Game Review #437: Mary Skelter 2 (Nintendo Switch)
Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory
Release Date: 10.22.2019
Buy Mary Skelter 2 from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
First Time for Everything
This is the first time in my professional writing career that I am going to write about girls licking blood off of each other; and it’s also a story of how a game from which I didn’t expect much ended up winning me over and making me fall in love with it through its deep and challenging jRPG mechanics, in a first-person dungeon crawl, mixed in with likable characters and tons of content. I thought this game was going to be an excuse to look at cute anime girls—like so many are—but the deeper you dig into this game, the more mechanics it shows, and the more the “game” grips you.
As you delve into that and explore the mechanics, the game puts in enough interactions with its characters that those start to grow on you too, and you can appreciate how well designed they are, often with lots of character to love. Then, as the game works its setting into its mechanics, you finally find yourself invested in the story; and then, the final nail in the coffin: you realize that even with all of this awesome game to enjoy, the great characters and stories to appreciate, there are also… cute anime girls. Let's delve into the Mary Skelter: Nightmares sequel, Mary Skelter 2!
Let's Start Out Easy
Ok, so let's frame this out for you a bit. Mary Skelter 2, at its heart, is a first-person jRPG dungeon-crawler, with strong visual novel elements in between the dungeon segments. Your main character for this is Otsuu, husband and prince to her princess, Little Mermaid. Yes, you heard that right, Little Mermaid. Both of these characters are Blood Maidens, who are generally inspired by various fairy tales, and also capable of going into blood fueled rage to kill the monsters that threaten the world! Otsuu aside (Unless that's a reference I am not familiar with), you have Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Pied Piper, Rapunzel, and more. It is interesting to see which character you will meet next.
Your characters are in Jail, which is a literal living, breathing jail tower in a giant crater beneath what once used to be one of Japan's largest cities. The people who once lived there are controlled by the Marchens, who torture them day in and day out. It’s been long enough that the name of the city has been forgotten, and people are downtrodden. Otsuu and company are members of Dawn, a resistance organization within the jail, and with their help, you will solve the mystery of this mysterious dungeon, as well as plenty of other subplots along the way! Let's dig deeper into the combat in this game, which is what I would consider the meat and potatoes of the experience.
First-Person Old-School Goodness
You move and fight from a first-person perspective in this game, across sprawling giant floors of the jail, in a ton of different environments. Each character has an ability that uses MP and allows you to interact on the field with various things. This ranges from filling holes with huge balls, shooting icicles to hit switches, teleporting with bread, or magnetic piccolo playing! Sometimes progressing to the next floor is practically a puzzle, as you combine different areas’ environmental effects with puzzles involving characters' special abilities. I can recall quite a few times where I wandered for a while, trying to figure out what was next, only to find out I didn’t see a place where I could use an ability I already had. Thankfully, you have a mini-map to help you keep direction, and you don't have to draw it like in Etrian Odyssey! In this game, the Touch Screen has other… uhh… uses? But we will get into that later.
Combat is a traditional turn-based system, with the turn order visible on the top of the screen. You have up to 6 characters available at once for control, with the option to add partner characters to your main party as you get more than 6 characters, and they will offer support as well. Parties are divided into front row fighters and back row, where the back row offers increased defense, but with most weapons, their normal attack suffers, so its relegated to casters and ranged attackers. Pretty normal at that point, with high points being a large party, so you can do some interesting combinations of roles, and the visible turn order allowing you to plan a step ahead.
Now… Let's get into what makes this unique, first thing being your Blood Counter, which will increase anytime you either overkill an enemy by doing—you guessed it—a certain amount of damage over how much HP the foe has, as well as when you hit an enemy weak point with an elemental attack. These points gradually fill, and when they max out, the character in question will enter Massacre Mode, a form with greater stats, and access to special commands in battle that are super powerful.
Another use for the Blood Counters is the ability of Blood Maidens to lick one another and confer stat bonuses or other effects by lowering each other’s Blood Counter. Massacre mode lasts a few turns, and then you revert to normal form with no Blood Counters. Now, there is even more going on as well, but this is a review, not an in-depth breakdown of mechanics; but let's just say that, as you go further, you get a whole other kind of character to manage, another form, and even more!
Combat, But What Else?
Now, to the rest of the game. There is a TON of dialogue, some of it voiced, some of it not, but you will have the chance to REALLY get to know the entire cast of characters through events at your home base, side quests that you can undertake for additional rewards, as well as in the general story. With the other Blood Maidens in particular, you can gift them things, help design their room, and monitor their affection level for you, which, in turn, nets you better items and more events! You also occasionally get some really nice full-screen art, occasionally, but not always for semi-lewd reasons, as the story sees fit.
Each of the Blood Maidens are great; their designs are awesome, as well as the references to the fairy tale on which they are based being part of their character or their design. You can change character jobs as you level up, granting you access to even more skills to learn, a new set of level-up bonuses, and most importantly, a new outfit!
Your Jobs will affect your stats and what you can equip, but you can mix and match skills on any job, though you will get a bonus in effect when you use a skill that falls under your currently equipped job. This leads you to be able to truly assemble the party you want to assemble, and play the game you want to play; but beware: this game does NOT play around, and it includes an easy mode for those of you who may not be expert RPG players. This game will punish you and make you completely rethink your strategy in order to try and win, and I commend them for that. It's hard to make a game that’s perfectly balanced on the side of hard, but not oppressive, and I feel most modern RPGs are too easy by default.
The town is where some of the more pervy things happen, including what I would say is the main offender: purging the Blood Maidens of what is called Corruption. Eventually, the game introduces this mechanic that, whenever you get hit with a critical, a weak point, or another Blood Maiden gets defeated, your blood will get more corrupted, eventually conceding in them turning into their Blood Skelter form, a hyper-strong and uncontrollable form. Maybe eventually you can control them, but many hours into it, and Blood Skelter is still hard to deal with. In order to slow this corruption, you do a mini-game that is, for all intents and purposes, you rubbing the blood off of their scantily clad bodies while they bounce around and moan. It’s a use for the touchscreen, I guess? Thankfully, once you do each of the girls once, you can skip the actual mini-game and just put the bonus on them. Anyway, it had to be said. Let's get this wrapped up!
This game made me roll my eyes when I first booted it up, thinking I was in for another low-effort game that was an excuse to look at anime girls, and honestly, it turned me all the way around with just how good it actually is as a GAME! For some people, the visuals and the more pervy elements are a huge positive, and they are done well, so we know #SwitchLewds will love this game, but I don’t generally seek that kind of game out, so the fact that this one won me over speaks volumes to its quality. Mary Skelter 2 is a hardcore first-person RPG experience, and any hardcore fan of the genre will find themselves gripped by the huge variety of options and the depth of the mechanics; but it is also a cute visual-novel-style adventure in between that, with fun characters, good character designs, and uhh... touch screen integration! I had a blast with this game, and am still playing it, but now that I'm done with this review, it’s time to go do ALL THE SIDE QUESTS! I give Mary Skelter 2 a 9/10!
Buy Mary Skelter 2 from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review code was provided for review purposes.