Mary Skelter: Nightmares, released on PlayStation Vita proves to be an interesting one dungeon-crawler RPG by Compile Heart, which many will know for Hyperdimension Neptunia and other series. Probably Fairy Fencer F, Trillion e Genkai Tokki will be among the names thought or best known, but the first steps of Compile Heart in the dungeon crawler genre concern something else.
MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death it was one of the first experiments, quite disappointing in some respects, but which laid the foundation for this title. Learning from mistakes improves, and indeed, we can say that there has been room for improvement.
We resume the review of this title due to the impending release of the sequel, Mary Skelter 2, which contains some spoilers about this first title. If you are interested in avoiding spoilers and enjoying the story totally we recommend that you finish this game first.
Let's examine together the details that make the title so special!
Notes on the plot
The game is set in a dungeon known as "the Jail". The so-called "March“, Merciless creatures who capture humans to torture them!
The protagonist of the story is the young man Jack, along with her childhood friend Alice, both remained imprisoned and looking for a way out of the terrible structure. One day, however, a mysterious girl with a pair of scissors traces the appearance of Little Red Riding Hood he decides to save the two boys, thus marking the end of their slavery. The latter turns out to be a fearsome Blood Maiden, that is, a female individual able to stand up to the Marchen and greedy for blood.
We will then be presented with the basis ofDawn liberation organization, which will provide us with the necessary for our adventures. Not surprisingly, the headquarters itself will have shops and facilities that will allow us to better prepare ourselves for explorations.
As we soon know, Blood Maidens are dangerous because of their thirst for blood, just as they can draw strength from it, they can also be corrupted. There Massacre mode falls into the first category, while the forma Bloody Skelter represents full corruption. The plot particularly develops the theme of self-control and purification, also integrating fanservice elements.
As we will notice from the first moments, there is a lot of reference to the world of fairy tales, a topic that we will discuss later.
Mary Skelter's gameplay
Mary Skelter follows the usual dungeon crawler model, first-person exploration with random encounters and some enemies marked on the map. Although it maintains the skeleton of the genre, some peculiarities that give depth to the game should be reported, in particular the combat mechanics.
As seen in the prison, the game makes a heavy use of blood, although it is not shown as red, but fuchsia for censorship reasons. This choice is still very pleasant from a stylistic point of view, because it creates a good visual contrast with the settings and is supported by the choice of interfaces in the game.
Our party will be formed by the protagonist Jack, unable to attack but only to protect and heal the girls. In the first hours of the game we will have a special gun fed with his blood that allows you to heal and purify the bloodthirst of the heroines in question.
The fact that the protagonist is a supporter and not so much an attacker is a fairly particular choice, supported by the fact that Jack wants to be useful at any cost, even if he is not fit to fight. Much of the plot of Mary Skelter: Nightmares, as well as the combat system itself, focuses on this last element.
Despite these new elements, fans of the genre will not find abysmal differences from other similar games! Consistency in farming and careful use of the tools and management of the party itself will always be required.
An element of innovation is the structure of exploration, with a first phase of research and escape from the Nightmare, alternating with a second phase of combat after having identified the core. The presence of particularly powerful enemies on the map is nothing new, but this setting is quite intriguing and pleasant.
Fighting for freedom
Let's go into more detail, examining the actual system. Like any self-respecting RPG, the statistics are of fundamental importance. By employing a certain type of equipment it will be possible to have different bonuses and set different strategies.
The procurement of weapons is quite particular, we can find them in the dungeons but not buy them, at the limit enhance them with specific materials. In fact, each piece of equipment can be upgraded up to a maximum of 9 times by using the special "crystals" obtained in battle.
Could they miss the classes? Of course not! Like any good dungeon crawler, the presence of customization can only do good, especially in roles. To progress we will need not only a high enough level, also the relative crystals, thus favoring the necessary grinding.
We mention again the importance of blood, especially in battle, as we have several options to make the most of it. Specifically, our Blood Maidens will earn blood by defeating enemies, but at the same time become stained with impurities and taking damage. If we don't want to lose control of them we will have to use Jack's gun to purify them and bring them back to an acceptable condition. Girls can also lick each other for different bonuses, so Jack won't be the only one controlling the amount of blood!
There is no lack of the possibility to develop particular skills based on the class or generic, necessary for survival in the Prison! To enhance them we will need points obtainable through level up and also help us to dampen the boredom of farming we have secondary missions!
Blood Devolution e Blood Crystals
Let's dedicate a few words to this nice mechanic introduced! With Blood Devolution we will be able to lower the level of our heroines, why you ask? Simple, we will receive bonuses in the form of CP, useful for boosting statistics or obtaining extra skills!
We take the opportunity to deepen the Blood Crystals as well, or if you prefer crystals, essential for the party. Obtainable in battle, they are four like blood types and will form the basis for upgrading weapons or carrying out operations on classes or characters.
Controls on the map and interaction with the environment
Inside the dungeons we will also have the possibility to use different commands, very useful for the purpose of our exploration. In fact, to progress, it will be necessary to use some of these skills of our girls in the right way and in the appropriate places to solve some more puzzle phases.
A great addition for sure, especially the possibility we have with Alice to save anywhere on the map or to teleport out! Not infrequently this command will be used by players, as it saves a lot of effort in the most difficult phases of exploration.
Having said that, it is also possible to come across a merchant by chance who will allow us to buy different useful stuff, such as tools, weapons or other accessories to use for the girls' rooms.
Very important detail is the presence of icons on the map, which will allow us to increase the different indicators of the prison. In fact, the structure has its own variable "mood", which can be manipulated to obtain different bonuses both on the map and in combat! It can certainly be said that the environmental side has been taken care of quite well, especially from a creative point of view. The same cannot be said for the design of some dungeons, a typical problem of the genre. In fact, not all levels to be explored will have that feeling of novelty that we would expect!
Check out the Mary Skelter: Nightmares fanservice
As easily understood, this game also suffers from a strong fanservice factor. Set on a harem basis, the game makes wise use of the cast of female characters. The girls will in fact have their own bedrooms that we can visit to offer them gifts of various kinds, aimed at increasing our relationship with them.
After reaching a certain level of confidence with the girls, we will unlock cute CGs in winking poses. Without a doubt it can be said that the character design of Kei Nanameda is of a good standard.
Furthermore, before going on a mission, we will be able to use a nice mode, indeed, a particular minigame. Purge Corruption consists of purifying the heroines of corruption using PS Vita's touch, giving them momentary power-ups.
Once upon a time…
Mary Skelter: Nightmares has a strong inspiration from the world of fairy tales, as visible from the names of the characters. By combining the fanservice component with the theme of blood and the fairytale world, we get exactly what the title offers us.
The distorted heroines with one silent tired however they are consistent with the formula proposed by the title and pleasant to see. Their lines are also suitable for the role they play, and the characterization of the characters is unusually successful. We honestly didn't expect this kind of character enhancement, but don't expect too high a level either.
And the surprises don't end!
If in fact we have mentioned the presence of extras previously, we must mention the ability to unlock some parts of the Light Novel that acts as a prequel to Mary Skelter: Nightmares. In fact, Compile Heart has well thought out not to deprive us entirely of material otherwise impossible for us to consult.
The content offered to us is about 40-50 hours for the main story, while the extra content significantly raises the threshold. The secondary missions offered to us by Oohime and his association are an excellent excuse to dampen the boredom of farming.
Unfortunately, to access the post-game content you will have to get the real ending, so some wrong choices could preclude a lot of things!
Audio and technical side
Quite positive opinion on the dubbing in the original language, as expected. Different opinion instead on the tracks that will accompany our adventures! Although the music is not bad at all, it should be noted that they are often repetitive and can get boring after a few hours of play.
Technically speaking, there are no serious defects that damage the gameplay or anything else, if not some slight drop in frames in the most excited phases. Mary Skelter: Nightmares doesn't make excessive use of the graphics engine, so there's actually not much to talk about.
Conclusions on Mary Skelter: Nightmares
Although Mary Skelter: Nightmares enjoys unique traits and other unique features, the same cannot be said for dungeons and music. As reported above, Compile Heart certainly did a good job in terms of the characters, but the style might not appeal to all palates. We highly recommend the title to fans of moe-style dungeon crawlers or fans of Hyperdimension Neptunia, another series from the same software house.
Compared to other exponents of the genre, the game is at an intermediate level, but nevertheless, an excellent purchase for fans of the genre or the curious. Coming soon, the sequel will be released, Mary Skelter 2, this time on Nintendo Switch in the West and with several innovations that look quite interesting.
Waiting for a final verdict, we still promote the game, reiterating that it is still aimed at a niche of players. Although the genre of belonging is rather hardcore, we can change the difficulty and make it easier, undoubtedly a useful option for those who want to enjoy a lighter adventure.