Atlus / Max Factory: Catherine Review

Valentine’s Day is here and what better way to celebrate than with Catherine, the blonde beauty from the game with the same name, Catherine!  This will be what I’m going to call a hybrid review, a mix between reviewing the game by Atlus and the subsequent figure released by Max Factory.  Be warned this review may contain mature themes and will definitely contain plot spoilers.  If you haven’t played the game and/or don’t want to read the plot spoilers, I’ll try to give spoiler warnings but it may be best if you just look at the pictures if you don’t want to ruin the gaming experience for yourself.

Catherine, the game, was published about a year ago in Japan by Atlus on the Playstation 3 and XBOX 360.  Atlus, in recent years, have been coming out with some really unique genres that I find refreshing to the gaming scene, particularly Demon’s Souls.  Just thinking about that game still depresses the hell out of me, not that I mean it in a bad way, it’s just that they created such a great atmosphere of despair in the game that I’m still haunted by it.  Atlus is also known for their low production runs, so good luck finding stock at your local game store should they run out.  When Demon’s Souls was released, it instantly became a cult hit and flew off the shelves – I had to resort evilBay to get my copy of the collector’s edition.  So when Catherine was announced, I placed my pre-order at the local Gamestop for the collector’s edition early.  The collector’s edition is dubbed the “Love is Over” edition, which comes with the game, t-shirt, pillow case (something Tier @ Tentacle Armada can appreciate), boxers, artbook and soundtrack – all packaged in a simulated pizza box.  I say simulated because the box didn’t really look like a pizza box, it was compact and thick, not squarish and flat like a real pizza box (as shown in the promotional photos below).

I’ve wanted to do a review of this game since it was released last summer (for North America) but have been procrasting.  Maybe not really a full review per se, but to express some thoughts on it.  I was really intrigued with the use of animation in this game, though it’s nothing new, it has been awhile since I’ve seen one.  Also what captivated me was the plotline and the options that you could take to achieve the various endings.  Before I started, I was really confident that I’d play the good boyfriend and stay true to the one I “love” – but the game definitely threw a bunch of curve balls that had me questioning my decisions.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game, the player plays the protagonist named Vincent who comes to a crossroad in his life.  He is in love with his long time girlfriend Katherine, who has been pushing for marriage, but Vincent isn’t sure if he’s ready yet.  Along the way, Vincent comes across a beautiful and carefree girl named Catherine who all of a sudden captivates Vincent’s mind and has him second guessing his decision to get married.

*spoiler alert*  One of the things I found why I had a hard time staying “faithful” was because of Katherine and her background.  All we were told by the game’s story was that Vincent and Katherine had been dating for five years, though they went to school together years prior.  So going in to the game, I had the logical thought of being the truthful, dedicated boyfriend and that Katherine was the girl for me.  As the story progressed, I realized that I had absolutely no attachment to Katherine at all.  It’s as if you just awoke from a coma and have amnesia then being told who your girlfriend or wife is.  You can’t remember anything you’ve done in the past, the good times, the bad times, etc.  You’re told a story, and it’s up to you whether to believe it or not.  That was the case here, and I’m not sure whether if this was done intentionally or not by the game designers, but as a player, I was actually experiencing and learning what Katherine was like during the progression of the game.  There were many moments where I despised her pushy and bitchy attitude towards me, not knowing what her true motives were.  Did she really love me?  If I had experienced the five years of relationship with her, my decisions between her and Catherine would’ve been a lot less convoluted.  Being the player, I was actually experiencing the personalities and actions of both girls for the first time and at the same time.  So if it was truly the game’s intention to do this so I would be motivated to pick Catherine over Katherine, then it definitely succeeded in creating havoc to my thought process.  It really wasn’t until the end of the game (if you picked Katherine) that you see some of their pictures from the past and learn a bit about their relationship.  *end spoiler*

So after going through a roller coaster ride with Katherine’s personality, the mysterious Catherine shows up with her flirty yet easy going attitude.  Given the game’s premise, I knew Catherine was a bad apple from the beginning.  But as the game progressed, I found she began to display a different side to her that was contradictory to her outward appearance.  When Vincent first met Catherine, she basically said all the things he wanted to hear, and she was extremely seductive.  Not only that, she was a really aggressive girl – and assertive – she knew what she wanted and nothing could stand in her way.  I have to admit, I liked that about Catherine.  But just what was it she really wanted?  I wanted to believe in the words she says, but a girl like this, you just couldn’t be certain!

So when Max Factory announced this endearing character, it was a no brainer for me to pre-order.  Actually, I didn’t even pay attention to her development until a friend of mine showed me a link to her prototype.  Well, he probably did it in jest to mock my figure hobby, but whatever, I wasn’t going to pass up a great figure from Max Factory, especially when I quite liked her character in the game.

Catherine comes to us in PVC form, sculpted by Shining Wizard in 1/7 scale.  From head to the bottom of the pedestal is roughly 23cm, while if you actually measure her from the tip of her toe to her head, she’s about 33cm.  So the entire presentation is probably correct in scale at 1/7, but if you consider the scale of the figure alone, Catherine is probably like 1/5 scale.  That’s considering if Catherine is the typical Asian girl height of 160-ish cm?  Either way, she is a decent size, yet she doesn’t take all that much precious real estate to display.

This is pretty much the standard viewing angle for Catherine, I find she looks the best from this ~45 degrees angle.  She also look’s pretty good from behind at ~135 degrees.  Catherine has a beautifully sculpted face, though if you get up close to it and look at her straight on, she looks a little odd.  That’s probably due to how far and high her eyes are, but from a distance, her tilted head and expression looks great.  Her body language is both seductive and cute and taken directly from one of the game illustrations as well as a similar scene in the game.

 

If I recall correctly, it was around this scene where she pulls off thise pose.  It was one of the mornings where Vincent woke up with her beside him in bed.  She was getting dressed and pulled up her stocking as depicted by the Max Factory figure.  I tried to find the screenshot but couldn’t find it and since I don’t have a video capture card, I had to make do with what I could find.  The game screen shots are all taken from random Google searches…

 Acting weird?  Yeah, I probably would have the same reaction as Vincent if I woke up in the morning with a naked girl like Catherine beside me.  Vincent pulled off a great “Oh shit!” face here, Queen Bitch Katherine will have his balls if she ever found out.

*spoiler alert*  It was after the first night that my perception of Catherine’s character started to change; though she was flirty and aggressive (and dressed like a prostitue/stripper),  one of the first things she said to Vincent was that she hoped he didn’t get the wrong idea about her.  She claimed she wasn’t the type that would sleep with a man on the first date, but she really liked Vincent (yeah, we’ve all heard that one before).  But her voice actually sounded sincere, she even went as far as asking if Vincent had a girlfriend and that he better not cheat on her.  I’m no rocket scientist, but if you’re going to sleep with someone, maybe you should confirm their relationship status before hopping into bed him/her?  Either way, this caused me to start to wonder if Catherine’s character was really all that sinister and if she really had ulterior motives?  But she ran off in a rush the next morning claiming she was late for a dentist appointment.  Hmmmm?! *end spoiler*

I’m kinda jealous of you too… Vince, my man!  But whereas you have Catherine in 2D form, we have her in 3D.  Shining Wizard did a great job replicating Catherine’s outfit, even though the outfit itself is rather simple, the sculpt has a ton of wrinkles and smooth shading.  The paint work on Catherine’s outfit is also very well done, no dirt spots or black specks on top of the white, clean black lines within the dress’s vertical patterns and a beautiful pearl effect in the skirt and stocking.  The red ribbon is also very well scuplted, with gradual shading in between the wrinkles.

 

 While Catherine has a petite body figure, I think the sculpt could have benefited from slightly larger breasts.  Compared to the game, the Max Factory version seems a little widespread and lacking in cleavage.  I’m not usually a breast person and don’t care for huge cannon balls on anime figures, but I wouldn’t have mind if they added a little bit more on top in this case.

 

As I’ve said earlier, the stocking is done quite well, the pearl effect has an almost transluscent feel to it.  The wrinkles just before the hand looks realistic from normal viewing distances, and depending on the angle you’re looking at Catherine, it looks as if she’s really pulling them up her leg.  But when you look closer and from the front, you’ll see that the stocking is already on her leg and her hands are just floating in mid air.  I’m not sure how hard it would’ve been to sculpt the stocking lifting up into her hand?  Maybe not hard for the sculptor, but it probably would have been a manufacturing nightmare and I’m rather glad Max Factory played it safe instead of ruining the figure with her hands intertwined in her stocking material.  The little heart shaped patterns found on Catherine’s outfit and stocking made it on the figure as well, nice small details like this definitely helps with the overall presentation.

 

Given Catherine’s compromising position, it’s not hard to view her from a more hentai angle.  Guys with upskirt fetishes will be pleased with this figure, no doubt.  I usually don’t like figures that are on their ass with their legs up (spread) in the air with no purpose.  I think it’s a silly way to satisfy an upskirt fetish, but there have been a number of pretty good figures in the past that I passed on due to this fact.  Catherine is a little different though, like Spica, she’s leaning back putting her clothing on – she has a purpose for sitting in this position.  The way she’s pulling up her stocking portrays her naughty and seductive nature, with her head looking back as if she’s checking to see if Vincent is paying attention to her.

I’m not too sure what the decision was to put Catherine on a pedestal covered in white fabric.  It’s not bad, but it feels a little out of place to me, as I’m pretty sure she was sitting on the bed in the game during this scene.  That said, I do like the fact they made the pedestal look like it’s covered by a white cloth, almost wedding like, which matches Catherine’s pearl white outfit.  The pedestal is fairly solid, but still light – it won’t save her if you knock her over.  Two pegs on the pedestal sticks into her bottom, it is a solid fit so she definitely won’t be falling off the pedestal by herself.  At least you won’t have to worry about this figure having leaning problems!

 

 Catherine’s back is pretty plain, but I wouldn’t flat out call it boring.  There are a lot of subtle features in the sculpt and careful paint work.  If any of you had ever tried blending white paint and shading it, you know how much of a bitch it is – I’ve always dreaded painting white when I used to work on miniatures (Warhammer FB/40K).  Speaking of paint shades, notice the back of her hair?  The yellow fades down and doesn’t cut off in a solid line, which is usually the case in cheaper figure manufacturers.

Speaking of hair, this is probably the part that has most collectors complaining.  Unfortunately, the production model’s hair colour is off from what was initially shown and from the original artwork.  The Max Factory paint isn’t as yellow, when you look at it in person it actually has a slight olive/greenish hue to it.  I’m not sure why that is, but when I took the pictures and compensated for the white balance, her hair came out looking yellow and fairly close to the prototype images.  The yellow is still a little too saturated compared to the original artwork, but at least it’s yellow.  I can only assume the yellow that Max Factory used was calibrated from a computer that has the white point set to native, perhaps, and not 6500K (or whatever standard they use)?  I’m only referring to 6500K as an example as that’s what I normally calibrate my photos to so they look “right” when printed out and seen under natural light.

The curls are done very well though and somewhat soft so the chances of them breaking off is very minimal, unless you have a sadistic side and like pulling things apart.  ^_^’

 

Speaking of sadistic natures, I think the game developers must’ve had a bit of that when coming up with the gameplay and viewing angles.  If there was one thing I despise about the game, it was the crazy blocks I had to climb every single night.  You see, when you go to sleep in the game, you turn into a sheep.  Yup, a sheep!  Well, you look like you to yourself, but everyone else looks like sheep (and that’s how they saw you).  Then you’re forced to climb to the top of the grid by pulling and pushing blocks, creating paths where there was none before.  But did I forget to mention that the blocks beneath you is constantly falling off?  So you can’t stay in one spot too long, you climb or you die.  That’s not all, there are other sheeps climbing for their survival, and they will push you down or block your path if you’re not careful.  It’s sheep eat sheep!  There are also exploding blocks, fractured blocks, immovable blocks, spring blocks, etc.  If you fall to your death in your dream, you die in real life – that sucks hard!

See this screen below?  Yeah, get used to it – there were so many moments where I felt like doing a /ragequit as I’d get so near the top and I accidently hit the drop button and fall off, or the camera angle blocks my view of what’s behind a block.  Given the fact that you can climb the front and back of the blocks in 3D fashion, I don’t know why the camera angle only limits to the front, you could only rotate it roughly 45 degrees either side, not being able to completely see what’s behind.  The amount of times I died accidentally is unforgivable, particularly when I was so close to the top and the nightmare was chasing me.

That’s right, did I forget to mention the nightmares?  At the very top of each level set, you’re faced with a monster that comes climbing up behind you, trying to drag you down to the abyss.  While I really hated a lot of these creatures, some are rather funny (like the ass monster) – all of these are metaphors of what Vincent experienced during the day.  For example, the bloody bride that looks like Katherine – which symbolized Vincent’s fear of committment and marriage to her.  Then there was the freaky baby, which is rather easy to guess what it symbolized.  The ass monster was rather amusing though, which symbolized Catherine and her nympho nature in Vincent’s mind.

 

*spoiler alert* Vincent had a rough time with trying to get Catherine off his mind and I, as a player, found her hard to resist as well.  There was a charm about her that I couldn’t explain.  She’s wild and flirty, but the things say appear sincere and I felt as if she really did care about my character.  Things weren’t going all that well with Katherine, she was getting bitchy and demanding.  Plus, there was the hint that she may be pregnant with someone else – yeah, that’s right – she may have cheated on Vincent with his best friend!  Of course, the way everything presented by the game was misleading and confusing – there were even talks about Catherine or Katherine being a witch that was killing all the guys in their sleep.  I even thought Erika (the waitress) might’ve been the witch at one point in the game.  I liked how the game kept planting suspicions in your head, it kept you guessing and hard to just follow your heart or your logic.  Everything was a shade of gray – I just wasn’t sure who I could trust 100% nor if the decisions I made were correct.  *end spoiler*

 

Catherine was created to be a sex object, there’s no doubt about it.  She was inserted into Vincent’s life to create havoc, and I’m glad Max Factory decided to pick up on this and make a figure.  At first, I wasn’t really all that impressed with this figure, it looked really simple to me.  But you know what they say, less is more!  The more I looked at the figure while taking photos for this review, the more I liked her – there was a simplistic elegance to her design but also containing enough eye candy.  Earlier I mentioned the satisfaction for those with upskirt fetishes, but there’s actually more!  I guess you can also say Catherine can satisfy those with feet and legs fetishes as well – Shining Wizard did a great job with the sculpt of Catherine’s feet and particularly her beautiful long legs.  If this is sounding repetitive, it is, I really can’t find much wrong with this figure.  I started liking her so much that I even contemplated getting another one to keep new in the box.  Nuts.

I think the human hands and feet are the hardest parts to draw properly let alone sculpt, so I’m rather impressed with what was presented here.  Of course, up close doesn’t look like much, but when you look at the figure as a whole, they’re not bad.  On top of that, Max Factory did a decent job with painting the toe nails and finger nails yet again.  No blob of a mess here that covers the entire toe/finger.

The muscle and bone structure sculpt around the knees are probably my favourite detail on this figure.  I know it’s a bit of an odd detail to have focused on, but I found it really showed off Catherine’s legs.  The area around the knees look realistic enough and with a little bit of lighting, the details pop out even more so.  Before I forget, the “sexy sofa” that you see Catherine sitting on is courtesy of Alpha Max’s Spica figure.  While I was taking Catherine’s photos, I thought to myself, it’d be nice if she had an actual seat or bed – wait, I did have one of those!  Yay!

 

The bottom pic is also probably one of my favourites out of this batch, it pretty much describes all the details I’ve mentioned about Catherine’s sculpt in one simple picture.  Gawd those legs!!! <3

*spoiler alert*  So just who was Catherine anyway?  Sometimes she appeared innocent, yet other times she appeared like a psycho that stalked Vincent.  Was she really there to help him, did she really like him?  Well, as many of you probably already guessed, she was not just your typical girl next door.  She was more or less the figment of Vincent’s imagination.  She existed, but only through Vincent’s mind – none of his friends could see her.  At the end of the game, she admitted to not being human.  She was in fact a Succubus dispatched by Mutton (the bar keeper) to come seduce Vincent, to test if he’s worthy of love (and life).  She did in fact had feelings for Vincent and mostly what she had said were true (she tried to help Vincent along and man up with what he really wanted in life).  Depending on your gameplay decisions, her ending will differ between bad, good or true.  Bad ending is she dumps Vincent, naturally, while the good and ending has her marrying him and both of them go to live in the Underworld.  The true ending is the same as the good ending, with the exception that Vincent takes over the Underworld as King. So if shacking up with a sex demon is your thing, Catherine was the way to go – in this case, I probably wouldn’t have mind.  lol  *end spoiler*

A funny thing I realized when I was processing Catherine’s photos, I decided to play with the blue filter and yikes!  Her eyes look sinister and demonic with the filters on – maybe there’s something to it?  LOL  It’s funny how her eyes glowed like that; definitely an interesting side effect.  The figure matched her video game persona and will probably end up on my favourites list this year.

Catherine can probably be a model for Victoria’s Secret - the pink background work wonders with this figure, just like Elsa (nsfw).

All in all, I found Catherine rather fun to take photos of, she’s just so photogenic.  At first it was really boring when I was taking the standard black background pictures, but once I got to the latter photos where I played more with the lights, my fondness for this figure grew.  I’m really hoping Max Factory will release a Katherine figure but for some reason I’m not holding my breath.  I wanted to do Catherine’s review when she was first released in January, but I had selected her to be part of a combined shipment which unfortunately the other figure got delayed to this month.  So I had to wait till the end of January to get Catherine – but here she is, and the review, I made it just in time for Valentine’s Day.  I’m gonna wait and see if she ends up in the bargain bin – if so, I’ll probably pick up another one as backup.  ^_^’

I’m surprised there aren’t more reviews of Catherine yet as she’s been out for about half a month already, but Lestter on MFC has a really pretty picture of Catherine that he took, definitely check it out!

  

02.15.12 Edit: Forgot to mention, for some odd reason whenever I look at this figure, I’m reminded of Jay Chou’s song “Her Eyelashes”.  The MV is a little dated, but still a pretty good song.  lol