna popes were male.

Rosella: Yikes.

Goggle Bob: Hey, Persona is all about the history…

FGC #308 Etrian Mystery Dungeon

LETS EXPLORE SOME DUNGEONS!I hate Etrian Mystery Dungeon.

Wait, no, that sounds bad. Let me try that again.

I hate everything about Etrian Mystery Dungon.

Let’s break that one down.

I Hate Rogue-Likes

This one is a biggie, and I realize I might be in the minority here. Actually, scratch that, considering the rogue-like genre languished for a solid twenty years of gaming history, I might actually be in the majority in not liking “rogue-like features”. Granted, rogues seem to have made a comeback in recent years (as rogues are wont to do), or maybe that’s just the latest trend in bullet points, like “over 80 hours of gameplay”, “contains RPG features”, or “a giant, open world”.

If you’re unfamiliar with the rogue-like genre, it goes something like this: you are an adventurer, and you’re going to explore some dungeons. The dungeons are usually randomly generated, and, rather than reconnoitering a carefully planned dungeon like one might find in a Zelda or Final Fantasy, you’re stuck with a completely different, completely random experience every time. This haphazardness pairs poorly with the other big draw of the rogue-like: death matters. While death is generally only an inconvenience in practically every videogame available, death in a rogue-like can often be devastating. For today’s game, death in a dungeon means losing all of your items (discovered treasures and purchased items) and cash. And, while hobos might seem like the ideal dungeon explorers, it turns out that money even makes spelunking go ‘round. In short, death has a greater sting in a rouge-like, and a randomly generated dungeon with a randomly generated super rock monster is going to lead to a lot of headaches.

Away we goAnd I loathe this kind of punishment. I’ve mentioned this before, but I play videogames to escape from real life. No, I suppose that terminology is a little off. It’s not so much that I want to flee from reality, I just want a reality with a few more… amenities. I’m a hoarder. I’m a hoarder by nature, and I despise how every facet of biology does not deal well with this desire. I would like nothing more than to visit an Golden Corral, devour seventeen pounds of hush puppies, and then not have to worry about eating for the rest of the month. But noooooo, the human body can’t deal with that for some stupid reason, and I have to eat every five hours like a caveman. Back in the day, we didn’t even have refrigerators, and we had to eat food when it was immediately available, or starve to death. Who has time for that? Not me. All of human history has been about making life more convenient, and preventing time lost. Rogue-likes… not so much.

I play videogames to experience magical fantasy worlds where I can keep a megalixer in my inventory until ten years after I’m dead, and my descendants finally decide to use it on that one super boss (lousy ungrateful children). I don’t play videogames to lose all my precious possessions to some stupid ape dork that managed to keep scoring criticals while I missed thirty times in a row.

Though while I’m on the topic of pathological hording…

I Hate Inventory Management

MOLE!I want everything at all times. I currently live in a world where, at the press of a button, I can have a delicious bread bowl filled with alfredo sauce and pineapple delivered to my door slightly ahead of my seventeen Amazon orders for books that were first published two hundred years ago. And while I’m doing that, I can download every Mega Man game ever made, assuming I haven’t already downloaded every Mega Man game ever made. The only thing that might wind up being an issue is that I may have already downloaded a hundred games I’m never going to play, so I filled up my hard drive. But no big! I can just buy a bigger hard drive, and we’re back in business! No need to clean out the fridge when you’ve got a bigger one on layaway. All the everything! All for me! MINE!

Etrian Mystery Dungeon has a limited inventory. You can initially stow only thirty items, but that number can be increased by a paltry ten or so at a time. How is that helpful at all? Have you ever explored a dungeon before? Been down to the Marsh Cave? I usually carry 99 antidotes, and only two monsters actually use poison attacks! But ooooh no, that’s not allowed in EMD. Despite the fact that you could encounter anything down there, you’re stuck with your meager inventory bag, and if you decided to go for a revive-on-the-last-floor item (in anticipation of a deadly boss) instead of a simple potion (to recover from a surprisingly difficult creature on a higher floor), you may be screwed before you even breach the dungeon’s maw.

I realize that some people enjoy inventory management, but those people are the same kind of twisted freaks that are capable of packing a suitcase while avoiding what is best described as a “clothesplosion”. I was a Boy Scout, I like to be prepared for everything, and when I have to choose between holding on to a delicious box lunch or grabbing some fresh treasure, my mind completely shuts down. I wake up a day later, my 3DS’s battery has been drained, and I’m not wearing pants anymore for some reason. Don’t put me in that situation, EMD! I’m running low on pants!

I Hate Grids

Videogames are a lie. I know that. Mario can’t really fly, he’s always going to hit the top of the scroll, and that’s as high as that raccoon-man goes. Link doesn’t really have the ability to explore an entire world, there’s always going to be an edge he can’t surpass. UghAnd even in JRPGs where you obtain an airship or flying dragon or magical balloon or whatever, the looping world is a complete hoax, and you’re actually traversing a planet that, were it actually scale, would be no larger than a watermelon. But the good games, the Marios, Zeldas, and Final Fantasies, trick the player’s stupid ape brain into thinking there is a vast, magical world out there. The first time you hit the world map in Final Fantasy 7, everything feels so massive! … It’s a complete lie, but that feeling of exploring an entire world is there.

Grids are the opposite of that. EMD divides every dungeon into a chessboard, and the seams of the universe show immediately. What could be vast, unexplored labyrinths quickly become “levels”, and… that’s it. You’re playing a videogame with little videogame people. You’re killing time. You’re not exploring, you’re moving pieces on a game board. May as well be playing Chutes and Ladders, you time wasting child.

Yes, the grid system does make exploration more straightforward, but I hate it all the same.

I Hate Anime

Okay, that’s a lie. The record will show that I have a very high tolerance for anime bullshit. But that’s probably because I like anime when I know I’m getting anime. If I cue up Attack on Titan or K-ON, I pretty much know what kind of experience I’m going to get (though I admit, I would watch the mash-up Attack on K-ON). It’s kind of like… Hm… I don’t eat doughnuts every day, and doughnuts are delicious, but if I were eating doughnuts, I wouldn’t want a big piece of steak sticking out of my bear claw. These are not two tastes that go great together.

And you know what else doesn’t go great together? Sexual dimorphism.

MEDIC!

I am perfectly okay with a game where you play as 12 year old girls. I am also okay with a game where you play as dungeon dudes. However, I am not okay with Etrian Mystery Dungeon, wherein all the boys are ready and willing dungeon dudes, and all the girls are underdressed, prepubescent gigantic eyeball delivery homunculi. It is… off-putting. And yes, I can see those giant eyeballs on the cover, I knew what I was in for, but seeing a male medic that is all cool and ready for healing times next to a female medic that decided a dungeon would be an appropriate place for adorable striped socks… it’s… not good. I hate it.

I hate Etrian Mystery Dungeon. It’s entirely possible the game gets more fun, interesting, and playable as time goes on, but after playing for a few hours, I dropped the wretched thing. I don’t like EMD’s core components. This game simply isn’t for me. It looks like there’s more than meets the eye to this adventure… but I’ll never see it.

And I hate that.

FGC #308 Etrian Mystery Dungeon

  • System: Nintendo 3DS. I have to say that the dual screen map thing will be missed whenever the 3DS finally retires.
  • Number of players: One person controls a four-people party. No, you can’t make them all fight each other for your amusement. I hate
    that.
  • This guySay something nice: The localization is pretty choice. This could easily be another “straight outta Japan” release that offers the most cursory of translations, but the people in the EMD world seem welcoming (and human) enough.
  • Goggle Bob’s proposed franchise mash-up alternative: Etrian Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
  • Favorite Class: Sovereign is just weird enough to be my favorite. Why would you take your royalty into a dungeon? To bark orders and keep morale up, obviously. Usually I prefer something with a little more battling oomph, but I have a hard time taking any of the physical classes seriously in a game with these ridiculous anime faces.
  • Did you know? The Wanderer class is based on the hero of the rogue-like genre, Shiren the Wanderer. This is also the only class in the game where the female version doesn’t set off alarm bells. Okay, maybe the Protector sneaks in there, too.
  • Would I play again: This isn’t a bad game, it’s just a bad game for Goggle Bob. I can’t stand so much of this game, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. I simply won’t enjoy it. Ever.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Excitebike for the NES! Vrooooooooooooooom! Please look forward to it!

Cool cool

FGC #288 Persona 5

Today’s article contains game-long spoilers for Persona 5. It’s pretty much just focused on the villains, but, ya know, you’ve been warned.

So stylishPersona 5 has inadvertently caused me to ask a superficially simple question: What is the threshold for villainy?

Persona 5 is the story of the Phantom Thieves, a group of swanky teenagers that stylishly steal “hearts” from people with wicked desires. They start pretty small with a local gym teacher, but, by the end of the story, they’re using their powers to literally shift the balance of political power in their country. One way or another, despite a capricious general public, the Phantom Thieves and their leader, Stylin’ McSavvipants (aka Joker), are always on the side of good, and never use this power to, I don’t know, screw with some random shop keep’s inventory so they can actually afford new shirts every month. In short, while the SMT/Persona series generally enjoys a bit of moral ambiguity, there is never any question that the good guys are the good guys, even if they seem to doubt themselves in a few too many overly long dialogue scenes (and I guess this just reinforces that they’re good, right?). The Phantom Thieves are thieves, but you’re constantly reminded that they’re less protagonist criminals like Walter White, and much more like Robin Hood (who, incidentally, also makes an appearance).

So, naturally, this means the antagonists for our heroes are bad guys. The Phantom Thieves only steal the hearts of the corrupt, and, lucky for those of us that want an 80 hour game, here’s a whole host of justified targets. Let’s see here, aside from the previously mentioned gym teacher and politician, we’ve also got a plagiarist, a con artist, a corrupt businessman, and a (kinda sorta) crooked cop. She’s… uh… on the edge of both definitions there. Look, “single minded prosecutor” just doesn’t have the right ring to it. Regardless, the point here is that, even though a couple of these targets could conceivably be seen as sympathetic at various points, they’re indisputably villains for the purpose of their vignettes. Sae might come around eventually, but she’s undeniably as much of a threat to the Phantom Thieves as Piggy Kaneshiro when you’re exploring her cognitive palace.

Except… this is kind of where we run into problems.

MeowAll of the bosses come with a very prominent time limit and consequences for missing that all-important deadline. Kamoshida is going to have Joker and Ryuji (and, ugh, Mishima) expelled. Madarame and Sae are going to have the gang arrested. Kaneshiro is blackmailing everyone, and Shido and his hacktivist cronies are going to screw with Japan on a national level. In other words, if Joker decides to just blow all his time at the diner drinking fruity tea, he’s going to wind up in some kind of waking hell, one way or another. Even if you want to claim the Phantom Thieves are somehow morally gray (which, again, absolutely not the case), they always have a relentless reason to do the right thing. Cover thine butt, and save the world while you’re at it. To be absolutely clear, those limits are on the table, and reinforced by a big honking sign that is constantly on the screen (“9 days left until you make Mishima really sad”).

But, deadline aside, it seems like the characters genuinely want to help things. Ryuji and Joker agree before the expulsion is on the table that Kamoshida has to be stopped. Madarame is first named for abusing his pupils, and the Phantom Thieves immediately stick him on the burn board. Kaneshiro is a known criminal (even before everyone knows his name), and Shido is clearly a dishonest politician that would be bad for Japan. These are all real personality types of real people that can all be easily identified in reality. The Phantom Thieves want to stop criminals? Awesome! I want to stop criminals, too! We’re all on the same page.

But… Persona 5 can’t just leave well enough alone.

Hail to this guyLet’s take Kamoshida, the first “target”, as an easy example. Kamoshida is introduced as a teacher that doesn’t seem to have Joker’s best interest at heart, and then his second appearance alludes to probable lewd times with teenage student (and party member) Ann. Shortly thereafter, it is confirmed by Ann that adult teacher Kamoshida is creeping on the teenage girl, and then he winds up sleeping with Ann’s friend, Shiho, in what he (or his shadow) seems to note as a “consolation prize”. So, if you didn’t feel like reading the rest of this paragraph, Kamoshida is established as committing statutory rape in the opening hours of Persona 5. Once more for the oldies in the back of the audience: Kamoshida is a teacher that is a rapist. That… should be enough.

But Persona 5 can’t leave well enough alone. Kamoshida is a rapist, and his victim attempts suicide in response to the shame of the situation. Kamoshida is a rapist, and he also conspicuously physically abuses the male students on his volleyball team. Kamoshida is a rapist, and his “other self” literally tries to murder and imprison the main characters, including some kind of rape-ish altar thing with Ann (again). And, yes, Kamoshida is a rapist, and he introduces the active threat of “you’re going to be expelled”. Kamoshida is a rapist, but look at all these other reasons he’s a bad guy.

And that’s kind of a problem. What’s more, it’s a very contemporary problem.

Not a crookI finished Persona 5 shortly after the culmination of the first 100 days of President Trump. There have been many hot takes on this presidency in progress, but the most egregious comment seems to have come from Donald Trump himself, who commented that, “I do miss my old life. This — I like to work, but this is actually more work.” And of course Donald Trump enjoyed his “old” life! He said it himself, he was rich and famous enough to just grab any pussy he could find! Or he could insult the handicapped in front of hundreds of people, and they’d cheer for him! And let’s not forget that time he yelled at a baby. Or claimed, in front of millions of television viewers, that not paying your taxes “makes you smart”. Or… oh God, I have to stop now. It’s… it’s too much for my gentle heart to remember everything that happened back in 20XX. Where was I? Oh yes, Donald Trump is somehow the president of the United States of America, and, while he didn’t get the popular vote, there are enough people in the US that are perfectly okay with Donny that he is our one and only president. No matter what happens in the rest of human history, Donald Trump became President of the United States.

And I feel like maybe that wouldn’t have happened if we, as a people, could recognize a bad guy.

Donald Trump is not a crook. I want to believe that he has ties to Russia, but, until we get some cold, hard, usable evidence of that, I silently sit and acknowledge that we’re likely stuck with this orange mess for a full four years. Similarly, the obvious profiting from the presidency that the Trump business is enjoying is flagrant and awful, but not technically against any laws (or at least any laws that wouldn’t also oust the majority of our government). In short, in an “innocent until proven guilty” society, Donald Trump is a perfectly upstanding business person turned politician. He may have had a few legal dust ups over the years, but they’re all behind NDAs and gag orders, so, basically, Donald Trump is a good person. He has done nothing wrong.

I'm playing a gameExcept, morally, by any standard, Donald Trump has done many terrible things. To once again revisit the “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment, that’s rape. That’s a grown man who has enjoyed every advantage possible in his life advocating that if a woman isn’t giving you what you want, you go ahead and take it. That is, in short, plainly stating that 50% of the population owes you what you want for no reason other than you want it. That’s abhorrent. That is not “locker room talk”, that is plainly a bad thing. A person said a bad thing, and, given evidence of saying similar things for thirty years, one can be pretty confident in saying that person is a bad person. Or, at the very least, he says and thinks a thing that absolutely should not be encouraged by him or anyone else. We can all agree that women have a right to have sex with whom they want, and not just who nebulously wealthy people say they should have sex with, right? Female autonomy good, rape bad. We can all agree on this, right? So why the hell is Trump president?

And, ultimately, I feel it keeps coming back to a fear of labeling a spade a spade. While it’s generally the prerogative of jackasses to declare “safe spaces” and “tolerance” as nothing more than political tools for liberals trying to “score points”, you’ll hear nothing but “innocent until proven guilty” when your average republican says something outlandish like “women can biologically control contraception” or “I have no idea how insurance works” (paraphrasing). I’m sorry, do you need a safe space to say your completely wrong and hurtful statements? And, with the current shape of the government, it seems like we’re in for at least another two years of cranky old white men claiming they know everything, and, when they say something completely wrong, just laughing it off as a “gaffe” or “maybe you’re actually the one that’s wrong”. And not enough people see something wrong with that! Evidently a healthy portion of the population believes that you have to be a cackling super villain to be a truly bad person, as opposed to, ya know, just a senator that literally wants to steal healthcare from babies.

FISTS!And, yeah, if I’m being honest, if you’re still reading this article, I’m preaching to the choir. But that’s the important thing here, you might be on the side of the good guys, you might be a benevolent Phantom Thief, but not enough people are standing up and saying, “no, that’s bad and needs to stop”. And how many people is enough? Well, I’m going to call it a win when this thing actually stops. I’m not naïve enough to believe we’re headed for some marvelous utopia where all are equal and a single mother doesn’t have to work three jobs to support her “all my children should be alive” habit; no, I’m just asking for a world where maybe we don’t have a damn game show host representing our country. I’d be happy with a zero tolerance policy for presidential cabinet members with KKK affiliations. Hell, show me one damn senator that would be happy to have the healthcare coverage of the average citizen (which is, by the by, approximately zero healthcare coverage). We are living under the yolk of “bad guys” every day, and they might not be driving anyone to suicide or actually physically abusing teenagers, but they are doing repugnant things with absolutely no oversight, and I don’t see a Phantom Thief making any changes to their hearts.

Readers, I implore you: be better. Stand up to bad guys, even if their sins seem small, because, give them enough latitude, and we’ll all be doomed. And no magical persona is going to save this world.

FGC #288 Persona 5

  • System: Playstation 3 and Playstation 4. Glad to see someone decided that humoring the ol’ PS3 crowd was a worthwhile endeavor.
  • Number of players: There’s only one Joker in this deck.
  • I just like crabOther bad moves: Madarame isn’t just a plagiarist, he killed a dude’s mother. Okumura isn’t just a slave driver, he’s killing people and prostituting his daughter for political gain. Shido isn’t just a conniving politician, he’s also responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to the main character. By comparison, the final boss’s usual plan of conquering the world seems practically tame.
  • Odd one out: The only (main) boss in P5 that doesn’t fit the “bad guy” pattern is Futaba’s deceased mother, or, to be more accurate, Futaba’s perception of her deceased mother. I would love to see more of this in the Persona series, as the bosses of P4 were far too exaggerated for my taste, and the bosses of P3… didn’t have anything to do with anything. It seems like conquering past traumas through JRPG battles would be enough to fill a boss roster… but maybe while avoiding stuff like Kanji’s panic at the gay disco.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I really liked the change to gameplay that wasn’t really a change. Wait, let me try that again. Basically, the whole “ambush, hit weakness” thing has always been a Persona trait, but it’s turned up to eleven for P5, so your sneaking and enemy knowledge is basically make or break now. This is great, because it keeps the same style you (I) loved from previous Persona games, but makes it feel more like “thievery” and disabling oblivious guards rather than the old style of conquering a dungeon. Other than that, it’s a Persona game, so you already know whether you’re going to like it if you’ve played P3/P4.
  • Crimes against Goggles: What is happening here?
    WHAT!?!

    This will not be forgiven!
  • Just play the gig man: It’s worth noting that I could have also written a much less political article extolling the virtues of this soundtrack. I could listen to this thing all day, though The Whims of Fate aka The Casino Theme is somehow my favorite track. I really have no idea how the vocals on that never get old despite playing for a healthy portion of a very long dungeon.
  • Favorite Persona: Mona’s Zorro is the kind of ridiculousness I’d like to see more of with the “mascot” characters. Zorro is imposing and goofy in all the right ways.
  • Favorite S-Link: I always fall for women on the student council. Always. I don’t know what this says about me.
  • Did you know? Hifumi Togo the shogi player was originally designed as a playable character, but got demoted to S-Link somewhere along the way. Maybe that’s why she seems so totally disconnected from everything…
  • Would I play again: It’s golden.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Altered Beast for the Sega Genesis! Wise from your Gwave! Please look forward to it!

My eyes hurt

FGC #118 Catherine

What funVideo games have become a completely integrated facet of modern, Western entertainment. While there is still a stigma about “gamers” (… mostly encouraged by said gamers…), we are well past the days when video games were assumed to only be the domain of children and shut-ins. Where once a fictional character owning a game console was an indicator of immaturity, we’re now in a world where seeing a couple without a console peeking out of the entertainment center seems unusual. I suppose it’s only natural, as the generation of children with videogames eventually grew into adults that never truly left the hobby behind (aided by an industry that did its best to grow up, too). Videogames have become an integral part of our lives now, and, even if you don’t play video games (unlikely if you’re reading this blog), it would be almost impossible for you to avoid interaction with someone that does.

So, as a result of videogames being so ubiquitous, we are past the point where we can say whether or not videogames have had an effect on society as a whole. Yes, of course, we’ll be reading studies on violence in the media until we’re zooming around space chasing the Zohar, but what I’m referring to is how videogames have impacted us in more subtle ways. Gaming is, and always has been, an active hobby, and one that encourages lateral thinking and problem solving (even if the “problem” is “how do I punch this guy in the face faster”). I’m not psychologist, but I’m going to guess exposing a human to hours of (incidentally entertaining) problem solving from childhood might have a slightly different effect on development than if the kid was just sitting around watching Westerns. I consider myself a smrt person, and, while my profession might be more overtly connected to the medium than some, I don’t think I’d be as accomplished without my gaming influences. Finding a troublesome bit of code isn’t all that different from searching for Level 8

Catherine is a video game about an adult gamer with a problem. Vincent is a 30 something man in a relationship with Katherine, an Kawaii?attractive woman that, incidentally, wants to see Vincent get off his duff and accomplish more in his life. Vincent is not fond of this fact. So, during a night drinking with the guys, Vincent encounters Catherine, a girl one pleated skirt away from being a walking (skipping?) cheerleader fantasy. Catherine asks nothing of Vincent (but his wang), and, naturally, Vincent decides to have an affair with the cute blonde. This leads to further issues when Katherine announces she might be pregnant. Vincent is trapped attempting to decide what to do with his life and loves: “settle down” with his reliable girlfriend, or run away with lil’ miss pigtails.

Vincent is stuck between a rock and a hard place… and the video game proper kicks in with Vincent forced to navigate his way out of an area between a rock and a hard place.

While you do “control” Vincent during some of his waking hours, the true game of Catherine happens as Vincent sleeps. In slumber, Vincent has recurring nightmares about attempting to climb a seemingly endless tower of blocks. Your job, player, is to guide Vincent through these action-puzzle stages, and shove around the blocks into proper stepping stones to scale the stronghold. The greatest challenge to Vincent’s safety is not “monsters” (there’s a few, but they don’t have much of an impact on the proceedings), but careless block pushing. Sure, there’s a ram with an impossibly large mace hopping around the arena, but Vincent is a lot more likely to be impaled on a foolish mistake than any mutton weaponry. Vincent is in an untenable, sinking situation, and you’ve got to help him make the right decisions and climb his way out of it.

Going up?Yes, it’s a pretty obvious metaphor.

While you could create a pretty sound reading of Catherine based on the fact that the plot is everything wrong with current gaming attitudes (male fantasy that involves having sex with two attractive women, but, oh noes, all they want to do is ruin all “your” fun, the horrid bitches, you’re such a beta [ugh, writing that makes me feel sick]), I feel like that ignores the more overt message Catherine is trying to relay here. Yes, Catherine’s sexual politics are repugnant (one way or another, a woman is a villain pretty much just for having her own desires), but, if you can put yourself in the head of the protagonist, it’s actually a pretty worthwhile lesson for modern life. Vincent is stuck in what he believes to be a completely impossible situation (just like the nightmare tower that is impossibly high), but, with hard work, patience, and a touch of critical thinking (mostly block pushing), there is a solution. And, in the end, Vincent survives his “deadly” situation, doesn’t run away, and makes a deliberate choice to be a better person (whatever his final choice, he does his best to make sure no one is hurt… or at least mortally wounded).

The lesson is clear: some problems in your life may seem insurmountable, but there is always a solution. There’s always an answer, do not dwell on your hardships, but fight to find the resolution.

Except… that’s the lesson of every video game.

Videogames, almost by definition, always have a solution, an ending, which you can fight to achieve. Okay, some videogames are endless, but even in those situations, there’s a score, or some other gauge indicating whether or not you rappin’ good. If you’re sitting down with Super Mario Bros. 3 or Dark Souls 3, you know there is an end in sight, even if you’re still in the first thirty seconds. Videogames are games, and games have win conditions. With hard work and determination, you can achieve anything.

That is not real life.

Reality is a pain in the ass. You could be the smartest person on Earth, but you’re not going to be the richest unless you know the right people, and have the right skills to parlay that intelligence into an actual income. You might be the strongest, quickest, or most… what’s a good sports verb… ballingest (?), but it means nothing if you hail from Podunk, USA, where the best job available is rootmarm mixer. Hell, arguably every single person on Earth is fighting against the “problem” of not being the wealthiest person on Earth, but only one in seven billion is going to achieve that goal. I don’t care how good you are at block puzzles, it ain’t happenin’.

However, videogames have penetrated our society so completely, it’s hard to guess how much of the American Dream has been influenced by “gamer thinking”. Perhaps the most obvious example is the “pick up artist” culture, which boasts that if you follow steps A, B, and C, you (yes, you!) can pick up any woman on Earth. Obviously, this kind of thinking is nothing new, but it’s hard not to draw a comparison between it and videogames with similar “tips and tricks”. And that’s just the most blatant illustration, look no further than the bottom of most websites to find a myriad of simple steps to owning a home, boat, or trophy assembly factory. Questions about making your life better? Check the FAQ!

Except… I learned a thing or two from video games.

If there’s a crack in the wall, you don’t ignore it, you set your bomb right there. Ice is there to be melted, and fires must be extinguished. An unusual block is begging to be pushed back into place. Gaming taught me to be critical of everything, whether I’m looking at dungeons, games, or stories. Gaming has taught that to an entire generation, and it’s only going to continue.

GASPSo thanks for the moral, Catherine. Thanks for explaining that there’s no problem so insurmountable, that it can’t be solved through careful thinking and perseverance. And if this were someone’s first videogame, that would be a meaningful moral. But when you’ve got the same basic lesson as every other video game (work hard and you’ll reach the goal!), well, your “adult” story just got a little more childish.

Catherine, I think your thesis just got crushed by the last thirty years of block towers.

FGC #118 Catherine

  • System: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Like Nier, this is the kind of game I’m rather amazed made it out of Playstation’s gravity.
  • Number of players: Considering how the main campaign is so focused on “you”, it’s kind of odd that there is a two player mode. I mean, yeah, it makes sense for the actual gameplay of Catherine, and even theoretically makes sense within the realm of the game’s mythology, but it still seems weird. It would be like making a Final Fantasy 13 game where you could compete against “other” Lightnings.
  • Just play the gig, man: I was just complaining about a lack of classical music in modern gaming, and here’s Catherine with remixed hits from the last few centuries. I really enjoy this soundtrack, and not just because it samples heavily from Mad Maestro tunes. Somebody in the sound booth understands what makes lil’ fugue great.
  • Edge? Edge. Edge. Edge.
  • Ghosts ‘n Goblins: There are major references to Capcom’s G ’n G series throughout the game. There’s a protagonist frequently stripped down to his boxers, a dotted world map, and an ending that winds up with a very familiar demon realm. Firebrand should have guested in this game, and not that one from earlier in the week.
  • An end: Speaking of endings, there are a couple of different “choices” for Vincent’s finale. In one ending, he marries his long-suffering girlfriend, Katherine. But didn’t she find out about his affair with Catherine? Oh, that’s not a big deal, Vincent and the gang convinces Katherine that Catherine never existed, so there wasn’t ever any real cheating. That’s right, kiddies, at least one ending features our hero gaslighting his girlfriend into matrimonial bliss! Something horrible is happening here!
  • Did you know? If you ever hear me spouting trivia about alcohol, it’s because I learned it from this game.
    I'm learning!
  • Would I play again: I know I’m being really hard on Catherine’s plot and morals, but it’s only because I really like actually playing the game. It’s unique gameplay in a sea of games that have been recycling the same playstyles for the last thirty years, so I’ve revisited Catherine many more times than the majority of my PS3/Xbox360 library. It’s also fun for random “pick up and play” gameplay. So, yes, long story short, I’m going to be playing Catherine again. I reserve the right to think it’s stupid, though.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Link’s Crossbow Training for the Wii! ROB… was that even a full game? Does it… count? Eh, I guess I’ll figure that out. Please look forward to it!

All done