Mary Skelter: Nightmares – Review
Follow Genre: dungeon crawling roleplaying game
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Tested on PlayStation Vita

Mary Skelter: Nightmares – Review

Site Score
7.8
Good: Dark storyline, interesting cast of characters, great visual designs
Bad: some gameplay designs or choices don't belong in the game
User Score
9.7
(3 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)

PlayStation Vita wasn’t the success Sony hoped it to be and as it seems now, Sony may have lost the handheld war with Nintendo. Unfortunately for the players, this means that many developers have left the Vita gaming system behind them. Nonetheless, other developers such as Compile Heart keep believing in the potential of the Vita handheld gaming system and keep releasing new games for it. Compile Heart is best known for their Hyperdimension Neptunia games and other anime roleplaying games. With Mary Skelter: Nightmares, Compile Heart expands its catalogue and brings Vita players a new dungeon crawler roleplaying adventure to explore.

Story

The story takes place in the human world, which was suddenly gone and destroyed by Nightmares, upper class demonic creatures called Marchens who appeared without warning. After taking control of this world, they’ve raised a large housing tower on top of the world with a prison underneath. Here we find Alice and Jack, two childhood friends who try to keep each other alive. One day, they’re being saved by a mysterious girl named Red Riding Hood. She explains that she is a Blood Maiden, one of a select few that can destroy Marchens. She takes both of them to the HQ of Dawn, a rebellious organization with the goal to take down the Marchens and restore the world. As they meet up with other Blood Maidens such as Princess Kaguya, Thumbelina, Sleeping Beauty and many others, they’re fighting to free everyone from the clutches of the Marchens, escape the strange living prison and find out what’s at the top of the mysterious tower.

The story of Mary Skelter features a darker tone and is more captivating than what we’ve experienced in other games of CH. Although it features some stereotypical anime tropes and a predictable love story ending, it’s still a unique story that fleshes out the personalities of the protagonists and presents them in a way that keeps you hooked till the end.  Unfortunately not all characters are worth knowing and feel kind of dull. Aside from the story, you’ll be able to complete side quests but these don’t offer additional story content. Another aspect of the story is the fact that you can build up the bond between Jack and the other Blood Maidens with a max of level 10. Unfortunately this doesn’t offer any real additional value to the story or the gameplay in general and it’s mostly identically for all of the Maidens.Mary Skelter 03

Graphics

Mary Skelter tries to fully combine 2D and 3D elements in its presentation so that it stands out from other similar dungeon crawlers. Although the characters are represented as 2D sprites, the dungeons and enemies have some well-built 3D models. It’s also worth taking a closer look at the dungeons as they’ve been well designed with a dark vibe which you could only find in the Persona games. This makes clearing dungeons a great and thrilling experience. Even the characters are well designed and animated. They’re far better designed than what you mostly expect form similar games. They don’t look like your usual anime stereotypes and the fact that they’re fairy tale characters being reimagined, really makes them stand out.

Sound

As we’ve played many similar games like Mary Skelter, this game features one of the most impressive soundtracks so far. A unique intro song and an extensive list of rhythmic music with a wide mix of influences, pushes this game to the next level. Last but not least, most of the story sequences are accompanied with some decent voice-acting with both English and Japanese audio. Both can be played with English subtitles. Especially anime fans will enjoy the Japanese audio. If Japanese hurts your ears, you can always switch to English.Mary Skelter 05

Gameplay

Just as we’ve mentioned earlier, Mary Skelter: Nightmares is a dungeon crawler roleplaying game. It’s played in first person perspective, being it during exploration or taking down Marchens during combat. This perspective is a mechanic often used in similar games but in Mary Skelter, it really helps adding a darker experience as you crawl through dark tunnels, not knowing what’s waiting around the corner and finding your way to the labyrinth like dungeons. Aside from the dungeons, you’ll also be able to return to the Dawn Headquarters where you’ll be able to visit different locations that trigger either story events or offer services like a shop or a place to recover from your wounds.

As for the dungeons, they’re are mapped as you make your way through. Every dungeon features different obstacles, contraptions and random enemy encounters. Most of them are traps such as holes in the floor or guillotines popping out of thin air causing damage to your party.  But the contraptions on the other hand, require certain character skills. These skills are character bound and are unlocked as you pass through the story.

Battles are either scripted or random. During combat, you’ll tackle enemies in first person perspective and use the abilities of each character. One interesting fact is that Jack can’t really participate and is always up first and only has access to three commands: Wait, Guard, and Item. You can guard any of the Blood Maidens. If you’re successful, they won’t take any damage. But the downside is also a chance he may be stunned, rendering him useless for a few turns. Stunned one too many times, and he’s knocked out. Later on in the game, Jack will gain access to a unique weapon called the Mary Gun, which will grant special abilities and help your Blood Maidens.Mary Skelter 02

As for the Blood Maidens, they’ve got more actions available such as Attack, Skill, Defend, and Escape. Attack is pretty straightforward but with Skill you’ll have to consider the weaknesses of your enemies. Here comes the well-known paper-rock-scissors principle into play. Five elements are available and each has its strength and weakness. By striking the enemies’ weakness or perform an overkill, a special meter called Blood Splatter gauges. When filled, your Blood Maiden enters a Massacre mode for a few turns which grants unique Massacre abilities and skills next to some temporary stat bonuses. Blood Maidens can also lick the blood from other Maidens. This will trigger the Blood Soul skills which offer a wide range of restorative bonuses like temporary status boosts or the ability to heal some damage. Here comes some tactical thinking into play as the gauge depletes after “licking” and will force you to choose between either the powerful boost of Massacre mode or the support like Blood Soul skills. Aside from the Blood Soul and Massacre skills, Blood Maidens can learn other skills through the classes or jobs they perform. With every level, they gain points to invest. These can be invested in the available classes or jobs which grant new abilities or skills to use. These jobs can be changed occasionally in order to finetune your team of Blood Maidens and prepare them for any kind of situation.Mary Skelter 06

As exposure to blood or contamination can never be a good thing, this isn’t any different for the Blood Maidens. If they’re exposed for too long, they will go in a sort of berserk mode called Skelter Mode. Here they lose control, which mostly happens during combat. The Skelter mode is a double edged sword as it critically improves the stats of that particular Blood Maiden but will attack enemies and allies alike. In order to counter this change, you can wipe away the taint with Jack’s blood from their curvaceous body through a questionable minigame. This peculiar minigame is quite kinky which really doesn’t fit the dark tone of the story. This fan service really feels out of place in a game like Mary Skelter.

Last but not least we’d like to discuss a game mechanic that is both brilliant and frustrating at the same time. If you think that you can carelessly explore dungeons at your own leisure, than you’ve got another thing coming. Nightmares, which are an elite form of Marchen, will suddenly appear without warning, on any dungeon floor. This will trigger a panic-like event that will cause a fight or flight response. If you think you’re bold enough to take one down, think again. They’re virtually invincible. Aside from taking down parts of their bodies in order to slow them down, they will regenerate over time and continue the chase. It’s in your best interest to outrun them or to enter another floor. We can imagine that lots of players will really be frustrated about this mechanic but on the other hand, it will help keep you on your toes as it adds just the right level of thrill to your gameplay sessions.Mary Skelter 04Conclusion

Mary Skelter: Nightmares is one of the better dungeon crawlers available on the PlayStation Vita with a decent cast of characters and a dark, captivating story. Unfortunately it also features some questionable gameplay mechanics and choices that don’t really fit the tone of the game or don’t offer any additional gameplay value. Nonetheless, the PlayStation Vita isn’t completely forgotten yet and Mary Skelter is one of those games out there that can help you prolong your gaming sessions on Sony’s handheld.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Mary Skelter: Nightmares - Review, 9.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
JasuSakura
JasuSakura


Being over 30 years old, I've been playing videogames since I've exchanged my pacifier for a game controller. I've only recently started reviewing games and it's incredibly fun to do and educational as I get to know a lot of new stuff about videogames and the industry. My favourite game genres are RPG's(strategy RPG, J-RPG,...), adventure, platforming, simulation and retro.

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