NCG Review – Mary Skelter: Nightmares (PSVita)

Details

Title: Mary Skelter: Nightmares
Platform: PlayStation Vita; PlayStation TV
Genre: First-person dungeon RPG
Release Date: September 19, 2017 (NA)/September 22, 2017 (EU)
Developer: Idea Factory/Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International

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Story

Jack and Alice live of life of suffering within the prison walls.  Everyday they are taken by the Marchens and mercilessly tortured yet, somehow, their spirit has not broken.  Alice, however, is  close to the brink of insanity.  When her emotional state becomes unstable, her eyes turn pink.  In order to ease her suffering, Jack offers Alice his blood which always returns her back to normal.  One day, they are rescued by a girl with scissors and pink blood.  She claims Alice is a Blood Maiden which is why she has come to rescue her.

Alice and Jack are saved! They are taken back to a group called Dawn that live in the “Liberated District”.  Although, Dawn’s intentions seem questionable,  Jack and Alice vow to help them, and the other Blood Maidens, figure out how to escape the Prison for good.

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The story is fun to play through because there are so many mysteries you want answers too.  For example, what is Dawn and what are their true intentions? You meet another group called the Order, who seem like a religious cult, but you can’t tell if they are good or bad so you want to continue playing to find out.

Between chapters are story-like cut scenes that tell a fairytale-esque story.   The stories allude to what is happening to the characters in that chapter, or at least one aspect of the mystery that you are trying to solve while playing the game.  While not graphically stimulating, the stories are fun to read.

The highlight of the game is the theme.  At lease for fans who really enjoy Alice in Wonderland/fairy tale themes. Character names are taken straight from the classics, for example: Alice, Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc.   Even monsters look like they’ve been plucked from a twisted story book.  In addition to the overall look and feel of the game, there are many story telling elements that keep you intrigued. It’s hard to put the game down when you just want to see what happens next!

Characters (3)

Game Play

Mary Skelter: Nightmares plays as your typical first-person dungeon RPG.  You explore the dungeon and try to get to the next event point so the story will progress. What I really enjoy about the dungeon in Mary Skelter is how interactive the dungeon is.  Character abilities help you open up new areas and you must solve puzzles to unlock more areas.  Maps are massive and you can easily spend a few hours lost in one area. This, like every other dungeon crawler, can get very tedious, especially if you choose to go back to HQ and restore your health and re-stock on items.  You might end up wasting more time and energy getting back to the point you left off at.  Fortunately, there is an auto-walk option so you can set your location and the game will automatically move you.  Although the maps are massive and can feel tedious, there are many secrets and paths for you to find and explore.  Another major plus to the game is that you can walk more than 10 steps without encountering an obnoxious battle.  You do get to explore the dungeon to some length before facing enemies.

Since the “Prison” you are exploring is a living thing, the dungeon has three desires: Hunger, Libido, and Sleep.  Each interaction you have in the dungeon (finding objects, covering an area with a lot of blood, etc.) affects the desires and triggers a “Dungeon Bonus Roulette” round where you can get a buff or bonus.

Dungeons (2)

The  point of exploring the dungeon is to find the Core of the dungeon and destroy it.  There are two types of monsters you will encounter: Marchens and Nightmares.  Marchens are the monsters you encounter during a typical battle.  Nightmares are the big boss of the dungeon.  While you are exploring, a Nightmare will randomly try to pursue you.  Without having destroyed the core of the dungeon, you cannot defeat the Nightmare.  If you encounter the Nightmare without  having destroyed the core, you have a chance to run away since the Nightmare will chase you, or you can to try to knock it down and then run away in case you’re stuck in a corner.  Note: try to stay out of blocked areas if you think a Nightmare is headed your way!  After you destroy the core, you can fight the Nightmare and, of course, as per RPG game play rule number 67 (I just made that up, right now) “you cannot escape the battle until the Nightmare is defeated, so be prepared.”

Nightmares _2_

Battles are all turn based and fighting options are the RPG game play rule number 26 (yes, I just made up another number) standard . You can attack, use a skill, lick (when the option is available), defend, or escape.

Battle (4)

Blood is a central theme to the game.  When you hit the Marchens with critical hits or target their weakness,  blood will splatter on the Blood Maidens (yes, this is going where you think it’s going). When the blood splatter meter maximizes, the girls will go into a Massacre mode where their stats increase and they gain a new skill. This is where Jack comes in.  He is a support character whose sole responsibility in the party is to keep the Blood Maidens from entering the Blood Skelter, and to help keep them alive.  You do not want the Blood Maidens to go into Skelter Mode because they become OP and can potentially knock out your entire team. The blood splatter from the Marchens can get “corrupted”, so it is up to Jack to use a weapon called a Mary Gun to “purify” the girls by rubbing his blood all over them.  And yes, this does go into a physical touch scene (a little bit later in the game) where being rubbed with Jack’s blood purifies them and it “feels so good”.   Keep in mind, there is a limit to how much blood Jack can produce so you need to find a balance between purification and restoring blood.

Blood Skelter Mode (2)

Jack is a versatile support character.  You can use him to purify the Blood Maidens, or he can guard (take damage from the enemy instead of a Blood Maiden), and use items; he doesn’t necessarily have to be used strictly for purification.  As mentioned earlier, during battle the Blood Maidens can “lick” the blood from one another.  This not only clears the blood meter but will come with HP or SP bonuses, or a buff.  The downside to using “lick” is you don’t get to hit the enemies. But,  the Blood Maidens do start to get pretty shy when this happens…

Battle (9)

Equipping your characters is also pretty basic.  Weapons can be upgraded and reach maximum potential.  At the end of each battle you collect Blood Stones which can be used at Dawn Headquarters to upgrade weapons.

Lastly, Headquarters.  You can rest at headquarters, save, upgrade weapons, and buy items.  In addition to the basics, you get to visit the Blood Maiden’s rooms. And yes, you have to give them things in order to gain their favor because it will affect the outcome and ending of the game.  This is my least favorite part of the game because it feels so contrived.  I think the game itself would have been fine without the obligatory fan service aspect of the game.  But, if fan service is what players always want, fan service is what players will get!

Overall, the dungeons have a nice pace to them.  Once you figure out one aspect of a dungeon, the next becomes slightly more difficult with more elements you’ll have to utilize.

Graphics

Graphics aren’t too impressive, however, I love the themes of each dungeon. But, even though the backgrounds move and the themes are fun, when you’re stuck in the same dungeon for over an hour, everything starts to blend together.

Battle graphics are also nothing to get excited over, either.  You don’t get to watch the girls in action, but rather a customized slash. For example, Sleeping Beauty shoots out daggers during a regular attack.

The monsters look like they’ve been pulled from a twisted fairy tale.  Of course, as per RPG developer laziness, monsters in different areas at different levels are all just re-skinned so you encounter the same creature over and over again, just with different colors.

Battle (10)

Audio

The music sets the tone for each dungeon.  My favorite is definitely the initial City Streets dungeon.  You feel like you’re in a fun house, and rightly so because of the maze-like/ wonderland aspect of the dungeon.

Verdict

Pros:

The dungeons are fun to explore.  There are many secrets to discover and a lot of ways to interact with the dungeon through puzzles and character skills.

What I really enjoy is the overall theme of the game.  I’m a huge sucker for fairy tale/Alice in Wonderland themes so it was easy for me to get into the game.

The story feels basic, but it builds up enough that you want to see what will happen next.

Cons:

Dungeons are extremely large and if you aren’t looking at your map, it is easy to get lost.  The repetitious design and large map area  make dungeon exploring feel monotonous and daunting. Especially if you set the game down for a day or so – you forget where you’re supposed to go.

Overall design is not that impressive.  There is variation to the dungeons, but when you’re in the same dungeon for a while it all becomes the same. If you don’t like getting lost in giant mazes this probably isn’t the game for you.

I find the attempt at fan service to be very forced.  I feel like the story is meant to be a dark tale, however, elements are incorporated into the game just so the game can provide fan service which I feel is completely unnecessary.

Score

Overall, I would rate this title an 8/10. Yeah, the dungeons can get tedious (this is a dungeon crawler, after all), but I think the concept and mysteries are enough to keep players interested in the title.

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