Wrapping up the morbid world of Mary Skelter, this title shows naught but despair where once there was hope. Now let’s dive in and see just how well it does.
- A high level of customization allows you to tailor your party to your preferred style
- The story is grim, but with hope. It is as uplifting as it is crushing
- The core dungeon exploration is absolutely magnificent
- The Zapping system contributes to a high level of grinding which can make this title rather difficult to bite into
- Some systems, such as Blood Devolution, seem to be unnecessary for proper progression
I have not touched this series since the original title back on the Vita, as such I can’t claim to have been overly familiar when I was provided with this copy. However, as I’m sure I’ve stated before, games which come from Compile Heart are a guilty pleasure of mine. As such I approached this game with great enthusiasm, and was at first rewarded for it.
While the story is captivating and is likely one of the few aspects keeping me hooked, there are some elements which just nag at my mind, something that just leaves me unhappy, if not hesitant to keep going.
The Definition of Hell on Earth
Mary Skelter Finale, there is so much I can say about the story I have experienced to this point, but I don’t think I’ll touch on it all that much. This is an exceptionally enjoyable, if not verbose, romp through fairy tales more grim than those written by the brothers themselves. For those who have played the series before, this is an exceptional continuation for the series.
For those who have never touched the series before, never fear. Finale comes packaged with every cutscene for the prior two games, allowing newcomers to witness what they have missed, and veterans to relive the entire series, all on a single cartridge. Additionally it comes packaged with a short story which precedes the events of the first game.
But to keep things concise. Our party of Blood Maidens and Blood Youths finally reach the surface of the earth, unfortunately it is only to find even more carnage waiting for them. A literal mountain of corpses greets them, and shortly after an encounter with one of the antagonistic forces of the title as well. In a bid to escape, you are cast deep into this new hell you must conquer to truly find your freedom, but many are lost during this attempt.
The Trail We Blaze
Mary Skelter Finale is a rather interesting title, building on its predecessors and bringing to the table its own set of strengths and weaknesses. The approach to navigation is, for the most part, routine as far as dungeon crawling RPGs go. Fend off random encounters with the parties, overcome obstacles which range from finding a lever that unlocks a corresponding door to tracking down key items and using field abilities to assist your exploration.
Field abilities do have some fun uses, such as shrinking down or enlarging keys to work on different locks, using Rapunzel’s long hair to glide across a hang glider, destroying rubble and walls with bombs; or my personal favorite, reducing wire fences to nothing with a pair of giant shears.
As you navigate the maze, collect loot and item pickups, defeat enemies or even just idle it will fill several meters which can bring about a wide variety of bonuses. These three meters are Hunger, Lust and Sleep. Filling any of them will bring up a roulette wheel, which can be influenced by the player as well through the use of Pieces to grant various effects before you delve into a Jail.
As an example some of the bonuses may stun enemies in the middle of combat, or boost your experience and loot at the end. Additionally you may be granted a large supply of Blood Crystals. Players also have the option to place significant restrictions on themselves before entering each jail to bolster their reward. High risk, high reward so to speak.
The Road To Misfortune
The flow of battle, and how you approach it, is an aspect I found to be well done. The ability to change the job of the various Blood Maidens into different specialties allows you to somewhat tailor the party composition to your taste. As an example, as soon as I amassed the large quantity of Blood Crystals required to change a full party I set about changing the Blood Maiden’s in Clara’s company. My personal favorite, Pyre, I turned into a Marksman from her base job of Executioner.
This allows me to set Pyre in the back row without any damage drop off. As you level up you gain CP which are spent on Custom Skills. These are absolute game changers, which vary from attacks to debuffs to passive support skills. Best of all, as you unlock more jobs you can retain skills from those jobs, albeit with a higher SP cost when the specified job isn’t in use.
As battles carry on your Blood Maidens will gradually build up a Splatter Gauge, and depending on the level of purity will enter one of two modes. A controlled boost of power which grants access to powerful abilities called Massacre Mode, or a loose cannon who can and will destroy everything they can, Blood Skelter. Blood Skelter is terrifying, mind you. It is entirely possible for a maiden who has entered this state to wipe out your entire party in a single attack.
I should know, it happened to me when my party was at full health. My habit of leveling up equipment and characters to the point I can steamroll enemies has definitely caused me to experience many game overs. To reduce corruption you use the supplemental abilities of your Blood Lad, or can empty the Splatter Gauge by using the Lick system.
Yes, this system is exactly what it sounds like. A selected Blood Maiden will use her turn to lick all the blood off of another Blood Maiden, which can in itself grant various boons to the party. These can range from party wide health restoration to a significant attack boost. This gives incentive to not always allow a character to enter Massacre and can open even more avenues to how one plays.
This brings me to what I feel is both the greatest strength and weakness of Mary Skelter Finale. By utilizing the massive roster across separate parties and allowing us to switch between them freely it brings with it a massive problem. The level of grind is absurd. As one who thrives on JRPGs and has maxed out clocks in titles before, this is not an issue I encounter often. Swapping between your parties to find levers and allow progression through a dungeon, and later on trading key items between groups, means you have to work with multiple sets of characters at a time. Each group levels independently of one another, and has independent resources.
Upgrading equipment, increasing the availability of skill slots and even just unlocking new jobs all requires Blood Crystals obtained through battle. If you had a singular party this wouldn’t be so bad, but this burden is now spread out. It is almost frustrating making significant progress with a single party, going up three floors in one fell swoop, only to find yourself blocked off by a single door.
Now you must switch and find yourself significantly weakened, needing to repeat the process you just underwent once more. Perhaps it is a result of my days of playing other dungeon crawler RPG titles, but this feeling of restriction simply does not sit well. While it may not be an option for the developer to address this in a future title for Mary Skelter, should they embark on a future journey with other dungeon crawling RPGs I would treat this as a learning experience.
As stated earlier, everything is split between the parties. Everyone has their own supply of Blood Crystals, main inventory and money. This only exacerbates the amount of grinding required, especially so if you want to take advantage of the Blood Devolution function to drop your Maidens to a lower level, granting bonus CP and stats as you climb through the levels once more.
Whether or not you use this system is entirely up to the player, I decided to try it out for myself and couldn’t quite find myself needing it in particular due to the rate at which you will earn CP to begin with. Additional abilities can be transfused into your Maidens through blood packs which you identify. The more of a specific type you transfuse into a Maiden the more potent the abilities become.
Blood Crystals are also used to grant more skill slots so you can equip more custom skills on a Blood Maiden at a time. Aside from the Factory, which is used to upgrade equipment with; you guessed it, Blood Crystals, most of them will be spent at the Laboratory. The only other use is to plant Blood Crops in the floors of the jails you’ve traversed so you can, in a very literal sense, farm items and equipment.
This feature is used at the Commission Office, or out in the field yourself. Harvest Agents can be used to plant and gather your loot, which can be bog standard or equipped to a point you are presently incapable of reaching yourself. This being reliant on some amount of RNG however means that it too is reliant on an excessive amount of grinding.
The Wrap Up
All in all, while I found the title to be somewhat flawed, I can’t by any measure call it a bad game. At its core this title is an enjoyable conclusion to a series which first came into its own back on the Vita. Between all the carnage, the death and the suffering you can find moments of peace. The Blood Maidens finding the time to simply be normal girls, some fairly slapstick humor. The major drawback I find, if not the only true issue, is simply the amount of time required for significant progress.
Mary Skelter Finale
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release Date: Available Now
It is still a game I return to, and stubbornly try to work through. Perhaps I simply lack patience, or the game isn’t abusing me to the degree that Prinny did to make me stubborn. Whatever the case, I can say it is not quite my cup of tea. Don’t let that dissuade you however. If you too love dungeon crawling RPGs and have the spare dosh, check the title out. Between Finale and the recently repacked release that includes the prior two games you can have all three titles on a single platform.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game for review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Kennard Daniel Prim isn’t just your average gamer, he’s a die-hard fan of the single-player genre, specializing in imported games from Japan as well as his love for everything RPG related.