In this case, “Bad” is doesn’t have a negative connotation. It’s merely a reflection of your personality. There’s an irony to Catherine’s “true” endings; you have to play to the story’s conditions, with outside knowledge, rather than discovering them on your own terms.
The problem with multiple endings is we expect key moments to affect plotlines in an obvious manner. They’re dictated, full of forced morality by developers that, by rights, have no place to judge. Few titles manage to avoid this scenario through neutrality.
Silent Hill 2 played every card to its chest, and every checklist was malleable. Each conclusion was unforeseeable. The “Leave” ending was handed out to the cautious types, whilst the reckless were given “In Water”. As such, the unknowing progressions were given reflective endings.
In stark contrast, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories admitted you were under psychological evaluation from the start. That warning lay in the subconscious, influencing even the most innocent of indiscretions. Still, Shattered Memories got around such difficulties by reminding you of a narrative goal: to put yourself in the shoes of a desperate father.
Videogames tend to let you escape into a role of the hero. Developers are bound by that simple fact, thus stories are about epic quests. Honesty is hardly the best policy when you’re involved in intergalactic war, or having to slay giant beasts for a dead loved one.
When a game doesn’t deal with heroics, it usually deals with personal struggles, and thus, should treat the player with respect. Catherine has a neutral stance on morality, knowing that you’re playing a videogame where the goal is to win. It goads you into choosing reflective decisions by showing the answers of other players, with the graphs revealing some unexpected percentages. A brilliant idea in steering the audience away from treating the non-puzzle segments as another “game”.
Despite the unique online consensus, Catherine shares the same kind of intimacy as Fallout: New Vegas, Way of the Samurai, Steambot Chronicles, and the Zettai Zetsumei Toshi series. They’re all about personal struggles, with most choices allowing a completely new direction to accompany different consciences. Every action has a consequence, but they also lack an imposed judgement.
In essence, that’s true freedom, true honesty, and for those who control their destiny within the illusionary confines of a pre-set narrative, wholly satisfying.
The downside to an honest heart is the disposability of the initial attempt.
The intensity of each personalised decision is diluted with every subsequent replay. The player knows how to tackle every obstacle with perfect efficiency, and thus, circumvent their previous errors. Everything is an afterthought towards new goals, outside of the narrative. As such, Catherine suffers from its multiple endings, text messages, and achievements.
Currently, I’m on a second run of Catherine, giving Katherine and Catherine the answers they need to hear. For Vincent, it’s another run of nightmares. For me, it’s just a dream run -- a dishonest ending for a dishonest heart.
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