While the dungeon crawler genre can be rather niche to begin with, some titles, such as Etrian Odyssey, are more mainstream than others. For players looking for something a little outside of that mainstream, Idea Factory Offers their Mary Skelter series.
While Mary Skelter 2 will initially feel familiar for veterans of the genre, it does a number of things to set itself apart. A deceptively morbid and convoluted narrative offsets the cutesy anime aesthetics and fairy tale characters, while battles revolve around a unique corruption system. The cast largely consists of a group of girls referred to as Blood Maidens - based on fairy tales and folklore - who will serve as your party in battle. You explore a large, sentient, dungeon referred to as the Jail, which has taken over part of Japan, all in an effort to escape the hell it has created for humanity. Newcomers to the series will be glad to hear that the game also includes an enhanced port of the original game, though it is worth noting that story changes make it appropriate to start with Mary Skelter 2 and play the original afterward.
Mary Skelter 2’s core gameplay loop revolves around exploring dungeons in a first-person perspective and participating in turn-based battles. As you move across the dungeon, your map automatically fills out to aid in exploration. Like any dungeon crawler, combat is a major selling point and occurs from random encounters. In these battles, you can use up to 6 characters at a time, all of whom can be customized with various jobs, equipment, and skills to fit their role in your party. One of the most unique systems in Mary Skelter 2 is the corruption system. As your Blood Maidens kill enemies in battle, target enemy weaknesses, and use certain skills, blood will splatter around the area.
This blood splatter fills each Blood Maiden’s blood gauge, and when it fills up they will transform into a more powerful form. However, which form they turn into is determined by their corruption. If their corruption is low they will transform into Massacre Mode, offering them more powerful stats and skills, but if it is high they will transform into a berserk state known as Blood Skelter, which will cause them to lose control and potentially attack the party. Corruption increases over time and is accelerated by negative effects such as the death of a party member, and can be cured using the powers of Nightmare Jack, who is always in your party. Failure to control corruption can lead to defeat quickly and at times managed to completely wipe my party due to negligence.
The other important aspect of Mary Skelter 2’s battles is its job system. Mary Skelter 2 maintains a similar system to its predecessor but offers more jobs and quality of life improvements. Every 10 levels each Blood Maiden earns job rights and can move to another class. In the original PlayStation Vita version of Mary Skelter 1, you could not revert to old jobs without getting new job rights. However, in both Mary Skelter 2 and the enhanced port of the original, you can revert to previously unlocked jobs free of charge. Active Skills can also be used across classes in both games.
However, Mary Skelter 2 also allows you to mix and match passive skills across jobs, while the original and its remake prevent you from doing so. Another set of features in the game is Jail Control and Jail Time. While doing specific actions that please the Jail, a roulette will start, allowing you to roll various bonuses such as buffs, debuffs, treasure, or even a whopping 10 gold!
The game's presentation occurs in a 3d environment and you explore the dungeon in first person. Upon entering battle, you see the enemy represented as 3d models, while your own party is represented with 2d portraits. Story events occur in a visual novel style format, with character artwork and dialogue boxes being shown most of the time and unique CGs appearing for important story events. Some CGs have their fair share of fanservice, so you might feel a bit uncomfortable playing in public. Most of the aesthetic resources are repurposed from the first game, so if you were looking for a large jump in graphical fidelity, you’re likely to be disappointed. While the graphics may not be anything to write home about, the performance is much better. Performance is flawless on the Switch, with no issues appearing in docked or handheld mode.
In addition to its gameplay, Mary Skelter 2’s story is its main selling point. Filled with twists, the narrative is enjoyable and is a notable improvement over the first game. Players looking for a complete overhaul with the story will likely be disappointed, but those who were disappointed with the ending of the original will likely be much more satisfied with the sequel’s.
Versions tested: Nintendo Switch
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.