Review: Mary Skelter 2

Mary Skel­ter: Night­ma­res was a nice sur­pri­se, being a com­pe­tent DRPG from a less than con­sis­tent deve­lo­per, so we wel­co­med the announ­ce­ment of a sequel last year. Our main worry though was that the ori­gi­nal game was a flu­ke, and a second ent­ry wouldn’t mana­ge to build upon its solid foun­da­ti­ons. Our fears were unfoun­ded though, with Mary Skel­ter 2 being an impro­ve­ment in near­ly every way, even with a hea­vy amount of asset reu­se. 

Mary Skel­ter 2 doesn’t con­ti­nue the sto­ry of Mary Skel­ter: Night­ma­res in the way a typi­cal sequel would. Ins­tead of fol­lo­wing on direc­t­ly from the first game, it takes the set­ting and cha­rac­ters of the ori­gi­nal and reworks them into some­thing new, adding in a new prot­ago­nist and some sur­pri­sing twists. Humans have once again been trap­ped by some­thing known as the Jail, a living pri­son that tor­tures its pri­soners. Otsuu and Litt­le Mer­maid are blood mai­dens, girls with the power to fight the hor­rors of the jail, and they work to try and free them­sel­ves from the night­ma­rish pri­son. After fre­eing some fami­li­ar faces, inclu­ding Mary Skel­ter: Night­ma­res’ prot­ago­nists Jack and Ali­ce, it seems like they may final­ly have the upper hand. Howe­ver, Alice’s new­found Blood Mai­den powers go ber­serk, sepa­ra­ting the pair and set­ting the tone for what will be a far grim­mer sto­ry­line. 

The sto­ry has a strong ope­ning, intro­du­cing some new and old cha­rac­ters into the mix, befo­re ever­ything goes off the rails. Jack is tur­ned into a Night­ma­re, a gro­tes­que being that usual­ly pro­tec­ts the Jail, and important cha­rac­ters from the first game are unce­re­mo­nious­ly kil­led off wit­hin the game’s first hours. From a sto­ry stand­point, Mary Skel­ter 2 easi­ly jus­ti­fies its exis­tence, espe­ci­al­ly in regards to the cha­rac­ters that didn’t get much screen time in the first game. Hameln, who made a late appearan­ce as an optio­nal cha­rac­ter, is intro­du­ced ear­ly on here, giving her more of a chan­ce to shi­ne. In fact, the ent­i­re cast is likely the stron­gest of any Com­pi­le Heart game, being most­ly made up of dif­fe­rent fai­ry tale inspi­red cha­rac­ters. The­re are also far more side events in the sequel, let­ting the cast inter­act with each other more out­si­de of the main sto­ry. 

If the­re was one major com­p­laint to be had about the sto­ry, it’s that the Eng­lish dub is very lacking. Not in regards to its qua­li­ty, sin­ce most of the cha­rac­ters Eng­lish voices are actual­ly pret­ty good, but the num­ber of Eng­lish voice-overs in gene­ral. Sce­nes not being dub­bed was some­thing that plagued the first Mary Skel­ter, and many other games that Idea Fac­to­ry Inter­na­tio­nal have published, but it’s even wor­se here. It seems that only a small per­cen­ta­ge of sce­nes are actual­ly voi­ced, with next to no dia­lo­gue out­si­de of the sto­ry being voi­ced in Eng­lish at all. We’ve play­ed many games that fea­ture no voice acting so it’s not too hard to put up with, but it’s hard to recom­mend play­ing in Eng­lish when the inclu­ded Japa­ne­se dub covers all dia­lo­gue and has a much big­ger impact on important sto­ry events. 

While the sto­ry may be whe­re the big­gest chan­ges come into play, a num­ber of wel­co­me chan­ges have been made to the dun­ge­on craw­ling game­play that make buil­ding your par­ty even more enjoy­a­ble. Batt­les play out in rough­ly the same way, simi­lar to most turn-based RPGs, though the maxi­mum par­ty size has been increa­sed by one to accom­mo­da­te for the lar­ger amount of Blood Mai­dens you recruit. This allows for more poten­ti­al par­ty set­ups, but it can make gearing up more cum­ber­so­me as you have to go through even more equip­ment screens. Jack is still pre­sent during each batt­le, but his new form makes him a litt­le less reli­able than in the first game. He can redu­ce the cor­rup­ti­on level of other par­ty mem­bers which stops them from ram­pa­ging and poten­ti­al­ly attacking allies, but this is now at the cost of his own sani­ty. This makes cor­rup­ti­on manage­ment ris­kier, sin­ce you can’t just use Jack as fre­quent­ly as befo­re. 

Jobs have also seen more of the best qua­li­ty of life impro­ve­ments, making it far easier to switch bet­ween jobs and learn skills. Each cha­rac­ter has a selec­tion of 5 jobs (not inclu­ding DLC) that each have their own skills and stats. Once a job is unlo­cked, you can free­ly chan­ge to it for free unli­ke the first game, and skills from unlo­cked jobs can be lear­ned even if you’re not cur­r­ent­ly using them. The­re is still a lack of infor­ma­ti­on when it comes to skills (what is the dif­fe­rence bet­ween minor and minu­te dama­ge?) but for the most part this is a more user-fri­end­ly game than Mary Skel­ter: Night­ma­res. Equip­ment is also far easier to obtain and upgrade, sin­ce you can grow wea­pons and armour in dun­ge­ons. The­se can be set in spe­ci­fic pla­ces to get bet­ter equip­ment, but for the most part it’s a hands-off way of gearing up your cha­rac­ters as you make your way through each dun­ge­on. 

Even with dun­ge­on craw­ling being impro­ved, the fact that Mary Skel­ter 2 reu­ses the first game’s set­ting also means that you’ll be going through some of the same are­as again. The dun­ge­on lay­outs are dif­fe­rent, and the­re is a decent amount of new are­as, but it’s hard to be as inte­rested in explo­ring when you’re going through a res­kin­ned ver­si­on of a dun­ge­on from Mary Skel­ter: Night­ma­res. In fact, a big chunk of the game is just assets taken from the ori­gi­nal game, inclu­ding enemies and effec­ts. Ene­my designs are still inven­ti­ve, but visu­als that loo­ked pas­sa­ble on the Vita look dated on the Switch. The­re are even noti­ce­ab­le frame­ra­te drops during some dun­ge­ons when play­ing in hand­held mode. It never reaches the same con­sistent­ly awful frame­ra­tes of the Vita ori­gi­nal, but for how sim­plistic a lot of the game looks, the­se issu­es shouldn’t real­ly be pre­sent at all. 


Despi­te the near non-exis­tent Eng­lish dub and age­ing gra­phics, Mary Skel­ter 2 is ano­t­her solid DRPG with a lot of con­tent. When you take into account the fact that an updated ver­si­on of the first game is also inclu­ded, this is an easy game to recom­mend to RPG fans. 

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