Earlier this year I published a “best first-person dungeon-crawlers on the Switch” list, and the Mary Skelter series was right at the top. Despite the sometimes garish otaku bait these games indulge in, there’s a lot to like if you’re already into extreme genre trash fiction and grinding numbers for dozens of hours. That’s a huge venn diagram, I know. Despite the hyper-specificity, Mary Skelter is one of the best of its kind, offering some surprisingly dense horror/splatterpunk fiction (supported by multiple novels and other materials from Dengeki collabs), and tons of power grinding and customization options.
Mary Skelter 1 and 2 are largely companion pieces, ostensibly separated as alternate versions of each other but, crucially, much more complicated if you put the time in. Mary Skelter Finale is the third game, and this time it’s the culmination of what happened in the first game, combined with the after effects of the second game. It’s a real final sort of finale, one that wants to make sure you know what’s going on before you start. It’s the kind of dense anime-style storytelling full of interconnected nonsense and a huge cast of characters.
Mary Skelter Finale Review
The best part, here, is that you can start with Mary Skelter Finale and get the whole story with a third of the grind. If you like the genre but don’t want to wade through three games of it, Finale lets you watch through the events of the first two games, ripped straight from said games, in visual novel style. It’s awesome, since while it does leave some connective tissue out (in-dungeon dialogue), it captures everything else. You can experience the story as it was presented, instead of a less effective summary method that most games (understandably) take. It’s an extra mile approach that really helps make this continuity shine.
It’s a hell of a continuity, too. Like I mentioned before, this is genre schlock with a capital G, with everything that comes with that. The story follows an invasion from an unknown force that all but wipes out humanity, capturing the survivors in “jails,” organic tower-like structures that are not so subtly phallic in every possible way. The jails are occupied by otherworldly creatures, with the boss-level Nightmares at the top of the food chain. The only way humanity can fight back is with “Blood Maidens,” warriors who are basically magical girls empowered by blood and guts instead of hope and love.
Through various circumstances, the main protagonist (Jack) discovers his own blood-based powers, which helps him hold Blood Maidens back from a berserker state called “Blood Skelter,” which should tell you a lot about where this series likes to hang out. Jack and his crew of macabre fairy tale berserker ladies seek to use their powers to escape the jails, get to the surface, and perhaps figure out what to do next. Naturally, as the third game starts with said surface, things break bad within seconds and as the player we find ourselves back in the dungeon-crawling trenches.
What follows is largely a straightforward, but dense anime-style first-person dungeon-crawler with turn-based combat. The biggest gameplay gimmick here is managing blood splatter (literally), using Jack’s own blood (fired out of a gun attached to his wrist veins, because why not) to keep your party from losing control of itself in the thick of combat. You can try pushing it if you want to get an extra power boost, but push too much and the Blood Skelter kicks in, forcing you to scramble to survive your own teammates’ fury.
As the third game in the series, Mary Skelter Finale has a ton of characters from the first two games and introduces a suite of newbies as well. The first two were already pretty crowded, leading to bench warming. In Finale, the game splits characters up deliberately, using a “zapping” system to make the player swap between groups on the fly. This is done quite well, often grouping characters across multiple dungeons and setting up ways for group A to help group B pass obstacles and vice versa. It not only helps the player have chances to use all the characters, it also helps the game tell character-based stories without things getting too crowded.
After that, everything else is just hopping on that grinding train and taking it wherever you want. Much like a Disgaea, you can push the game’s limits far beyond what’s necessary to get through the story. There are tons of skills to learn, a job system that gives characters bespoke roles to choose from, piles of equipment to find and upgrade and more. There’s a lot going on here, and much of it is entirely up to you to engage with or not. Which is great, because I ain’t about that touch screen rubbing pervert life. Yes, that’s a thing in these games and no, you don’t have to do it at all. But I’ll fuck with a job system all day if I can.
With Mary Skelter, I came for the over the top anime/horror affect, and stayed for the grinding. I also ended up getting into the story quite a bit despite its severe lack of self control, thanks to its loveable characters and sincerity and surprisingly sweet romances. Mary Skelter Finale stands out not only as the big ending for the trilogy, but also an excellent overall package that lets you start there without missing a scrap of storyline. This stuff is a niche within a niche to say the least, but gorehounds, anime dorks and dungeon devotees can eat pretty well here.
- Includes all story scenes from the first two games
- Zapping system is structured smartly
- Sky's the grinding limit
- Performance issues on Switch
- Bad horny tropes (sexualized underage-looking characters, etc)
- Tertiary systems are fumbly and under-developed (gifts, harvesting, etc)
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review