REVIEW : Mary Skelter Finale (PS5)
Some strange and unusual areas have been explored in recent Idea Factory/Compile Heart releases. The same dark region inspired many other wonderful experiences and made Labyrinth of Refrain a masterpiece. Mary Skelter began with a gruesome twist on the Grimm Brothers’ stories, placed in a gloomy setting with violent mechanics. Mary Skelter 2 continued the adventure, and Mary Skelter Finale will bring it to a close. Is it time to experience it, or is this one experience where no one lives happily ever after? With so much going on, the franchise finally debuting on PlayStation in the West, and more, is it time to experience it or is this one experience where no one lives happily ever after?
The prologue to Mary Skelter Finale is highly inaccessible due to the adventure taking place after Mary Skelter 2. Thankfully, these issues are solved in Before Story mode, which I’m not sure if it’s a welcome feature or an overbearing one.
Because the storey is so crucial in Mary Skelter, Before Story is essentially the first two games combined with the gameplay removed. However, all included CG images, virtually every cutscene, openings, optional events, and more. This means that gamers can legitimately complete the trilogy; however, it will need a significant financial expenditure.
More involved games, such as the beloved The Legend of Heroes franchise, usually provide a summary. There is a roughly 20-minute lengthy video in the case as mentioned above that summarises the essential talking points for the storey thus far. It simply isn’t as brilliant as the rest of the conversation. Still, it does mean that beginners will have difficulty following the plot without spending hours reading earlier adventures.
Regardless of which path one chooses, the first section is a bit of a slog. Players interact with the characters as they struggle with their new situations for around an hour. The groups have been divided due to the events in Mary Skelter 2, making these scenes feel disconnected and weird at times.
Players are also introduced to their oppressors, Massacre Pink, are given some insight into what they desire, and are overwhelmed by their power throughout this time. So much so that my team lost before I even took a turn in the programmed unwinnable fight versus Iron Maiden. It starts with one group and then moves on to the others, making this section fragmented. Each follows a similar pattern:
- Deal with the problem.
- Face one of the opponents.
- Lose miserably.
- Proceed to the gaming phase.
Mary Skelter Finale offers another exposition dump in the guise of lessons before you may run around dungeons and fight creatures. These are useful, as gameplay may be rather tricky. Rather than simply exploring a dungeon and progressing normally, players must switch between various distinct parties to proceed. Sometimes there will be a locked door that Clara’s group can’t open but Jack’s group can, requiring you to progress in both groups to move forward. There are additional mechanics for sending objects between groups, as well as other barriers to overcome.
It takes a long for these dynamics to activate fully, and it often appears to be superficial. So before moving on to other areas, get as far as you can in one. It will eventually unlock everything, or at the very least, lead to the following issue.
The gameplay is essentially that of a classic dungeon crawler. Players explore a place outside of battle and speech, travelling from one square to the next to unveil the map. There are traps to be found and the puzzles mentioned above, hidden items, and more. Enemies will strike from time to time, which is a very conventional dungeon crawler experience.
Initially, fights see your heroes fighting a 3D depiction of a beast shown via a primary icon. Much to Mary Skelter Finale’s credit, the character design may not be pleasing, but it is unusual. As foes die, your team will be covered in blood, which will access a variety of doors. It can eventually lead to a berserker phase or open the door to buffs and heals. Blood Skelter is a lousy mode in which characters go insane. These aspects are gradually introduced so that players understand how they work and what they should and should not do.
Mechanics go even farther by allowing you to unlock a critical hit mode, different jobs for some characters, and overpowering forces that you must dodge, among other things. It’s a fun experience once it all comes together, but it can be a tall order.