*THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR CATHERINE: FULL BODY*
I have a complicated relationship with Catherine.
Developed by Atlus – the team behind the Persona franchise – this self-described ‘unconventional romantic horror’ title was released all the way back in 2011, when I was 11 myself. I have many a vivid memory of an awkward teenage me desperately trying not to make eye contact with this game whenever I visited a game shop. With its raunchy marketing and provocative cover, featuring the titular Catherine preparing to bare all, it’s needless to say that a goody-two-shoes teen like me wouldn’t have been able to explain a game like that to my parents.
Fast forward to 2019 and Catherine gets a remake: Catherine: Full Body, which was exclusive to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita – two consoles I did not have. So, once again, the forbidden fruit that was Catherine was out of my grasp.
But then my luck changed. For as much of a disaster 2020 has been, it did bless us with one thing: a port of Catherine: Full Body for the Nintendo Switch. So, as the responsible adult I am, I bought a physical copy of the game on its day of release. Finally, I was able to indulge in this guilty pleasure that had evaded me for years and…I was surprised.
To be honest, I didn’t know too much about the game, but there were two things I did know: A) It was primarily a puzzle game with some dating sim/visual novel elements sprinkled in, and B) You have the choice to date one of two girls, Katherine and Catherine.
What I forgot however was that the remaster added some extra content to the original – giving it a ‘fuller body,’ if you will. The most notable addition being the new romance-able character: Rin. They are not only the best character in the game thematically, but they also make the experience of Catherine: Full Body far more rewarding.
But first, what’s the story?
Both the original Catherine and its remake follow the same story – for the most part.
It follows the unfortunate tale of 32-year-old Vincent Brooks and his girlfriend of five years, Katherine McBride. At the time we get to peek in on their lives, we learn that the pair are at a stage where everyone around them is either getting married or asking when the wedding will be. For the driven, independent Katherine, this is a great opportunity to move on to the next chapter in her life, but for Vincent? Not so much.
Cut to The Stray Sheep, a bar that appears to have a clientele of 11 regulars, all of whom you can chat to throughout the game. Four of these are Vincent and his mixed bag of buddies; ladies man Orlando, cynic Jonny, and the rather naïve Toby. While attempting to distract himself from the prospect of marriage, our protagonist meets a mysterious young woman – conveniently also named Catherine – with whom he ends up spending the night.
This causes Vincent to be thrown into what the game calls ‘the woman’s wrath’ – a curse that punishes unfaithful men with a week’s worth of grueling nightmares before eventually killing them. But, as this is a puzzle game, these nightmares are presented as wall-scaling block puzzles with a metaphorical boss at the end of each set of stages.
Essentially, the game’s can be boiled down to: relationship problem, hijinks at The Stray Sheep, and then a nightmare puzzle. Sprinkled in are many a moral dilemma that determine whether Vincent chooses his girlfriend or his new squeeze by the end of the game.
So how does Rin fit into this?
It would’ve been easy for the developers to make Rin an arbitrary third option, adding nothing to the story or gameplay. But really, they’re quite the opposite. The player is aware of Rin’s presence from the very beginning with the game’s opening; Vincent saves them from what he assumes to be a stalker. This isn’t anything too unusual, until he learns that Rin has amnesia. So Vincent takes it upon himself to make sure this newcomer is okay until they regain their memory.
Through Erica, The Stray Sheep’s waitress and long-time friend, Vincent gets Rin their own apartment and a job as the bar’s pianist, since it’s the only skill they can remember. From here, Rin is practically a constant, sitting on their piano stool waiting to be spoken to every evening.
As the game progresses and Vincent’s bonds grow stronger, Rin even starts appearing in the nightmare puzzles. Not as a horrific creature, but as help, playing their piano to stop the blocks beneath our protagonist from falling. Considering their absence in the original, Rin’s ability is unique to Catherine: Full Body, giving them a more meaningful role in the game overall.
But what makes Rin so special?
Like I said at the start, in the original, Vincent only had two choices: a steady relationship with Katherine or a wild life of sin with Catherine. In Catherine: Full Body, Rin is thrown into the mix as a romantic option and I can say without hesitation that their route is the most fulfilling.
You may have noticed that I’ve been referring to Rin with ‘they/them’ pronouns throughout this article. Well, that’s because Rin’s hiding a bit of a secret. The cutesy pink-haired Rin is actually a boy. A boy that Vincent has grown quite fond of throughout their time together.
It may seem like some trashy anime-esque reveal, but in truth, this is one of the biggest turning points for Vincent during the entire game.
He doesn’t pretend he never knew Rin or writes him off as a liar or a creep. If the player has made the route-appropriate choices prior to the twist, Vincent actively pursues him regardless. His friends are confused, even concerned, but all Vincent wants is a life with Rin.
Why? Because Rin loves Vincent for who he is. A statement like that probably sounds incredibly cliché, but in the context of Catherine it means a lot more than you’d think.
Vincent isn’t a perfect man. Far from it. He lives in a tiny, messy apartment and barely has enough money to get by. His girlfriend is successful, strong-willed, and knows exactly what she wants and though she cares for Vincent, she doesn’t view him as too capable. His friends love his company, but beat down on him for his choices. Even Catherine, who is considered to be the more freeing choice, treats Vincent more like property than a partner – even in the good endings.
But Rin doesn’t do any of that.
Everything about Rin follows the idea of doing what you want and living for yourself. Rin’s room is filled with things that make him happy: stuffed animals, memorabilia, even replicas of carnival games – and he’s not ashamed of any of it. He dresses and presents the way he does not because he wants to be female or feels like less of a man, it’s because he enjoys being cute.
This perspective, this sort of freedom and joy, is something that Vincent has been missing his entire life and that’s no overstatement. While in Rin’s room, Vincent spots a ninja sheep eraser, an in-universe cereal box toy that he used to collect as a kid. He then reveals that even though he loved them, simply because they were a mix of cute and cool, his parents threw them all away. Though it’s a minor detail, it does paint a good picture of Vincent’s life as a whole.
Anything he wants is completely disregarded and it shows in his behaviour. He can’t tell Katherine that he’s unsure about marriage, he’s unable to assert himself with Catherine, and he can’t stop his friends poking – or rather, stabbing – fun at him. Yet, as soon as he realises his feelings for Rin, he finally stands up for himself. He breaks it off with both girls and actively takes on his friends when they question his new love.
Vincent grows with Rin. They support each other. They love each other dearly. They don’t cling onto each other because society expects them to or because they’re bored with their lives. They love each other because they genuinely care – something that should go without saying in any healthy relationship and something that the other two romance routes, no matter the ending, somehow fail to embody.
Let’s wrap it up.
At the end of the day, the Catherine games are about relationships. Not the idealised, indulgent video game kind, but genuine relationships with baggage alongside the bliss. Behind its sultry cover and sleazy sounding premise, Catherine – and by extension Full Body – is a story about a man learning what he wants in a relationship in order to be happy. Not just content or settled, but happy. And with Rin, Vincent is finally able to achieve that.
Rin gives Vincent something that no one in his life has: true love and acceptance. This makes all of his trials and tribulations throughout the game seem worth it. All the heartbreak, all the worry, all the supernatural horror this guy had to endure, it all pays off. He’s no longer afraid or ashamed or shackled by expectations; he’s with someone who allows him to be himself and loves every moment of it. Sure, some could argue that it’s a little too good to be true, but if this game can feature succubi and talking sheep, why can’t it show that love conquers all?
To conclude, Rin gifts Catherine: Full Body a truly happy ending for a finally happy couple that the original just couldn’t provide.
Words by Ly Stewart