Released 4 years ago with Mary Skelter: Nightmare, Finale comes to obviously end the series. A 3D Dungeon RPG with ecchi scenes and character’s names from classic fairy tales attempting to escape the Jail.
Mary Skelter Finale is also a controversial title in places such as Australia. “Implied sexual violence” and “exploitative or offensive depictions of minors” are the reasons listed. Additionally, it was refused a rating, which is needed to be sold in the country.
Idea Factory has always had the track record of having games with little to no graphical quality, and reusing previous entries’ artwork. This still holds true and, unfortunately, provides nothing else that stands out from the final installment of the franchise.
Mary Skelter Finale
Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4
Release Date: September 30, 2021
Price: $49.99 USD
If you’ve missed any part of the story, or are first jumping into the series, the game features both of the previous game’s cutscenes. “Before Story” showcases prior entries Mary Skelter: Nightmares and Mary Skelter 2.
Besides story, Before Story also features bonuses such as a character viewer, music, and gallery from their respective games. I appreciate the addition of these to help ease new players into the world, while also adding more content for no additional cost.
It’s recommended viewing before starting Finale, since characters and their relationships are shown. This also includes the plot heavy segments about the Jail, and Blood Maidens’ abilities.
Rushing into this game will make you disinterested, since there are other forms of media prior to the release of this. After reaching the surface from the Jail, an inescapable prison, the main protagonists stumble upon a horrific landscape full of dead bodies. As more groups emerge from the Jail, they’re introduced to Massacre Pink, a group of execution-named characters.
Avoiding spoilers, the story is a standard fare. Characters feel very powerful even when starting from level 1, and working your way up with the grind. Each of them have varied personalities, which makes them easier to remember besides their fairy tale inspired names.
The paces of the story can feel disjointed at times, since you swap between different parties and sections of the dungeon to solve the puzzles of flipping switches. Flipping switches will unlock doors either for your current party, or the other party in the same tower.
When I say there is a lot of tutorials, I mean it. After 3 hours of playtime, I was still getting more tutorials for mechanics in the game. Getting down to the basics; dungeon crawling is one third of the gameplay, turn-based combat and visual novel segments are the others.
The visual novel segments act as cutscenes, giving characters voices, acting out scenes most of the time, and dishing out exposition for the story. Most scenes are voiced over featuring Live2D-esque sprites. The sprites are sometimes presented strangely. For instance, facial expressions change, but nothing else like their body or arms, making some scenes not as impactful.
Another part of the gameplay is the turn-based combat, that is somewhat different from most games in it’s genre. Mary Skelter uses blood as its main factor during fights, cleansing and empowering the Blood Maidens. Blood Youths, who use a special gun to purge Blood Maidens from corruption and Blood Skelter, use their own blood in battle with varying effects.
Different states of corruption can affect Blood Maidens during battle. Massacre mode increases stats, heals Blood Maidens when attacking enemies, and features a Massacre Skill to unleashe a powerful attack. Blood Skelter functions similarly, with greater power, but the set back of losing control of Blood Maidens during battle.
Using the Blood Gun gives buffs and recovery to Blood Maidens during battle, but if used without a charge will make the Blood Youth pass out. Pass out too many times, and you will game over. This makes the battles feel more strategic, and makes you cautious about battles you engage in.
There’s not too much micromanaging when fighting, however you will get occasional enemies that will one-shot you. Enemies, called Marchen, appear randomly when in dungeons. Meanwhile Nightmares, from the previous games, act as bosses and chase you through the dungeons.
All elements of battle make for a steady grind, that doesn’t feel as boring as it should. I focused on farming some EXP for levels and Funds to stay stocked up in the worst case scenarios ahead. Figuring out everything in the maze-like dungeons was great for exploration, that I wasn’t too used to until getting into the thick of this game.
Previously, I had mentioned that there was a great number of tutorials. There are segments of seeing a tutorial pop up so often that you are almost fed up with learning them, and then dealing with them head-on. This detracted from the experience mainly due to the semi-handholding along with a few other things.
While in the dungeon segments, some locations like the Judgement tower are hard to see in due to being too bright. It was sometimes hard to determine which doors were accessible, or just gates that won’t open. Other dungeons were sometimes easier to navigate and see traps clearer as a result of lighting changes.
On the same side, music sometimes finds itself in a weird predicament. Some segments have music that is too cheerful for the location or situation. Sound effects are very much manufactured and don’t sound realistic, almost as if they were in a royalty-free folder.
A major feature of Mary Skelter is the voice acting which is in English and Japanese. Performances sometimes feel unnatural and stiff in the case of the English dubbing. Ironically, it matches the character sprites on screen.
An additional item to note is the inclusion of “Locked Up in Love,” which was originally Japan only as a pre-order bonus for Mary Skelter 2. It’s a visual novel that is fully voiced in Japanese, and has individual routes with the exception of Otsuu and Little Mermaid. It’s a departure from the world of chaos that is the main game, and serves a notable purpose for extra content.
When reflecting on my time playing through the dangerous, frightening world of Mary Skelter: Finale, I felt like there were too many things holding it back from being something more.
That’s not to say that this is a bad game, but a game that requires a good bit of prior knowledge but not a lot. The blinding dungeons, tone deaf music at moments, innumerable tutorials, and stiff sprites were the main issues.
There’s still a good handful of things to like; I think the characters are all unique and cute with their design and personalities. If you want to play Mary Skelter Finale, play the previous games first to know if you may be interested in a dungeon crawling JRPG.
Mary Skelter Finale was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review code provided by Idea Factory International. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.