Perhaps “analysis” might be the wrong word here, but it is basically what I’ve been doing over the weekend, since seeing Catherine’s box art for the first time the other day. I don’t normally go out of my way to analyze every nuance of a game’s box art, but this time around is different. What I see in this box art – both versions – is an interesting mix of what the development team wants to convey both inside the game itself, as well as to the outside world, the consumers. Also, this gives me another chance to post the lovely box art, because you can never have too much of it!
I’ve never known Atlus not to take risks, both their Japanese core company, and the more localization-heavy Atlus USA. The Persona games themselves – probably one of the company’s most well-known franchises – isn’t afraid to stretch your imagination, distort your thinking and make you feel like you’re in some sort of sensual, surreal and ultimately mysterious fantasy, of sorts.
The box art for these titles, even in Japan, never strayed outside the realm of passable, a non-chalant face on the outside, and all the controversial and often-times risqué content reserved for those who wish to delve into the game itself instead of be engorged on what the exterior promises. Catherine, on the other hand, seems to be taking the exact opposite approach, showing a much more “in your face” and dubious exterior face to random passers-by browsing the new games section at a local retailer. Even by Japanese standards, the seductive teasings of both Catherine and Katherine on the respective game covers leaves little to the imagination, especially when you consider what these girls could be up to just by their pose and expression.
So, yes, I’m pretty sure Atlus knows what they’re doing – they want to be eye-catching, they want to be seen. Why? Because, art style aside, this isn’t your typical Atlus title and the game design itself is very opposite of what Team Persona usually deals with, so even to the Japanese public, they need to stand out. However, this isn’t all the box art is for. It also gives a very profound look into the themes of the game itself.
Vincent, the main protagonist, is a troubled man, but some things in his life are going well. He has a gorgeous girlfriend, Katherine (the one on the Xbox 360 cover), and he has friends that he hangs out with. Things seem to not be going too terribly bad for this dude. Until he meets Catherine, that is (the one on the PS3 cover). Suddenly he’s cheating on Katherine, having weird nightmares that explore some very dark reaches of his mind and are apparently very real, and starts losing control over his thoughts and actions, spiraling deeper and deeper into this hole that may ultimately result in his untimely demise. Let’s not even get in to the psychological issues at hand given the fact that both these girls are named very similarly. Poor guy.
Taking a look at the box art, we see that confusion, and its cause – the seductive nature of personal relationships. Knowing a bit about the story, this shows more on the PS3 cover, but an intermix of these odd nightmares and this love triangle seems to combine the main character with both these lovely ladies to form a perfect trifecta of paranormal, complex and sensual themes that play out both in the game itself, and across this artwork.
The unfortunate thing here? When this game comes to North America, the box art will almost certainly be lobotomized to a placid state that loses its meaning – both physically on the shelf and from a story perspective. Simply put, people over here are prudes. While I won’t go into my misgivings about the odd hypocrisy that people seem to adhere to over here, the fact remains that in almost every situation the box art changes between the Japanese release and the North American release. This is usually to change the art style to appeal more toward the lackluster tastes of American gamers, but in some cases – like is most appropriate here – it will be to change the box art to lessen the sexual innuendo that is present. Because, you know, blood, gore and guns are okay, but pretty, scantily-clad anime girls are taboo!