The box art for Atlus' erotic horror Catherine leaves no doubt that this game is all about sex, baby.
It's no exaggeration to say that Catherine, the upcoming adult psychological horror thriller from Atlus' Persona team, is one of the most interesting games on the horizon that we've seen in quite some time.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the story is how it tackles duality: Protagonist Vincent is caught between his girlfriend Katherine (with a K) and having an affair with the coquettish and sensual Catherine (with a C). Predictably, the PS3 and Xbox 360 box art reflects this duality - with the art depicting one of Vincent's two girls, depending on your platform of choice.
It also reflects the Male Gaze. Owners of the Xbox 360 version will see Vincent clinging in the direction of Katherine's shapely rear, whereas our protagonist is unhappily nestled between Catherine's breasts on the cover of the PS3 version.
Both covers feature bizarrely falling sheep-men as well as Vincent wearing a cuckold's horns - which is interesting, given that he's apparently the one being unfaithful and not the other way around.
While I can admire Atlus' devotion to the concept of duality as well as blatant - almost shameless - sex-focused advertising, this strikes me as a missed opportunity to let fans pick and choose which girl (or which physical feature) they like. Atlus, if you're reading this, have you considered making the covers reversible?
In all seriousness, I can't help but find it interesting just how intentionally sexualized these covers are. I mean, it isn't like games have never put their female cheesecake on the box before hoping to attract young male gamers, but that's not what we're seeing here - at least, not entirely. With Catherine, this box art is explicitly stating, "Yo, this game is about sex." That's been the state of the game's advertising since the beginning, and it's almost refreshing in a way.
And yet, despite how blatantly and intentionally sexual these covers are, there is no doubt that Vincent ain't the one in charge here. It's an interesting reflection of the Japanese concept of a "herbivore man," or a young male who isn't interested in sexual or romantic entanglements (though Vincent clearly has both) - being held against two apparently strong and dominant female types. Once more, that duality at work.
Like I said, this is a really, really fascinating game.
It's almost a sure bet that if Catherine does make it over to the states we won't get box art that's anywhere near as interesting as this. I'm just crossing my fingers that we get it in the first place.
Catherine is out in Japan on February 17th.