When it comes to Compile Heart most fans of the developer tend to think of their more light-hearted games or the Neptunia series but even though the company has dabbled in some darker titles in the past when Mary Skelter: Nightmares was released it caught many by surprise. The dungeon crawler featured a dire storyline with some rather disturbing events tied together with solid gameplay elements and plenty of customization. Not only did Mary Skelter: Nightmares manage to see success four years ago, it even saw a sequel that seemingly wrapped things up but now the story will come to a close with Mary Skelter Finale. The question is, has the series managed to hold itself together through a third release and pull off a satisfying conclusion?.
When it comes to telling a conclusion to a series of lengthy RPGs, it may be difficult to jump right in should the player never have touched the first two entries but Mary Skelter Finale is prepared for that. The game comes with the storyline for both of the original games in visual novel style format allowing players who may have never seen the game’s before a way to catch up on everything or give longtime fans a chance to refresh their memories of what happened last or see something they may have missed. It is worth noting that these story recaps are incredibly lengthy as it features almost every major scene and even bonus scenes as well so trying to catch up will take many hours.
Following the events of the previous game, Mary Skelter Finale continues the story with Jack and the Blood Maidens by his side, finally escaping the hellish underground prison that they have been living in and traveling to the surface. Unfortunately when they arrive they find that the surface is anything but safe and is instead even worse than what they previously have known as a harsh red sky, piles of bodies, and a jail larger than the one they previously resided are the first things they see. It isn’t long before many of the surviving civilians and side-characters start falling to the sadistic weaponry of those behind the killing, a powerful new threat known as Massacre Pink. With no apparent reason the new girls seek to retrieve Alice while slaughtering everyone else and it is only through the last ditch effort of one of their allies that the group manages to survive.
The only problem is, not only does it appear that the teleportation used to escape managed to place the survivors once again inside of a new jail, but the massive group of allies has been separated from one another. Wounded and separated from one another in unknown areas, Jack and the rest must fight to survive against the Nightmares once again. When it comes to telling a cohesive story in a lengthy dungeon crawler such as this, the Mary Skelter series has handled itself rather well throughout the previous two games but unfortunately Mary Skelter Finale falters in this regard.
Not only does it often introduce a number of twists and plot points that feel off-the-wall even for this series, the long time it takes between events to actually take place does the game few favors even with the focus on separation allowing for a number of new interactions and character developments to take place. That being said, despite the gaps between major events and the lack of many meaningful reveals compared to previous entries, Mary Skelter Finale does manage to tell a solid enough story and even gives fans a little extra content thanks to some bonus free DLC.
As one would expect in the third entry in a series, little has changed in the way that Mary Skelter Finale plays outside of a key detail that we will go into later. Players will still traverse through a wide array of dungeons in first person while battling against enemies in turn-based combat, avoiding traps and other dungeon hazards, and of course running away from Nightmares. Blood being spilled in battle remains a strong factor as the Blood Maidens can enter a frenzied state called “Blood Skelter” when too much is splattered on them, giving the fighter a massive power boost at the cost of the Maiden becoming uncontrollable and possibly attacking allies. In similar fashion Jack and a number of others can use special weaponry to remove stress and blood build up to relieve anyone driven into a frenzy.
The main difference in Mary Skelter Finale from previous entries is the fact that the massive amount of characters that are fighting to survive their new jail are now separated into several different groups. This element was dabbled with a bit in the second entry but it comes full swing in Mary Skelter Finale to the point that it actually ends up being a bit problematic as a result. While the game features a number of handy features such as alerting players when to swap to a different party in a separate area of the dungeon in order to progress or unlock something, especially since only certain characters can deal with certain dungeon obstacles, there ends up being far too much padding here as a result, dragging the game’s story down even if it gives players plenty of chances to see everything Mary Skelter Finale‘s combat and customization brings to the table.
Every character that the player will bring into combat is customizable to a rather extreme extent as each character will have multiple jobs available that players can then choose to learn certain skills with permanently, allowing for players to really power up certain characters that happen to be their favorites or choose to grind should the need arise. In fact, there is even an item zapping system that allows for the transferring of equipment between parties so players will always have options available to them though this system will also regularly be used to transfer items from one team to another in an effort to unlock the way forward.
Visuals & Audio
The Mary Skelter series has always reveled in having a unique art style that blends horror aesthetics with an anime style and that remains true in Mary Skelter Finale. Characters will have their own highly detailed “Live 2D” styled portraits during visual novel scenes and portraits that will change depending on the job that they are currently fighting with while enemies and the dungeons themselves are portrayed in 3D. The enemy variety is quite high for a dungeon crawler and, while some dungeon areas make excessive use of certain gimmicks to the point of annoyance, the dungeons themselves are unique enough looking to remain fresh countless hours in. It is also worth noting that fanservice does remain throughout the game with the frenzied state of the Blood Maidens stripping them down as well as plenty of CGs and character designs with that element in mind but it has been scaled back this time and kept fairly tame, especially compared to the first two games. That said, the bonus free DLC does feature plenty of fan-service for those looking for a little something extra.
One element that Mary Skelter Finale continues to shine at is providing an excellent soundtrack to accompany all elements of exploration and combat. There is a rather surprising amount of variety here when it comes to music, to the poitn that some tracks feature a number of unique blends of instruments as well. Traveling through a dungeon has fitting exploration music that immediately kicks into an intense track once players enter combat. It is also worth noting that Mary Skelter Finale offers both the original Japanese voice track as well as a freshly recorded English dub that appears to retain all of the original voice actors from previous entries.
Mary Skelter Finale is a dungeon crawler where it often feels like everything is coming together nicely only for these moments to be dragged down by a number of poor gameplay design decisions or the incredibly slow story progression. Newly introduced characters, different interactions between team members, and some plot points are interesting to see but having it all unravel at such a poor pace due to excessive padding that even solid combat cannot help is a disappointment in what still is a solid enough ending to this trilogy.
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