Developed by Idea Factory / Compile Hearts Published by Idea Factory International Reviewed on Vita
Long time no review, everyone! I’m taking a break from the Neptunia series to bring you my thoughts on the new Idea Factory and Compile Heart dungeon crawler, Mary Skelter Nightmares! I’m no stranger to first person dungeon crawlers on the Vita, so I was very excited to get a chance to play this game. Mary Skelter Nightmares opens up in around present day Japan where a giant living organism called Jail randomly appeared, causing the area where it appeared to sink 666 meters below the surface. You can kind of guess how life is being stuck in Jail. We are introduced to Jack and Alice who share a cell in Jail and are subjected to daily torture until they’re saved by Red Riding Hood. After escaping it is revealed that Alice is a Blood Maiden just like Red Riding Hood. The Blood Maidens are a team of special girls who were born in Jail that have abilities beyond that of a normal human. It is their mission to save the people trapped in Jail while looking for a way to escape.
Upon starting the game you’re given the options of three difficulties, Easy, Normal and Hard. If you play the game on easy it makes the enemies weaker (which is a given) and harder makes the enemies stronger (which is also a given). I’m a bit confused on why easy mode gives less experience than hard mode. They explain it as the enemies are weaker so you’ll earn less experience and vice versa. The base gameplay of Mary Skelter Nightmares is more or less your standard dungeon crawler. You leave a base to explore a dungeon, return to the base, and repeat. Each character in your party has multiple jobs that they can take after they reach certain levels. The battles are your standard turn based combat; however, there are some twists that this game puts on the standard dungeon crawler.
Since Jail is a living organism your actions in a dungeon you’ll affect the Hunger, Libido or Sleep gauges. Once those gauges are filled a spinner appears and each choice either affects your party or Jail itself. During battle there are channels that will cause a blood splatter: the blood that your characters receives will cause them to go into a state called the “massacre” and “genocide” states. This state causes the Blood Maidens to become super charged for a couple turns and become able to use a different set of stronger skills. Jack is not to be forgotten as well. While not he’s not an actual fighter think of Jack as a team manager. He has the ability to guard a selected blood maiden and take the damage instead. After a couple of hits, however, Jack will be knocked unconscious. Due to story related reasons Jack also has the ability to cleanse the Blood Maidens and stop them from getting corrupted.
Despite these cool game play elements, the game does have some major flaws that are evident from the start of the game. From the the very beginning there there is a huge grind wall that you will hit. The first major boss of the game is immediately proceeded with a fight with an area boss called a Nightmare. This area boss, which is already in a weakened state, is multiple levels above your party. Or you’ll encounter a group of enemies that are randomly higher leveled than everything else you’ve been fighting up to that point. Due to this uneven difficulty the grind makes the game feel like a chore to progress through.
Mary Skelter Nightmares also has a major problem with re-coloring monster models and calling them new monsters. While this is not an uncommon thing in dungeon crawlers, normally palette swapped enemy variations begin to appear in different dungeons; however, in Mary Skelter Nightmares the recolored monsters are in the very same dungeon that you’re in. This lessened the experience for me.
Where this game really shines is in voice acting department. The game can be played with either an English or Japanese dub. Both dubs are great and each characters is brought to life by their respective voice actors. If you do know Japanese be warned at some points the dialogue text and the Japanese dub doesn’t exactly match up; it’s not a huge deal but it is a little annoying. The soundtrack does a good job establishing the mood for the dungeons that you trek through and it doesn’t become repetitive.
The graphics are about what you would expect out out of a dungeon crawler. There’s nothing that really stands out in particular for the genre. Where this game really shines is in the character and enemy designs. Each of the the Blood Maidens’ original job classes are designed loosely after the stories that their names originate from. Each job class is highly original, which makes it a pleasure to unlock each new job class.
Mary Skelter Nightmares is not a bad game by any means, but it has a handful of problems that keeps it from being a truly great game. If you enjoy dungeon crawlers then you will enjoy this game.