- Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
- Publisher: Idea Factory
- Release Date: 01/10/2021
- Price: £44.99 / $49.99
- Review code provided by Idea Factory
- Version reviewed: 1.0.1
Introducing: Mary Skelter Finale Switch Review
All trilogies come to an end and Mary Skelter Finale is the culminating clash of the Mary Skelter series. It’s my first game of this franchise, but as I’m no newcomer to the world of dungeon crawlers—I’ve played my share of Etrian Odyssey and Moero Crystal/Chronicle—I thought I was in for a linear crawling experience. Gosh, I was so wrong.
Jack and the Blood Maidens, characters jumped out of classic fairy tales, finally manage to escape from their living jail and reach the surface only to be ambushed by a group called Massacre Pink. They escape with their lives, but find themselves in yet another jail. From the frying pan right into the fire!
I’m crawling, crawling, crawling…
There you are: Scattered in different dungeons or in different regions of the same dungeon without any means of communication between the parties. At the start of the game that means besting Judgment Tower with Jack’s and Mary’s parties, Licard Tower with Clera’s and Pyra’s groups, and Frozen Jail Tower with Red Riding Hood’s and White Haired Man’s teams. Later on, these smaller teams will reunite into full-fledged parties and more dungeons will become available. Maneuvering the dungeon floors forces you to zap between parties regularly to progress through the labyrinths as doors blocking one team are controlled by levers in the area of another. In later dungeons you’ll also have to pass items, e.g. doorkeys, between parties by using dustbins you’ll have to find first. The dungeons themselves are what you expect from a dungeon crawler: full of various monsters, called Marchens in this series (Seriously, what’s with all the German-borrowed terms in this game?), traps, treasure chests, story progression points, and invincibly strong enemies called Nightmares, from which you have to run away at first. Needless to say that escaping this Jail is your objective as well as dealing with Massacre Pink on the way out.
To do this, make your way through the mazes and defeat everything in your path in turn-based battles. Use weapons and skills, grind for experience, money and better gear just like in any other RPG. The twist here is that you have to work with different preselected groups to make it to the Jail’s core. It’s a bloody twist at that, because as is the norm in the Mary Skelter games, everything you do has a connection to blood. When you overpower your enemies, you splatter their blood all over the place. This results in your characters’ Blood Splatter Icon filling up. Maximize it and Massacre Mode activates allowing you to deal devastating damage. After each skirmish, you receive rewards in the form of items and Blood Crystals. You use these to switch jobs or for Blood Farming. What’s that, you wonder? Well, it’s a way to get items, weapons or armour by planting flowers in certain areas of the dungeons. Plant blood red rosebuds on a 3×5 field on the floor and let them grow. Splattering blood helps here, by the way. Then harvest them once they’re ready and hope you get something good.
After fully unlocking your bases, another layer of gameplay becomes available. Not only can you automate Blood Farming, undertake side quest (called Commissions), strengthen your gear, or change your Blood Maidens’ jobs, but you can raise the levels of affection between your party’s leader and the respective Blood Maidens by offering them gifts. Doing so might trigger special events and can affect the ending of the game as well.
This, together with zapping between parties and the story progression via visual-novel-like conversations really make Mary Skelter Finale a unique experience. The game never gets dull, even if some conversations are a bit on the lengthy side.
If that is not enough for you, you might be interested to know that there is Mary Skelter Lockup in Love included, too. This is a visual novel where Jack confesses his undying love to the various Blood Maidens. It’s a cheesy high school romance setting (Blood Academy Highschool) and quite cute and innocent to read, making it a stark contrast to the grim main game. It’s fully voiced in Japanese, by the way.
They see me crawling, they hating.
How can I describe how Mary Skelter Finale looks? Well, “good looking psychotic” could be one way to do it. The dungeons are colourful and range from classic castle inspired ones to the very disturbingly blue hued acid trips full of syringes and poison floors. All are delightful to navigate, even if they are filled with traps and enemies. Said enemies are designed nightmarishly, as they are in fact Nightmares or Marchens. They look absolutely stunning while ripping you apart. On the other hand, your Blood Maidens also look refreshingly nasty when they enter Massacre Mode and devastate your opponents. Ah, the look of blood splattered everywhere!
The soundtrack is nothing to bleed about either. While crawling the dungeons, you’re treated to an eerie and haunting music. Enter a battle and the music changes to an upbeat battle tune. Additionally, there’s voice acting for your Blood Maidens, too. All of this is well done and underscores the mood of the game.
Blood, blood everywhere.
I’m happy to report that my crawling experience has been a wonderful one. No framedrops, no stutters, no bugs. A pleasant experience both handheld and docked. My only gripes are the tiny fonts used in some places. Fortunately, these places are not as important as others, so that I’m able to overlook them (no pun intended).
Mary Skelter Finale walks a fine line between tedious, because you have to take care of more than one party of dungeon explorers at the same time, and overwhelming, because of the sheer amount of choices and possibilities forced upon you. Luckily, the enjoyment of tackling dungeons from different angles with different parties is so great that you simply want to persevere and set Jack and the Blood Maidens free!
- Three difficulty settings—easy, normal and fear—make the game both accessible for newcomers and enjoyable for veterans to the series.
- Not familiar with what happened in the series’ previous games? Don’t worry! Simply read up on the lore through extensive stories in the bonus section.
- Don’t care about every fine detail? Then don’t read up and jump into dungeon crawling directly. The game’s mechanics are fine as is and just in case you miss some of the explanations of the tutorial screens or simply can’t keep up with their blooming abundance heaped upon you, you can thumb through them at your leisure in the system menu.
- The story is well written and interesting, but can be confusing when you don’t know what happened before.
- Mary Skelter Finale is an old school dungeon crawler at its heart. There is no auto-save and the save-points are few and far between. If you’re not careful and die in a boss fight you’ll have to restart from your last savefile and re-explore perhaps a lot of the dungeon again.
- While there is automatic movement in areas you already have explored, there is little handholding for newcomers. The thing I missed most was an automatic selection of the best equipment according to the character’s current job. This would make the game more accessible especially when you keep in mind that you have more than one party to equip.