Mary Skelter Finale Review
Nearly two years ago, I wrote a review for a rather niche series from Compile Heart. This was for the 'Mary Skelter' dungeon crawler franchise, for which the final entry - appropriately named Mary Skelter Finale - will soon be released worldwide.
For those that are unfamiliar with this particular series, it is a dungeon crawler RPG similar in vein to Etrian Odyssey. You navigate through dungeons in a first-person perspective while controlling party members known as “Blood Maidens” - often named after fairy tale characters such as Rapunzel, Gretel, and Cinderella.
Each Blood Maiden is given their own unique and quirky identity, and their abilities are based on the job classes assigned to them. The player is placed in the shoes of the protagonist, Jack, who can augment these Blood Maidens in combat, using a weapon called the “Mary Gun”. While the game seems to boast a wide variety of unique Blood Maidens, they unfortunately do not offer any variety gameplay-wise, as each and every Blood Maiden plays exactly the same when given the same job class.
As this game is the third & final entry of the Mary Skelter series, one would need heavy knowledge of the previous games’ plot to fully comprehend its convoluted story. Luckily, for any player who decides to start the series with this game, there’s an excellent story recollection mode that lets you view every cutscene, without voiceover, from the previous games, allowing first-timers to experience the complete story without having to play them. It also includes the Mary Skelter prequel novel, so if you don’t mind the lack of voicing, there is a lot of lore-related content you can dig into.
The story premise of Mary Skelter is quite convoluted to explain in small details. The previous plot took place in a living organism known as the Jail. During that time, the Jail basically created a living hell for the world as it can replicate creatures known as the Marchens that have been torturing and slaughtering humanity. As the Finale takes place directly after the conclusion of the previous two games, the setting is now a dystopian world, as the characters from the previous games have successfully escape Jail and reached the surface. If you did not play Mary Skelter 2 or forgot some of the big story moments. The protagonist, Jack will reminisce all the important things that have happened so far as the story starts.
When the characters arrive at their destination, they are confronted by an extremely dangerous enemy that splits the large group apart. This is where the game structure is heavily different from the previous two games. This mainly revolves around its new 'Zapping' system due to the party being split from each other. Dungeon exploring will often require switching into different groups to solve puzzles or clear certain obstacles so that the other party can advance through the story.
From a story point of view, this structure provides a different perspective on each of the characters. Although this system works pretty well to provide insights for some of the other characters, it doesn't work too well functionally in gameplay. You will be forced to switch constantly to different party members to solve mundane puzzles in dungeons in order to advance the story, and the novelty wears off quickly. To make matters worse, some of the groups are just not as balanced to adequate for certain battle situations. Personally, I found the Zapper system to be poorly implemented, more often stagnating the flow of the game rather than providing any interesting mechanics or scenarios. Further, this final installment doesn't do much to improve the story arc, with most of the twists and major story points already taking place in previous games.
Otherwise, the rest of Mary Skelter Finale generally looks like and works like the previous game. Dungeon exploring is still done in the same 3D style, with a small mini-map in the corner. When you engage in battle, you will see the character portrait down the bottom, and enemies will appear as a 3D model floating on the center of the screen. When not exploring, story sequences are told in a visual novel format with character portraits. Since this is a direct sequel to the previous game with most of them being the same cast, there are many recycled assets. If you're expecting new art for existing characters, you might be disappointed, but fortunately on the audio side of things, the new tracks in Finale are great to listen to, and the game features an excellent dub in both languages.
Mary Skelter Finale provides a rather disappointing finale to the series. The previous games left off on a rather satisfying conclusion to the series, and Finale just feels like an overextended sequel. It's ultimately a really difficult game to recommend to players unless they're already heavily invested in the story of the first two games. Even veterans of this series will be a bit lost without giving its lore a reread to get a better grasp on it. Luckily the game provides one of the best recollection modes I have seen and if any players have never played the series, this can even be an option for those that just want to read any prior story of this title.