While playing Catherine the much anticipated erotic-thriller from Atlus, the occasional loading screen will feature a famous quote or saying appropriate to the game’s themes. Most of these quotes pertain to marriage, what it means to be a “man” or a “woman,” or relationships in general. During a particularly trying period for Vincent, the game’s often pathetic protagonist, words by the famous poet Ralph Waldo Emerson grace the screen: “We walk alone in the world. Friends, such as we desire, are dreams and fables.” Such an isolating belief, reflected in Vincent’s paranoia and solitude, stand in stark contrast to the game’s persistent references to widespread and shared decisions and mistakes. From the depiction of cursed men as sheep to revealing confessional statistics, Catherine attempts to dismantle individuality, insulting and devaluing the player in the process.
No matter how many minor decisions that I make throughout the game, Vincent will always be a selfish and incompetent boyfriend. I usher Vincent through poorly crafted lies and watch as he tunes out Katherine, his partner of roughly five years (Vincent cannot quite remember how long it has been), to manage one of his many panic attacks about a future he refuses to confront. Rather than deal with his emotional baggage, he drinks with friends and avoids dealing with the growing dilemma that is the coquettish Catherine and his cheating problem.
Numerous other men share Vincent’s deep character flaws. As Michael Abbott rightly points out, “Vincent is one messed up dude, as are nearly all the men present as NPCs. To Catherine’s credit, it shows us male characters that we seldom see in games—vulnerable, damaged, self-loathing—all gathered in a freakish final-exam-nightmare purgatory.” (”The Catherine Masquerade”, The Brainy Gamer, 9 August 2011). Indeed, nearly every NPC wrestles with the causes and consequences of his personal neuroses. Across the board, the cast of Catherine are painfully flawed.