A cult favorite esport is about to get a big boost, thanks to Atlus’ upcoming Catherine remake. More than six years after launch, the company is adding online functionality to the puzzle game’s PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita remaster — finally outright embracing the fan-driven, fast-growing competitive Catherine scene.
2011’s Catherine is a strange mixture of genres: It’s a puzzle-platformer, but it’s also a pseudo-dating sim. The primary premise involves a man navigating some moral gray areas in the daytime, while solving puzzles in a race for his life while he sleeps. There are also a bunch of sheep in this nightmare world, which is both strange and significant. It’s odd, but that’s part of the appeal.
Another big part of the appeal, though — and the longevity of Catherine’s popularity — is its Colosseum Mode. In this local multiplayer mode, two players (who control sheep, by the way) compete in a three-round climb up one of the main game’s signature puzzle towers. The winner is whoever either reaches the top first or lasts the longest on the way up.
Players have since spun this mode off into its own sport, with a series of tournaments growing in popularity independently of the main game over the years. What’s most interesting about it is that competitive Catherine isn’t so much a multiplayer puzzle as it is a fighting game — thanks to the ability to pillow fight your way to surviving the Colosseum Mode’s crumbling towers.
These fighting aspects have contributed to the growth of competitive Catherine, as did the support of Atlus’ North American branch. Atlus even sponsored Catherine’s debut at Evo, the premier fighting game tournament, in 2015. But a primary factor holding back the sports’ expansion was its lack of an online component, something players frequently requested — despite the years since Catherine’s release.
The number one question I get asked at competitive events is, ‘Does this game have netplay?’” said David “Dacidbro” Broweleit, widely considered to be the best player in Catherine’s tournament circuit. “And I always had to disappoint people.”
Players like Dacidbro relied on Discord to help spread the word about competitive Catherine, as well as new records and strategies for others to try out.
“Every new strategy we learn is almost immediately shared with the rest of the community so that everyone can be up to date on all the important tips and tricks,” Mike Murphy, another top player, said to Paste in 2016. “Some of the players worldwide have been having a lot of success simply bringing the game to locals and getting others to try it. A few incredible players came out of the woodwork at [Florida convention] CEOtaku this year simply because they had started their own scenes.”
When Catherine comes to PlayStation 4 and Vita, the game’s competitive scene will get a real chance to spread. And its the vocal fanbase that’s responsible for it, according to Atlus. Catherine: Full Body will include online functionality for Colosseum Mode, which the company told Famitsu in its announcement was inspired by how beloved it had become overseas.
“This game as a competitive phenomena doesn't have the star power of a game like [Super Smash Bros.],” Broweleit told us. “You can't expect to just pick it up and play with random people or have numerous local players — so netplay will help band together everyone that does have interest in the game, even if they don't have a local scene.
“It is a tremendous moment for us, and we won't waste this opportunity!”
Catherine: Full Body will launch sometime next year.
Correction: CEOtaku takes place in Florida, not on the West Coast. The story above has been amended to reflect this.