Mary Skelter 2 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Gabriel Jones 19.10.2019

Review for Mary Skelter 2 on Nintendo Switch

Deep within the bowels of an abominable living prison, Otsuu, Red Riding Hood, and the Little Mermaid are fighting for their lives. Once upon a time, this nightmarish hellscape was called Japan. Now it is home to macabre fiends known as Marchen. These foul monstrosities torture innocent people, and feed on their suffering. Even in a grim world such as this, heroines can't afford to lose hope. At this very moment, Otsuu and her allies are searching for a Blood Maiden. It is believed that her power could help save everyone, or destroy them all. This is Mary Skelter 2, another blood-soaked fairy tale that's perfect for celebrating Halloween.

Upon starting Mary Skelter 2, fans of the first one might notice the slight pangs of nostalgia. Well, perhaps nostalgia isn't quite the word for it. While you're bound to run into a few familiar faces, something about them isn't quite right. Then again, it's arguable if anything is ever right in these twisted labyrinths. Anyway, two of the first characters you'll meet are none other than Jack and Alice, the protagonists of Mary Skelter: Nightmares. Don't get too attached to this pairing. Before long, a violent scuffle causes the normally inseparable hero and heroine to part ways.

In an effort to protect the Little Mermaid, Jack suffers a mortal wound. Astonishingly, this is not the end for him, for his body starts to transform in weird and mysterious ways. Upon recovering, his new friends are horrified to discover that he's become a Nightmare. You may recall these neigh-invincible fiends from the original. Despite his grotesque new look, he still retains bits and pieces of humanity, and wishes to help those around him. Before long, Otsuu realizes that there's more to Jack than meets the eye. His abilities will be essential for the long road ahead. Though the circumstances have clearly changed, the mission remains the same. You're to rebuild the Blood Maiden squad, conquer the jail, and eliminate the Nightmares that dwell within.

Unlike most dungeons, the jail functions similarly to a living, breathing organism. It has desires, and will reward explorers that meet them. However, it's still far from hospitable. Marchens are a constant threat, and will regularly attack explorers. Then there are the Nightmares. These invincible monstrosities chase anyone that gets close, doing whatever possible to bring misery upon them. This DRPG also offers a more inspired take on exploration. Outside of battle, everything proceeds in real-time. Take care when crossing tracks, else you'll get crushed by an errant mine cart. Spike-beds and collapsing guillotines are everywhere. Naturally, it's a bad idea to run into them. An even worse idea is to get drawn into a battle while near traps. What happens is that the trap itself gets its own "turn," and will regularly punish the party, until their assailants are dealt with.

Screenshot for Mary Skelter 2 on Nintendo Switch

The Blood Maidens have abilities that aid in their exploratory efforts. Gretel can teleport the gang across short gaps with her magical bread crumbs. Clever players can also use these crumbs to quickly rush to time-sensitive doors. Kaguya produces a trap-deflecting shield, which is a necessity for surviving fire-breathing statues. Sometimes a key is just too large to fit a lock. This is where Thumbelina's shrinking powers come into play. Whenever you recruit a new heroine, it's wise to return to previous dungeons, and collect the treasures you couldn't reach before. Just like the previous game, exploring the jail is fun. The minor puzzle elements lend just the right amount of variety.

Barring any variables, such as the presence of Nightmares, the battle-system follows a standard turn-based structure. The agility stat determines who acts first. Typically you'll want your parties to move as fast as possible. However, you might also appreciate the offensive and defensive potential of heavier equipment. Bear in mind also that some spells, particularly those that offer party-wide healing, require some time to cast. It's possible for someone to get hit while they're chanting, which causes them to lose their concentration. This applies to enemies too, so stay aggressive. As with the previous game, critical hits, striking weaknesses, and defeating foes will cause blood to fly everywhere. When a heroine is covered with enough of the sickly sweet substance, they enter massacre mode. For a turn or two, their stats are significantly boosted, and they get a few new skills to obliterate adversity with.

Connected by a bond that defies explanation, Otsuu and the Nightmare Jack fight as a pair. Both of them can take a single action, or one of them can act twice. While Otsuu's skillset is determined by her class, Jack focuses entirely on managing the corruption present in all of the Blood Maidens. Therefore, it's rarely wise to commit to the attack. Up to six ladies can participate in battle, so the leader should maintain a supportive role. Otsuu can also use items during battle, so take advantage of it whenever possible. Be mindful of Jack's mind meter. The stress of constant battle takes its toll, especially since his blood is used to treat corruption. If left unchecked, he'll become "Ripper Jack," attacking friend and foe alike. Though Otsuu can console him, it's only a temporary fix. If Jack goes berserk three times in a single battle, then it's game over for the heroines.

While keeping track of Jack's mental state; you also have to care for the Blood Maidens. Not only is their HP and SP a constant concern, they can be corrupted by the horrors of battle as well. Just like before, if someone enters Blood Skelter, friends and foes alike had better beware. The new status ailment 'infection' causes a heroine's current illness to spread to her allies. If you're not paying attention, then the entire party could become debilitated. Monitoring everyone's wellbeing adds dimension to every encounter, giving this game an edge over the standard DRPG fare. Oh and don't forget, you can still order party members to… lick their friends. If someone is heavily corrupted, then this is a fine way to keep them from going berserk. The party gets a nice buff too, which sort-of makes up for the weirdness of licking someone in mid-battle.

Screenshot for Mary Skelter 2 on Nintendo Switch

Keeping track of everyone's circumstances isn't a trivial matter, but it's balanced out somewhat by the addition of kagome-kagome. Basically, hitting enemies with certain weapons can occasionally turn them around. This effects their ability to act, and offers a juicy opportunity for the party to land critical hits. Also, most adversaries have at least one weakness that can be exploited. Try to always have a character with high TEC on hand, and make use of their elemental spells. In the long run, multi-hit skills like 'Rage Rush' are going to do immense damage, but their huge SP costs will keep them from being spammed.

In true DRPG fashion, the party can return to base to rest and recuperate. It's here that they can also take advantage of various amenities. Alongside the item shop is the smithy, where heroines can go to have their equipment levelled-up. The laboratory is the place to be for anyone who wants to change their classes, or engage in 'blood devolution.' This feature allows characters to level down, and gives them a hefty bonus to their stats and skill-points. Be sure to visit characters in their rooms, and shower them with gifts. There are benefits to building relationships, such as special cut-scenes. Last and probably least is the infirmary. By using Jack's blood, you can temporarily increase someone's resistance to corruption, and give them a tidy HP/SP bonus. Yes, the creepy rubbing mini-game from the first title has returned. Hurray.

In Mary Skelter: Nightmares, the best gear was either purchased from a traveling merchant, or farmed from exceedingly rare drops. This changes things up by introducing blood flowers. While exploring a dungeon, you're bound to come across a swath of pink tiles. It's here where you'll likely find some rare kit that'll make battles just a little bit easier. By planting blood crystals, and then watering them with blood, a blood flower will bloom. If lucky, it'll contain a valuable item. Gardening requires very little time and effort. Once the seeds are planted, the blood flowers will grow after a handful of battles. You can even pay someone at the base to do all of the planting and harvesting. Utilizing this system is the best way to acquire weapons capable of kagome-kagome attacks, or just high-level gear in general.

Screenshot for Mary Skelter 2 on Nintendo Switch

Between the blood flowers and all of the treasure found throughout the jail, you're going to be drowning in equipment before long. Thankfully the inventory cap has been boosted to 9,999 to accommodate this. Still, the min-max crowd is guaranteed to spend a ton of time poring over their collection, trying to find the perfect setup that caters to the strengths of each character. Many pieces of gear will have modifiers that add increased parameters or extra abilities. Becoming godly takes more effort, but the results are well worth it.

There are three difficulty settings, so most players should be able to find a challenge that's suitable for them. Nevertheless, this entry has gone a step further with the addition of Jail Trials. There is a wealth of options designed to make your expeditions more dangerous. If you manage to survive, then your rewards will be even sweeter. For example, if you decide to go without a mini-map and the ability to save while in the dungeon, then your experience gains will jump by 40%. If you'd rather earn more rare drops, you can accept a penalty to your stats, or occasionally lose access to healing skills. For those out there who are willing to take the risk, there are bonuses that can trade defence for extra attack power, or increase the chances of landing a kagome-kagome attack. These options lend the adventure a near-endless level of customization. Anyone who doesn't wish to pursue Jail Trials won't be punished for it. Experience points and other essentials are still very easy to come by.

At times, this sequel can feel a little too similar to the original. The story goes in a different and much darker direction, but many of the same characters return. You're also going to be visiting dungeons that you've been to before, albeit with significantly improved layouts and puzzles. Still, once you're able to get past those familiar feelings, you'll discover that Mary Skelter 2 is an excellent sequel. The battle system has been balanced and given more depth. Jail Trials are a particularly brilliant addition. Various elements have been adjusted so that they carry a greater presence. Blood Skelter is a constant worry, rather than a rare occurrence. Nightmares appear with greater frequency, forcing you to always stay one step ahead.

Now, if all that wasn't enough, Idea Factory has also included Mary Skelter: Nightmares in its entirety. Long-time readers might recall this critic's review of the original Playstation Vita release a couple years back. Rather than settle for a simple port, the developer went above and beyond by adding many of the improvements and changes featured in the sequel. They've also squashed numerous bugs and issues that were present in the previous title. It's a significant bonus, to say the least.

Screenshot for Mary Skelter 2 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

With Mary Skelter 2, Compile Heart has shown that they can deliver a phenomenal DRPG. Every aspect of this entry has been refined to a near-flawless level. The labyrinths are fun to explore, and their gimmicks, while plentiful, never reach the point of overbearing. Instead, they lend the adventure a unique identity, one that's rarely seen in dungeon crawlers. As far as battle-systems go, the developer has done a lot to keep this from being one-dimensional. You can attempt a full-on attack, but the mental state of your allies might suffer, leaving you at risk for the devastating Blood Skelter. Plus it's impossible to say no to an enhanced edition of the first game. All in all, this is a must-have for any fan of the genre.

Developer

Compile Heart

Publisher

Idea Factory

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 23.10.2019   North America release date 22.10.2019   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Insanoflex, mudskip, ringlord71

There are 3 members online at the moment.