The fighting community in the competitive world of gaming is a pretty loyal and invested group filled with loads of talented gamers, eager spectators, and a kinship built on the enjoyment of watching a small scene grow to a behemoth. Tournaments feature some of the most popular fighting games of the year while working in mainstays from years past, dealing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to the most skilled of competitors across the globe. Yet buried deep within the scene are games that not all spectators are aware make the circuits. One such game has been part of the FGC for almost a decade now, winning the hearts of many in the community, even though it can’t quite be labeled a “fighter” game in the purest sense.
Catherine is the 2011 intense and strategic puzzler released by Atlus. You play as Vincent, a man in a relationship (with Katherine) who falls in lust with Catherine, a seemingly kind and flirtatious young lady who turns out to be something much, much worse. The gameplay consists of traversing booby trapped stages by navigating blocks and climbing to the top of a ‘block tower’. The game itself was good, but buried within its confines was an often overlooked multiplayer. Within, two players would work to climb to the top of the aforementioned towers, pushing through obstacles, traps, and each other to reach the top. Thanks in large part to a core group of competitors and, eventually, the PR manager at Atlas U.S.A., Catherine never went anywhere to die.
In fact, Catherine has enjoyed quite the run at major competitive events. While not all FGC members agree that Catherine belongs on their circuits, most accept the nuanced nature of the competitive aspects behind the game’s multiplayer mode. If you take a few moments to watch any given footage of Catherine at, say, Evo 18, for example, you’ll find yourself engrossed at the quick thinking strategic movements of its competitors and the fierce back-and-forth action worthy of tournament attention.
Making its competitive tournament debut in 2011, Catherine landed a spot at the 2011 Super NorCal Install. Due to its massive success, Catherine’s tournament stream began to draw the attention of gamers around the nation. From there, Catherine moved into the eyes of many more fans and competitors. This drive kept the scene alive long enough for Catherine to eventually hit some of the biggest tournaments around. In 2015, Catherine, thanks to the efforts of John Hardin, the PR manager at Atlus, was able to find a spot for the game in Evo 2015. After another largely successful showing in 2015, Catherine and its competitive scene was off and running.
From 2017 on, Catherine has appeared in numerous major tournaments around the world, including the likes of 2017’s CEOTaku, 2018’s Evo Japan and AnimEvo, and the 2018 Michigan Masters - and more. While it doesn’t enjoy the number of tournaments and views of the biggest games in the FGC, Catherine does retain a rabid and loyal fan base, and its run since 2011 is doubly impressive for it.
The next time you’re scouring for interesting competitions in some of the larger (or smaller) tournaments in the FGC, consider tuning in to Catherine. The masters of this hectic fighter/puzzler may not hold the same splendor as the gods of Smash, but Catherine itself has some of the most talented players competing against each other. If you don’t have an aversion to the unusual nature of Catherine’s gameplay, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.
by Evan Schwab