By Marisa Alexander / April 9th, 2020
|Title||Mary Skelter 2|
|Publisher||Idea Factory International|
|Release Date||October 22nd, 2019|
|Genre||Dungeon Crawler RPG|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, PS4|
|Age Rating||M for Mature|
Mary Skelter was a game I always wanted to play. With its wonderful aesthetics as well as being a dungeon crawler, I was hooked. As such, when Mary Skelter 2 was announced along with a remake of the first game, I could not be any more excited. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and automatically assume it is all sunshine and roses. It is time to see how the game fares.
The story starts out with parallels to the first game, with Jack and Alice escaping from the prison area. However, the point of view is different, where it now follows newcomer Otsuu along with her companion Little Mermaid. Once they rescue Jack and Alice, it doesn’t take long for events to diverge from there. Otsuu, Little Mermaid, and Jack fall down into the Underground Caverns and become separated from Red Riding Hood and Alice, the latter undergoing Blood Skelter. After a short while, Jack mysteriously transforms into a nightmare, now dubbed Nightmare Jack in game. Unlike most nightmares, Jack still acts like himself, where he journeys alongside the party to help them on their journey.
From now on, the game starts off properly, where the main goal is to find the other blood maidens and escape the jail. The plot overall is fairly simple, as the main appeal of this game is the dungeon-crawling and the girls themselves. Realistically, the most I can criticize of the game’s story is that it doesn’t delve into certain plot points and character relationships either early enough or with enough substance. That said, this is more of a nitpick as the story and characters, especially by genre standards, are quite engaging already.
To swiftly cover the gameplay as a whole, the game has a veritable amount of obstacles to traverse around, using on-field abilities to solve puzzles and explore, and escaping from each dungeon’s respective nightmare. In battle, dealing damage beyond an enemy’s normal HP threshold is referred to as overkill, exploiting enemy weaknesses, and anything else that sheds blood builds up the blood gauge. A character can lick a blood maiden whose blood gauge is at three or more in order to activate support skills, many of which happen to be quite useful, though it drains the blood gauge. Once maxed out, at the start of their next turn the blood maiden enters Massacre mode, becoming more powerful and gaining access to their unique Massacre skills. These range from stunning enemies to blocking damage, and also include a variety of strong elemental attacks.
However, there is a catch to using these mechanics. Over time each blood maiden will accrue corruption and the rate of it is increased by taking damage. The further this corruption goes the higher the chance a maiden will enter Blood Skelter state. In this state they go berserk and attack anyone around them. With stronger party members this can lead to a swift defeat as characters like Hameln can KO party members in a single attack. The danger presented is exacerbated by the fact that characters in this state gets multiple attacks per round.
In order to decrease corruption, you either use purge over at home base, which increases resistance to corruption as well as raises max HP or SP temporarily until you leave the dungeon or the character gets KOed, or purge in-battle using Jack, even removing Blood Skelter. Jack works quite differently in this game compared to the first. He shares his turn with Otsuu, meaning the two can take an action each, or do two actions for just one character. In addition, Jack can no longer take damage for a character but can now utilize nightmare zones in order to prevent enemy actions entirely.
All of this affects his mind, however, be it purging, using nightmare zones, or even party members falling in battle. Once his mental state suffers too much, he enters his own form of Blood Skelter, called Ripper Jack. This is an even worse punishment than Blood Skelter, as Jack is extraordinarily strong and can use nightmare zones even on you. Worse still, if he enters this state three times in a single battle, it is an automatic game over.
While this seems quite much for a dungeon-crawler, for me it is the draw of the game. Admittedly, I was a bit stressed while playing this game but it was the fun kind of stress. I haven’t received this sort of feeling in a game for a long time, where all of the risk assessment was a pure joy to go through. That is ultimately what all dungeon crawlers are about, assessing risk in order to overcome challenges, where even in failure the game is still fun.
That said, the game is not extraordinarily difficult either. While enemy damage can be quite high along with micromanaging the rest of the game’s mechanics, the lick action along with the party limit now being six instead of five makes this game quite bearable. This game rewards utilizing its various mechanics, as such it is always engaging. This game also practically chucks healing and SP restoring items at you, so compared to most dungeon crawlers, SP management is surprisingly easy.
Beyond Nightmare Jack and the party limit being six, there are a host of other changes as well. Kagome-Kagome has been added, where if you have equipment with the Bloodshot effect, there is a chance you can make an enemy turn their backside towards you where it will take more damage than usual. Passive skills can also now be transferred beyond their base class so now each character’s skill selection is only bound by the amount of skills they can even select. Many other changes are quality of life changes, allowing play to be smoother.
As for the presentation of the game, while I do enjoy the aesthetics of the dungeons and the characters, it unfortunately still looks like it was made for the Vita primarily. This is both good and bad, as the charm of the original game is still intact as this art direction is quite distinct from other games. However, from a pure graphical standpoint, it could’ve been better. For some strange reason, this goes into the technical quality of the game. I played this game on handheld on Switch, which is more powerful than the Vita by default. Yet, there were still moments where the game would run slower than normal, such as the entire temple dungeon having performance issues. Even certain dialogue scenes have this quirk, noticeable when portraits transitioned as they can stutter. Stranger still, there was one time while viewing the bestiary, parts of the model would not load, or even worse, the entire model wouldn’t appear. I could not find a way to replicate this, making it extraordinarily strange.
For the English voice acting, it ranges from okay to good. For example, Little Mermaid and Hameln sounded fine. Their performance was pretty good. Even Rapunzel’s voice fit the archetype. However, you then have Otsuu who sounds strangely forced. I understand what the voice actor was going for, giving Otsuu a front of masculinity, though it certainly could’ve been done better. Another point of contention is the audio balancing. While sometimes characters are perfectly audible, other times they can be difficult to even hear. I noticed this when I was checking affection rates, and this is not a consistent issue across the game.
Thankfully, the rest of the audio is wonderful. The way the jail wails and the monsters cry out, along with many of the other sound effects, fit in beautifully with this type of world. The soundtrack is quite nice as well, with varied tunes that give the game a distinct flair to it, sounding a bit like a fairy tale at points. Though I found it strange that for certain event points that initiate a battle, the first battle theme would play instead of the one selected for the dungeon.
Overall, notwithstanding nitpicks here and there, Mary Skelter 2 is wonderful. This game can take roughly forty to fifty hours to complete depending on work order completion and difficulty. That said, this game also has a remake of the first game that comes with the package, with a new scenario at that. At a price point of $39.99, this is an astounding value. With Mary Skelter Finale recently announced, there is perhaps no better time to jump in and play what both games have to other. Oprainfall’s review of the first game was already highly praised and I would be ashamed if I gave it any lower than that.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Compile HeartIdea Factory InternationalJRPGmary skelter 2Switch