DRPG is a genre that has been represented on the PS Vita plenty of times. Idea Factory has tried their hands at some of these DRPGs and while not all of them were pretty, Mary Skelter: Nightmares definitely belongs at the top of the list. The story features a grimdark setting with a mix of fairy tale thrown in for good measure. It is a refreshing game so if you were tired of the same-looking dungeon RPGs with monotonous locations without any inspiration behind them, this is a good candidate to pick up for satisfying the thirst of a DRPG.
Mary Skelter: Nightmares is set in a world where the human population has been captured and held against their will in a place called the Jail. The Jail is being run by inhabitants called Marhens who torture the humans and perform various experiments on them. One day, the main characters, Jack and Alice, meet a mysterious stranger who turns out to be Red Riding Hood. She frees them and other humans from cells and leads them out of the jail. The jail is the main dungeon for the game and it is the place where you will do majority of your exploration. It is essentially a living and breathing dungeon with pulsating nerves and other creepy stuff that is embodied within its walls and floors.
Mary Skelter: Nightmares takes the popular characters from fairy tales and integrates them into its story. Jack is taken from Jack and the Beanstalk while Alice is taken from Alice in Wonderland. Jack is essentially the male lead of the game, but his only power is limited to defending and protecting the Blood Maidens. These are the fairy tale creatures who have the ability to attack the Marhens. Alice and Red Riding Hood are just the start of this journey as you will encounter more of them. The character interaction between Jack and the Blood Maidens is one of the better part of the game which surprised me at first since I never expected this level of quality from a dungeon RPG.
The relationship dynamic between Jack and the rest of the Blood Maidens is fun. Some of the conversations often end up hilarious while others offer a more serious tone. The story in the game manages to stand out thanks to the well developed cast of characters. The combat system also uses the concept behind the Blood Maidens to its full potential with special skills and attacks for their power. This is triggered through Blood Skelter mode which occurs if you land too many critical hits or exploit the enemy’s weakness in combat.
Blood Maidens are the only party members which will be able to use special skills to attack enemies. However Jack is not useless as he can come pretty handy during combat. Depending on how you utilize his skills, some of the tough battles can be easily completed so strategically planning everything is essential in the game if you want to survive on some of the higher difficulty settings. Blood Maidens have a basic attack and skills for them but if you manage to trigger their Blood Skelter mode, you also get a boost to their stats and can use special skills that are unlocked during this mode. If the Blood Maidens take too many damage, they can also enter a Massacre mode which can be removed if Jack shots his blood at them, but this has limited usage so you won’t be able to abuse it in a single battle.
Make no mistake about the difficulty of the game, there will be plenty of challenging battles as you explore the dungeons. The game doesn’t auto-save for the most part so you will have to manually search for save points on the map when you are in a dungeon in order to save your progress. You will be also managing your party members making sure that the Blood Maidens are in good health and this is not as easy as it sounds. To top it off, the game also triggers a Nightmare if you are exploring a dungeon for a long time. This is triggered automatically but it forces you to start looking for the dungeon boss since the only way to end it is to finish the boss battle.
There are some nice customization options available for the Blood Maiden. You can change their jobs which in turn also changes their outfit and depending on how you utilize their skills, it can be tricky to figure out which job and character to utilize during each dungeon. The battle system already feels like it is one of the best in a dungeon RPG so the additional customization option are there to just add more to an already fantastic system. Of course, it also comes with its own set of level grind which will be required to unlock skills for each of the specific job, but depending on your tolerance to grinding for experience, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Mary Skelter: Nightmares is a surprisingly fun dungeon crawler that manages to stay away from most of the cliche anime tropes and while it has plenty of fan service moments, they don’t appear to have an affect on the overall flow of the game.
Mary Skelter: Nightmares Review (Vita)
Game Reviewed on: Vita
Game description: Mary Skelter: Nightmares is a video game developed by Compile Heart for the PlayStation Vita released in October 13, 2016 in Japan, and will be released on September 19th for North America and September 22nd for Europe.
Mary Skelter: Nightmares is one of the better dungeon crawlers on the PS Vita. It combines the dungeon exploration with a fun combat system and attempts to simplify many of the chores that are usually a part of the Dungeon RPG genre.