Game Review: Mary Skelter 2 (Nintendo Switch)

Idea Factory’s second instalment into the Mary Skelter franchise brings us both the original experience and a brand new storyline, so with this being said what can one expect from Mary Skelter 2 on the Nintendo Switch? Let’s find out!

Title: Mary Skelter 2
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Compile Heart
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Audio: Japanese & English
Subtitles: English (White)
Local Players: 1
Online Players: N/A
Install: YES (11GB)

Our View:

Developed by Compile Heart and published in the west by Idea Factory International, Mary Skelter 2 is the sequel to the previously released PlayStation Vita, and then later STEAM, game known as Mary Skelter: Nightmares. A game which saw Alice and Jack form a rebellion against the monsters plaguing the mysterious Jail that resided near their homeland.

This sequel, of which has been released onto the Nintendo Switch, continues the nightmare that awaits within the Jail, expect this time through the eyes of two brand new characters; Otsuu and Little Mermaid. From my perspective it is hard to say whether Mary Skelter 2 is a direct sequel to the events of the original game or an alternate story within the same world; but regardless fans of the original game will find an oddly familiar experience with new characters, while new players will find themselves treated to a fresh new dungeon-crawler experience.

The beauty of Mary Skelter 2 on the Nintendo Switch is not just the character artwork, of which has been drawn by Kei Nanameda, and its familiar dungeon-crawler RPG gameplay style; it’s the fact that despite being titled “Mary Skelter 2” it can be played and enjoyed without any prior knowledge of the previous game. Additionally, for those that missed out on Mary Skelter: Nightmares, it is included in this Nintendo Switch release as unlockable content upon completion of Mary Skelter 2. Those wishing to play the games in order need not worry either as the first game can also be unlocked immediately by downloading the ‘FREE’ unlock patch from the Nintendo eShop.

From this perspective alone Mary Skelter 2 provides a positive experience for the consumer by offering both games in a single package; but even if that wasn’t the case this second entry into the franchise still offers a solid gameplay experience with an approachable story, an interesting cast of characters and a varied dungeon crawler experience that refines the series with newly introduced elements and mechanics.

The story within Mary Skelter 2, and in turn Mary Skelter: Nightmares, takes place in a futuristic world that saw the land destroyed due to the arrival of a mysterious Jail. This Jail features labyrinths inside that house monsters known as Marchen and Nightmares; both of which seem to have an interest in humans. This interest sees the Marchens and Nightmares occasionally venture into the wild in order to capture humans and torture them within the walls of the Jail. As a result of this constant threat resistance groups are formed, whether as an individual or as a team, and they explore the labyrinths of the Jail in order to rescue survivors and defeat any monsters that appear.

In the second game this resistance group is known as Dawn, with Otsuu and Little Mermaid acting as the front runners for the operation of defeating the Marchen and taking back any survivors to their homebase known as the Liberated Zone. This is where the story of Mary Skelter 2 begins and it sees the player navigate a labyrinth styled dungeon in first person perspective, with battles played out in turn-based-combat.

The objective, at least during the Prologue, is for Otsuu and Little Mermaid to rescue survivors and locate blood maidens that have been captured. After a series of unfortunate events, of which sees the liberated zone destroyed and residents killed, it’s explained that only a small number of Blood Maidens exist in the world and that they have inhuman powers that could help with the defeating the Marchens and keep the remaining humans safe.

At this point the real story of Mary Skelter 2 begins to surface; a story which sees the surviving members of Dawn, such as Otsuu and Little Mermaid, venturing on a quest to locate all of the remaining Blood Maidens within the Jail. As such players will travel to different labyrinth locations within the Jail, encounter new Blood Maidens and befriend them to their cause; all the while defeating Marchen and avoiding Nightmares so that they can reclaim their homeland.

It may seem like a simplistic story, but, as one would expect, the story evolves and changes over time with the focus occasionally changing from locating Blood Maidens, to restoring order within the group, and so forth. It’s not just the main story either that gets told, as each character that players meet also receive their own amount of screen time and backstory; with some being more entertaining than others.

This story and presentation style is, as with the original Mary Skelter: Nightmares game and other Compile Heart developed titles, played out through visual novel dialogue sequences with beautifully detailed character artwork and backgrounds. These dialogue moments occur at any point when the story needs to progress forward and usually occurs outside of the Jail and at set moments within the Jail.

Just like other Compile Heart titles the dialogue has a mixture of “fully-voiced” and “un-voiced” scenes; of which disrupts the flow and presentation of the game. It’s a disappointing fact, especially when some un-voiced dialogue scenes are quite lengthy; but for this type of game it is to be expected. Audio meanwhile is also available in both English and Japanese audio; but both provide a clear presented experience – so no complaints here in that regard.

The other gameplay aspect of Mary Skelter 2, and in turn Mary Skelter: Nightmares, is the core dungeon-crawler RPG mechanics of the game, of which delivers everything you would expect from this type of genre. To start with upon entertaining the Jail, and selecting a dungeon location to explore, players will navigate around in first person perspective with random, and pre-set, battles taking place.

When navigating these dungeons players will have to solve puzzles, of which vary from finding a hidden switch to using a characters specific skill, to access a new location. Additionally, and just like the previous game, players will have to avoid Nightmares that appear in battle. Nightmares are undefeatable monsters and once encountered players must stun and flee from them; a simple task but nightmares do much more damage than your traditional Marchen.

Battles will also start in first-person-perspective, so you’ll never see your characters on screen, but you will see your opponent. It’s the traditional dungeon-crawler RPG gameplay concept; so nothing new here. In this case players can do regular and skill attacks, with skill attacks using MP points,  as well as using recovery items. Alternate combat options come into effect when blood from enemies increases a guage that, once full, can transform your character into an enraged state for a limited time.

This enraged state delivers stronger acts but can also cause harm to your team if not removed effectively. To negate this effect characters can “lick” one another to remove blood from a character and potentially transfer it to another. It’s an obscure feature; but one that has some interesting benefits in combat – and makes Mary Skelter 2 a rather unique experience when it comes to managing the combat systems. Of course these combat elements are just the start of what Mary Skelter 2 has to offer, as further exploring the menu systems – both in a dungeon and at the Liberated Zone – will see other types of functionalities unlocked.

Standard RPG mechanics, such as character levels and upgraded equipment, are all here alongside alternate options that give characters job sets or evolution chains that make characters stronger and more reliable in battle.  Other functionalities include Blood Farm, which allows players to use Marchen Blood to Harvest usable items, Skill Creation, which allows new skills to be made or earned through Blood Packs, and Skill Trials which add an added depth of challenge to your quests for better rewards.

Put simply Mary Skelter 2 offers a lot to explore and may be difficult for newcomers to comprehend – especially with all of the different splash tutorial screens that appear – but this variety will appeal to fans of Mary Skelter: Nightmares or veterans of this dungeon-crawler RPG genre. Ironically all of these gameplay functionalities are detailed in-game through the help options and on Mary Skelter 2’s website, so if you ever forget an important aspect you’ll never have far to go to find out what you need to know.

This Nintendo Switch release of Mary Skelter 2 brings the dungeon-crawler-experience to Nintendo’s hybrid console and benefits from it in various different ways. Firstly the games already simplistic and limited 3D visuals do not look out of place on the Nintendo Switch and as such no performance or visual issues can be seen in either docked or handheld modes.  Secondly due to the Nintendo Switch functionality the constant dungeon exploration does not feel tedious when compared to previous versions of the game.

As an example I often switched between docked and handheld mode when exploring dungeons and using the consoles “standby” feature to pause until I resumed. Of course the highlight of this Nintendo Switch version of the game is the fact that it includes Mary Skelter: Nightmares as part of the main game; that’s two games in one digital package and plenty of dungeon-crawler RPG action.

In short Mary Skelter 2 brings the series to a new platform with a new story, familiar characters and an enhancements that fans of the genre will enjoy, but more importantly than that it is an accessible title for newcomers to experience that offers the complete Mary Skelter game series in a single package.

Score: review-stars-5

Mary Skelter 2 is now available digitally from the Nintendo eShop within Europe and North America. A physical version is also expected to be made available via Limited Run Games.

 

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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