+Astonishing use of audio and visual approaches, helping immerse players
+Combat scenarios are fun and at times quite difficult
+A nice change of pace compared to Compile Hearts’ previous titles
+Fun and traditional gameplay using normal dungeon-crawling experiences
–At times, the game seems to try hard, and seem rather “edgy” when using controversial approaches such as undressing characters
-Over-sensualizes the idea of self-harm to help heal party members out of their “Berserk” style state.
-Third-person gameplay would have been astonishing to have had in the games gameplay mechanics
For the PlayStation Vita, 2017 seems to be one of its biggest years. We’ve seen it get some admirable titles ranging from Tokyo Xandu, to the enigmatic and well scripted Utawarerumono: The Mask of Truth, to the interesting, and once-completed, enigmatic Caligula Effect. It’s been a year that Sony should take notice of when it comes to the PlayStation Vita and it’s third party support that keeps the handheld afloat, but that’s not to mention the many other games the handheld has received in recent days.
In recent days, it’s been a low expectation to see anything new on the Vita, and even more-so the fact that Sony hasn’t surprisingly shut it down already. If you were to ask me the reason behind such thoughts, it’s should come as no surprise for me to state that the handheld is close to its final steps in North America, but sometimes, a hidden gem slips between the cracks and reminds me why I love the game. Again, I’ve been proven wrong by Compile Heart, a company who has made some question moves regarding their Hyperdimension Neptunia series. With a chance of pace came their new title for Mary Skelter: Nightmares.
Mind you, even as a huge fan of the Vita, I was somewhat startled to see another title from them staring an almost all-female cast. One that almost seemed like they walked into a Hot Topic, took a few pictures, and decidedly walked out once they found their cast, slapped them into an anime setting, and gave them special powers. And so I thought I would be off to the races once more with another Compile Hearts title, one that would be a clone of their other franchises, only to forget its need for an identity of its own.After gritting my teeth and booting it up, Mary Skelter decided to subvert my distaste that’d been growing due to rehashed games in recent years, and gave me something a bit more enjoyable. A game that decided to be apart of a new trend and finds itself as a game that is actually quite a lot of fun. Enough fun I’ve decided to give it another dive post-review.
Surprising enough Mary Skelter changes its premise from Compile Hearts’ past experiences, which was a first, and a surprise to begin with. The game takes place within an unnamed city in Tokyo, which later becomes a crater in the ground, and eventually swallowed up by a mysterious prison that is only known as the “Jail”. Those who inhabit the “Jail” are now victims of torture and are depraved of their humanity by the mysterious creatures known as the Marchens.In the introductory minutes, we are quickly introduced to several inhabitants of this God forsaken place known as Jack and Alice, whom are rescued by no other than the Red Riding Hood, but Red Riding Hood is also known as a “Blood Maiden” within the game. After rescuing your main protagonists, you are quickly recruited into the “Dawn Resistance,” a rag tag group of people dedicated to climbing the tower in the center of the “Jail” and escaping to the surface world. In order to do this, they will need the Blood Maidens’ power in order to escape, which brings the idea of legendary fairy tale characters to life.
Characters such as Princess Kaguya, Sleeping Beauty, and more will come to aid (since that’s where they get their characters names from, fairy tales). While some of the characters may not seem interesting, some of them are quite interesting, and offer unique takes on their fairy tale selves. While it does seem cliche that they used such creatures, it can’t go without saying that Mary Skelter: Nightmares does do a nice job at providing a moderate amount of entertainment from each of the characters.
Let alone do they find inspiration from fairy tales, they seemingly even find a way to bring a Lovecraftian touch to the game, which somehow, oddly works well in Compile Hearts’ favor. Unlike most JRPGs I didn’t expect for the story to draw me in as well as it did, which has seldomly happened as of late for games. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the stories, but rather they didn’t keep my glued to the screen as you would expect.
A world such as the one in Mark Skelter: Nightmares isn’t something you often seen in games. The eldritch world they created is something unique, something I’ve not found as alluring as it is. I didn’t think I would find myself finding interest in some of the otherworldy creatures as I did, and even cult-like religious touches and allies of whom I didn’t entirely trust.But it paid off and even drove me to love some of the games creative aspects. Even if the developer at times seemingly tried to force into existence by trying a little to hard, but even then, it seemed the game remained genuine to its very existence. While this could have been damaging to the overall narrative, it seems as if the game was carefully crafted around its rather standardized dungeon crawling experience. If you’ve played games such as Etrian Odyssey, Persona Q, or anything of the likes, the game is something of that type, one that forces players in a single press of the buttin order to move forward or backwards.
However, there are a few cringe-worthy moments within the game. One such moment is how the game deals with an eye-roll worthy move within the game known as “Skelter.” This only happens to the games Blood Maidens who take too much damage, who will endure a “Berserk” or “Confused” style status, which requires players to use Jacks blood in order to cure them. The more depressing part of this? While I’m not one to appreciate the use of comical nudity, or anything of the sort, the game does see the Maidens in “Skelter” mode shed their clothing, as stated, they are cured by Jack being forced to spray them with his blodo in order to cure them.
While this “edgy” touch could be appreciated, it its only an eye-roll worthy moment at this point, so much so that I found myself just clicking away at the X button till it was time to move on. But as I stated, that doesn’t take away from the experience that is Mary Skelter: Nightmares. The game does just enough right to make this dungeon crawler concept a rather enjoyable one, one that will bring you in more than you would expect, and will keep you hooked for hours on end. Whether its the highly customizable jobs, weapons, and skills that players will take advantage of, the game does all this right in every way possible.
While the game does use some of the most basic gimmicks from FOE style dungeon crawlers, it does it well enough that the Nightmares, aka the dungeon enemies, are a bit freakier than you would expect, causing your skin to crawl when they spot you, causing a “Murder Hunt”. But why is it freakier? Well, to be honest, the map goes into complete darkness while that little mini-map you know so well goes into complete disappearance during these hunts. If you are pulled into the battle that ensues, you may find yourself drawn into the games unique combat for this scenario, which sends players into a battle where escape is their only option.
Mary Skelter: Nightmares – PlayStation Vita
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory, Intl.
Release Date: Available Now
While combat is certainly based around it’s turn-based JRPG elements, Compile Hearts hits it home with both of artwork, and even their soundtrack, which I noticed my fingers and toes tapping to from time to time. to the beat of songs such as the violin filled “Metalic Bowfight” and the upbeat “Urge to Freedom”. To wind down our review, I highly suggest to head over to YouTube, check out the songs, and even give Mary Skelter: Nightmares a whirl of your own.
Since the game is a rather fun and effective title that delivers its entertainment value one button push at a time, I overall enjoyed the games rather fun and creepy Lovecraftian setting, which I highly suggest for you PlayStation Vita owners to enjoy. With the Halloween season almost here, it’s time for you to consider enjoying such a title, and one that certainly fits into the realm of enjoyable titles.
Our review is based upon a retail version we provided by the games publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.