Source: Anime News Network
In an announcement that I found quite shocking, Atlus recently revealed by way of Twitter that seemingly niche Puzzler Catherine had managed to sell 200,00 copies in its first week on shelves. I found myself quite surprised by this, as I fully expected the game to fade into the background due to its…unusual nature.
Now, I am that kind of gamer who likes to take chances on games that might be considered “strange” or “unusual”. After all, way back in the day I was one of those people who got Katamari Damacy on day one, before I read the reviews. And I can proudly say that the special edition of Catherine in the Fifth episode of our Podcast belongs to yours truly. But even for my strange tastes, they don’t get much stranger than Catherine, in which you take on the role of Vincent, a man in his early 30’s faced with those difficult choices we must all make, such as commitment to his significant other, the more forward-thinking Katherinc, and wheter or not he should finally find his place in life, or just linger where he is.
However, Vincent’s situation takes a sharp turn for the strange when he starts having nightmares about himself and others traversing a tower of blocks. Except said others are also sheep. And there’s a rumor going around that, should you fall off the tower in the nightmare, you die in real life, a theory lent credence by a rash of mysterious deaths of young men in the surrounding area. All this coincides with the entry of a young vixen into Vincent’s life: the alluring, bubbly Catherine, who is the very picture of temptation. Can Vincent sort his life out, or will he end up just another in a long line of slaughtered sheep…
Catherine seems to be made not to sell well. It’s themes are dark and complex, making it the exact opposite of a “Sit down and just play” game. It’s gameplay, though well-constructed, is also abstract and difficult to get used to (if you want to know more, look it up. This ain’t a review). And yet, the game is selling gangbusters in a climate where many gamers accuse eachother of “only buying mainstream games” and “never taking chances”. I myself have frequently complained about this (*coughOkamiGodhandMadworldMuramasacough*), and yet here we are, with the niche-iest of niche games poised to be a hit.
So has it finally happened? Has this generation finally matured to the point that they will be indulging in more unusual fare? Well, the optimist in me wants to say that people are finally starting to realize that their favorite hobby is useful for more than just killing things, and can in fact give them unique, complex experiences they cannot find elsewhere.
The pessimist in me, however, has a much simpler answer. Catherine is developed by the good people at Atlus, who are responsible for giving us the Shin Megami Tensei games, and more specifically, the Persona series, which has become EXTREMELY popular here, pretty much funding on its own the release of any subsequent MegaTen games in the states. And it is no coincidence that Atlus made no small hulabaloo about this game being developed by the Persona team. So it is entirely possible that most of those people bought this purely out of loyalty to that franchise, expecting something similar here. Which is unfortunate, because as much as I too love Persona, Catherine is a very different, much nastier, and just as interesting animal, and those looking for Persona will be disappointed, and maybe a little scared by the places this game goes.
Still, a good, unusual game is selling well, so I can’t complain. I guess now we just wait and see what the following weeks give us, be it more sales or a flood of returns.