I had seen this man before. An attractive, tired looking sort of fellow with his scruffy excuse for a beard. He had tussled hair and the rings around his eyes indicated he had not been sleeping very well. Perhaps he’s been having nightmares. His expression is one of utter concern. It’s as though he’s gotten news he’s none too keen on. Drinking every night at a mostly empty nightclub, he talked about problems of the heart. Ah yes, this guy. How could I forget him? He reminded me of myself.
There’s a reason why some of us choose to drown our sorrows in a good, revenge, somber song about love gone wrong. There’s always a quiet reflection there - in lyrics that speak volumes for all those emotions you could not quite convey other than through tears - and if you’re the one with the broken heart, you can take comfort in those words.
But what if you’re the one doing the breaking?
Atlus’ 2011 game Catherine introduced an interesting “villain” in Vincent; and one of the best, dare I say, Last-Gen “Villains” I’ve encountered. For myself, it was somewhere on the third or fourth floor on the sixth night of a particularly hellish nightmare, that I did not have the solution to save Vincent on his climb for redemption. Thus, I never finished the game. But what Atlus did with Catherine was paint a picture that could force us to think on the often unsavoury aspects of human nature and to perhaps even admit our shortcomings.
It tried to, anyway. And on some level, it succeeded.
During my playtime with Vincent, I saw a frantic struggle of a little bare-chested man in his underwear covered with light pink polka dots, with his sheep horns comically flailing up a pyramid of danger. What danger, you ask? Every fear that Vincent had from commitment, to fatherhood, and to adultery, became embodied in Vincent's nightmares as murderous things that would see him fall to his death unless he kept climbing out of their reach. Confessionals awaited him should he escape and it was there his true motives and emotions were questioned.
I saw the adult choices some of us have to make in whatever relationships we may have. Past the point of a freshness of a new love, past the sickening stage where everything just feels airy and has you light-headed; you have your Katherine…and there she was: Planning Vincent’s future - her idealistic future - which was one he had a hard time committing to. She was business like in her appearance, and her mannerisms. To me, Katherine had a cold characterization. She was unlikeable. I almost did not want to make my decisions of loyalty be pledged to this woman who was painted in the black: a stoically, manipulative woman with ultimatums.
The alternative would have been to choose Catherine and there was not much to like there either.
Catherine was painted in the white - bright, airy, and conceptualized as the epitome of everything desirable in a purely physical, lust filled plateau. She annoyed me. Maybe it was her vocalization that did it or maybe it’s that there was no depth to her personality (which yes, that was the point). She was a one trick pony on the opposite end of the spectrum of the other one note bird, Katherine.
The situation was black and white. Visually, it was a dichotomy since Katherine was portrayed in darker clothing while Catherine was in lighter but it was emotionally obviously the other way around. Katherine was a choice to prove you had some sort of a moral code to stay true in this relationship Vincent had. But if you wanted to be that "jerk" and ruin a good thing? Then go with Catherine for throwing "life" away and having fun. It was an extreme presentation and as we know, life is not always that cut and dry because human emotions can be complex.
Realistically speaking though, it’s the irrational decisions that can lead to negative, weighty consequences. For Vincent, his fears and guilt chased him as grotesque creatures spawned from the darkest of nightmares. That trapped feeling of wanting to escape your problems in the real world that follow you into dreams manifest whatever heavy emotions are at play in your mind. The consequence Vincent would have suffered for his misgivings was death... something a bit harsh for a man I was actually rooting for despite his supposedly reprehensible actions. That’s not to say I think Katherine deserved to endure the emotional and supposed physical affair that Vincent was engaged in and put her through. But that was part of the decisions the game interestingly left you to resolve... putting Vincent in your hands to decide his way based on black and white situations that questioned your integrity while being a slate on which you could project any personal experiences you may have had.
The reality was that I wanted Vincent to be alone without the stresses of either of those two horribly characterized females. I know there’s an ending somewhere in there that could allow me to choose neither. But my moral, good girl upbringing shifted my choices to Katherine because it was the “right” thing to do by all real world social conventions.
This got me thinking about all times I may get to choose playing the villain. I love a villain, so why not? And yet, I’ll always choose to be good. My brain switches into hero mode even though you’ll faster find me rooting for the Sephiroths of the World than the Clouds.
And while he may not be the traditional video game evil that burns down towns or plots world domination… Vincent’s the type of person anyone can relate to and it's what made him so terrifying. He is the sort of real life “villain” you may have had the displeasure of meeting in that he’s a regular person with power over you to bring you to tears.
Or alternately, Vincent is the “villain” that you could be… the one with the power to bring someone else to tears.
The latter is not a representation of your character you may ever want to display or acknowledge but it happens, and can happen. Whether it be in a poor decision made that ended a friendship, relationship or if you had a heated, gut-wrenching discussion with a family member... I’ve been both that villain and on the receiving end of hurtful behaviour in some of those instances cited. I believe one or all of those experiences are the types we’ve all encountered because what’s important here as to the shared feeling we may have had, is the one of betrayal.
When you’re the one who has wronged another, it can make you feel regret and if you’re lucky, you’ll get forgiveness and can find solace in the fact that the one you’ve hurt does not think you so terrible after all. Other times, you’ll justify what you’ve done with excuses of everything you found negative in that other person or situation to make yourself feel better. I’ve done it. I still do it.
At its core, I believe in Catherine Atlus attempted to initiate hard discussions, and forced some internal reflections of our moral fiber. They surrounded us by block puzzles representative of sorting out your life’s problems. To solve each puzzle was to live through another of Vincent’s personal nightmares and to confront them head on. Whether his problems affected you personally or not, chances are it has affected someone you may know. And as such, the emotions evoked are ones that you may be able to relate to no matter the side of the coin you find yourself on - and could be applied to all facets of your interpersonal relationships.
One day, I’ll go back and rescue Vincent. I'll pull him from the serious situation of his own creation while a hauntingly modern take on Bach's "Little" Fugue in G Minor fuels and sets the tone for Vincent's rhythmic, yet frantic and logical drive for freedom. I have a fair outline of the ending(s) having mistakenly happened upon them. Perhaps I’m sort of hesitant to admit that Vincent is a flat out villain, as to do so is to admit that we all may have done some villainous things. And it’s sort of scary to think that I have at least on a few occasions - intentionally or not - been pretty damned good at being one. But truthfully, I don’t actually think Vincent the villain at all; and I do not believe it would be wholly accurate to classify him a villain. We can call him every negative thing in the book - and he certainly is not without some culpability - but in reality, Vincent inhabits a virtual existence that some of us can find ourselves in or may have found ourselves in in real life.
Vincent’s very much human.
- The pizza, beer of The Stray Sheep quality await you at TAY Classic. It's there you may never want to leave for it has discussions on life, video games and whatever else you want to talk about. Join a discussion or start one of your own. It's all up to you. If you had any questions on how TAY works, give the tutorial for TAY a read. The solution to the sixth night is not there though, but Vincent and I could really use it.