When Compile Heart & Idea Factory announced Mary Skelter: Nightmares, it caught a number of people’s attention. Inspired by Grimms’ Fairy Tales among other things with a dark atmosphere to match, it seemed different than the usual anime tropes their games tend to employ. While there still were aspects of that present, mind you, it was different enough for those turned off by their past efforts to give them another chance. So how did this fair?
Mary Skelter: Nightmares takes place in a “Living Jail” that’s rumored to have consumed an entire city which used to be above the ground. The jail itself is alive in some fashion, as it can absorb living and nonliving things to better suit itself, such as the Marchens who are demonic creatures that were humans and animals in a prior life before being transmuted by the Jail.
This location is where the game takes place and we find the first two characters: Jack & Alice. Still human, they’ve been captured by the Marchens, but are freed by a mysterious woman named Red Riding Hood, who claims Alice is a Blood Maiden. The group meets up with a group of survivors and learns that there’s more Blood Maidens in the Jail, and with their combined power they can get to a tower in the Jail’s central core which may just provide a way to the surface and outside of the Jail’s infernal walls.
That mention of “blood” wasn’t just for show earlier, however. While the Blood Maidens gain Corruption from the blood they absorb from enemies, if they’re unable to control their abilities they’ll become Bloody Skelters and eventually enter an unstable form known as Massacre Mode, in which they start attacking indiscriminately. This is where Jack’s role comes in, as he’s an exceptionally rare Blood Youth who can help the maidens keep their abilities in check.
Like the numerous other dungeon crawlers on the Vita, if you’ve played others in the genre, it will be a very similar experience. You traverse through dungeons that have treasures, item collection spots and gimmicks such as traps. There’s the usual random encounters, but in this game things work slightly different than your usual DRPG (dungeon RPG).
Battles are turn-based, with the turn order being based on a character’s agility. Jack always is first to act, although he only has four actions: Wait, Guard, Item and Escape. The Guard mechanic allows Jack to attempt to shield a Blood Maiden, with him either being successful and deflecting all damage, or stunning himself and being unavailable for the next few turns. If this happens multiple times, he’ll be knocked out.
The Blood Maidens have more actions: Attack, Skill, Defend, and Escape. By using the right attack, skill, dealing a critical hit or overkilling the enemy, you fill up the Blood Spatter gauge. Once it’s full, they’ll enter their Blood Skelter mode, where they get increased stats and skills available to them. In this state, you’ll have a choice between them entering Massacre Mode if the gauge fills black by getting hit enough, or licking the blood off another party member in order to recover HP for the party or cast a party-wide buff. The catch with the latter is that it completely drains the gauge, however. When the former occurs this is where Jack comes into play, as he can shoot them with his own blood to return them to their pre-Massacre state — although if he does this enough times he’ll pass out for a turn.
Like most DRPGs, you can change the classes for the Blood Maidens to suit your fancy. This does increase the grinding a bit as expected, but the game makes it relatively easy to switch back and forth and the different designs for the girls are nicely done. There’s a quest system in place as expected, also. The dungeons themselves are pretty standard, with the usual “X party member skill is needed to reach this area” trope in full-swing, but there are some welcome changes to the norm. The “boss” battles, i.e. Nightmares, can happen at random when everything becomes dark on the screen. They’re invincible until you destroy the dungeon’s core, however, so they’re not intended to be beaten until then.
The story is pretty decent for a DRPG, with the main male character Jack being in a supportive role instead of the usual typical male fantasy you see in some other games. While not a standout for the genre, the relationship system between Jack and the girls does give them a fair amount of backstory. The one major issue I had was the typical Vita DRPG fanservice where there’s a rubbing mini game where you wipe the blood off of the Blood Maidens. It was creepy the first time a Vita game tried it, and it still is. Thankfully, they only force the player through this once before you can skip future instances and still get the buff you would have obtain normally.
If you’re a fan of other Vita DRPGs, such as Demon Gaze and Operation Abyss, Mary Skelter: Nightmares is right up your alley and should provide a different enough experience from those games. However, non-fans of the genre won’t find anything to sway them.Mary Skelter: Nightmares was reviewed using a PS Vita digital copy provided by Idea Factory International. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Story and premise are a welcome change from the norm in Vita DPRGs.|
|Battle mechanics have their own unique spin on the genre's traditional mechanics.|
|Yet another Vita game with a rubbing mini game.|
|Nothing for those not fans of the genre to entice them with.|