*Spots white mist across the room* Nope, I’ll go the other way.
Type: Single Player
Genre: First-Person Dungeon Crawler
Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
Release date: October 22, 2019
Mary Skelter 2 follows two characters named Otsuu and Little Mermaid that lives in a world where a city in Japan suddenly disappeared one day. In it’s place, a prison was formed and was soon filled with creatures known as Marchens. These Marchens started to monitor and torture the citizens in the surrounding area. While the name of the city was lost in time, it was soon named as the Jail. Not many have survived outside the Marchen’s hands, and even then Nightmares roam to eliminate the Jail’s opposers, but a good handful have a special quality that lets them fight back. They’re known as Blood Maidens and possess incredible strength, regeneration, and the ability to enter an enhanced state if they’re in contact with enough Marchen blood. Otsuu and Little Mermaid are Blood Maidens themselves and, joined with Red Riding Hood, are set to free everyone they can from the Jail. However, they need some more Blood Maidens on their side if they want to stand a chance.
Good thing that they already know where another Blood Maiden is and those that are already familiar with Mary Skelter: Nightmares may recognize her and her companion (though not so much for new players, like myself). The new Blood Maiden is none other than Alice and she’s accompanied by a boy named Jack. Of course, it doesn’t go as planned as a Nightmare makes an appearance and after an attempt to distract it so others could escape, causes the Blood Maidens to be scattered against their will. Thankfully, Otsuu and Little Mermaid land in roughly the same area, but the same can’t be said about Alice and Red Riding Hood. While Jack did manage to land by Little Mermaid, he wasn’t so lucky as he used his own body to protect Little Mermaid. While this ultimately resulted in him suffering a fatal wound, he was luckily (or unluckily) born as a Nightmare with his desire to protect those close to him keeping his sanity intact enough to help out.
Now, all that’s left is to find Red Riding Hood, Alice, and hopefully many other Blood Maidens roaming around the Jail and brave the many Marchens and Nightmares ready to put an end their little endeavor.
While Mary Skelter 2 can be overwhelming at first as you try to get the hang of the many mechanics it has, it’s actually pretty straightforward once you get used to everything. First of all, the vast majority of your time will be going through the dungeons that reside in the Jail. The Jail itself is particularly unique as it’s actually a living thing that you have to keep an eye on. The Jail has three desires that will fill up depending on what you do: Hunger, satisfied by attacking Marchens; Libido, satisfied by finding treasure and hearts; and Sleep; satisfied by just not taking any damage while the Jail is sleeping. Once a desire is completely filled up, you’ll be able to get a bonus like recovering some health or upping defense. Satisfying the Jail’s desire also serves as a way to deal with the Jail’s mood, which increases as you enter more fights but lowers as you satisfy its desires. Letting the Jail’s mood increase causes Marchens to become stronger and may even summon a Nightmare to you.
Other than this, it’s mostly the usual exploring the dungeon, finding keys and levers to open doors, avoiding traps or gimmicks in this case (which will actually have a turn where it’ll randomly target you or an enemy if you’re by one in a battle). Each dungeon manages to be the perfect size as they’re not too large and not too small. You can also plant up to 10 Blood Crystals, which are mainly gained through battles, per floor to grow your own equipment. There’s even a traveling merchant you can randomly run into to buy anything you need in the moment. The Blood Maidens and Jack also have an ability that can be used inside dungeons to get through certain areas. Like Little Mermaid can use her frozen tears to douse flames and Jack can save points almost everywhere so you can save and escape the dungeon at any time. In fact, Mary Skelter 2 is pretty lenient on escaping. You can escape through either the save point or by using an item with the only downside is that you need to backtrack to where you stopped. And even then, each dungeon has a shortcut that you can find before leaving. The only time you can’t leave is if you’re being pursued by a Nightmare.
— RipWitch ♥️ (@RipWitch_) November 20, 2019
Nightmares act as a dungeon’s boss and roams around their home looking for you. Nightmares are different since they can’t be killed until you destroy the dungeon’s core. You’ll go from happily strolling through, to faintly hearing suspicious sounds and doors opening and closing around you. Making you even more paranoid as it’s not you opening those doors or scared as it comes closer. Luckily, this isn’t the only way to know a Nightmare is nearby as they are constantly surrounded by a white mist. Coming to close to a Nightmare will alert it and it will start to chase you. You can escape by running outside its mist, but you might not be lucky all the time. Any battles you enter are “Booked Battles” which you can’t escape from and lets the Nightmare have a turn. If you’re cornered, you’ll also need to face the Nightmare in battle. Inflicting enough damage will temporarily stun it and you’ll then be able to run past it.
Using the usual turn-based battle system, Mary Skelter has its own unique mechanics. The most important mechanic here revolves around blood splatters. If you hit an enemy’s weak point, land a critical (which you’ll be interestingly notified and has three levels indicating how strong it will be), or overkill an enemy, blood will splatter on your Blood Maidens and will cause their blood splatter meter to fill up. Once it’s filled up and their next turn comes around, they’ll enter Massacre Mode that will increase their stats and grant them powerful skills for a turn or two. This isn’t the only use of Blood Maiden’s meter as you can get another Maiden to lick another, which will offer healing or a support buff depending on the Blood Maiden, but will empty the licked Maiden’s meter. However, as Blood Maidens take damage, Corruption builds up inside of them causing their blood splatter meter to slowly become murkier. The murkier their blood splatter meter is, the more likely it is for them to enter Blood Skelter rather than Massacre and cause them to randomly attack (or in the best scenario buff) your other Blood Maidens or the enemies. This can be rather devastating as a Maiden in Blood Skelter can attack multiple times and easily KO your characters. Even more so if multiple Maidens enter Blood Skelter at the same time.
There is a way to combat corruption and it lies within Jack, who shares the same turn as Otsuu. Letting either of them act twice, or once each. Jack’s blood is special as his blood can remove corruption. As far as I know, Jack can only remove corruption during battles with his purge option. You can completely clear one Maiden’s corruption, lower corruption for everyone, or use Life Purge to bring Maidens out of Blood Skelter. He can also activate a Nightmare Zone around an enemy to null their actions. However, this all comes at a cost. These actions brings him closer to insanity as his mind meter becomes agitated. If it peaks, he’ll become Ripper Jack, which is similar to Blood Skelter. To prevent this, his Deep Breath ability is to calm his mind. Though, Ripper Jack can be calmed by Otsuu’s Counseling ability or you can get a Maiden to embrace him so he’ll either attack your enemies or the one that’s embracing him. It also helps that Otsuu and Jack has less turns than the others, though at the same time not as they’re the only ones able to use items and purge corruption. Making you decide if you really want to deal damage or deal with corruption or calming Jack’s mind.
When you’re not in dungeons, you can do quite a lot at the Blood Maiden’s base. You can grab some work orders, or side quests, that can range from satisfying a Jail’s desire so many times to defeating a certain amount of enemies. The work orders also holds my only source of annoyance. You can only be working on one work order at a time rather than multiple. I really wished that multiple work orders could be active as you’ll have a couple for a certain dungeon. Though, I can settle with at least letting you only have multiple work orders active if the others are to satisfy the Jail’s desires. While doing the orders involving the Jail’s desires isn’t that bad when going into a new dungeon, it’s kind of annoying otherwise. The most annoying one is to satisfy the Jail’s Libido, which makes me wish that it didn’t require you to satisfy it so much.
Anyway, you can also harvest your Blood Crystal farms, auto plant Blood Crystals, buy things from the store (of course), purging to temporarily gain corruption resistance by rubbing Jack’s blood into a Blood Maiden’s skin in a set amount of time (can be skipped after the first success), strengthen equipment with Blood Crystals, and managing Blood Maidens. Here, you can change a Blood Maiden’s job as long as you have Job Unlock Rights (granted every 10 levels). Each job will give you a different outfit and different stats, but nonetheless skills can be used even if you’re not using the job it came from. You can also expand skill slots using Blood Crystals, appraise and transfuse Blood Packs to give a Blood Maidens a boost, and even delevel a Blood Maiden to gain bonuses. Lastly, each Blood Maiden has their own room, with yours letting you check your affection to everyone. Giving them gifts and furniture raises affection and triggers character events at certain levels. While most events pop up as the story progresses, the ones that require an affection level are worth it and you’ll be missing some good scenes.
Lastly, for real this time, before you depart to a dungeon you’ll be able to customize the Jail to either make it easier with Jail Control or make it harder to get better rewards with Jail Trail. For example, you can make battles more difficult in exchange of having a higher item drop rate (which is particularly useful for work orders). Jail Control requires you to have Jail Pieces and even then, you can only input a certain amount.
Mary Skelter 2 also comes packaged with a remastered version of the first game, Mary Skelter: Nightmares. However, it’s not available from the get go. To unlock it normally, you’ll have to finish Mary Skelter 2 and get the true ending. I won’t be surprised if you’re wondering why, after all wouldn’t it be best to play the first game first and then the second? Well, it’s hard to explain without including a spoiler, but it will make sense why it’s recommended to play the second game first. It’s weird, I know, but if you really do want to play Mary Skelter: Nightmares remaster first, there is a DLC that lets you unlock it early. Just don’t complete the post-game before completing Mary Skelter 2.
In addition, if you have played the original Mary Skelter: Nightmares game on the Vita or on Steam, you can skip through to the end by correctly answering a question. From what others have said, the story didn’t get any changes before the skip point.
Mary Skelter 2 also has some other free DLC that gives you some items and two new jobs for your characters. The items are pretty helpful and the DLC jobs do give you more skills to work with even if you don’t want to any of your characters to actually have the job (plus the outfits are pretty cute). The DLC jobs do not require you to have Unlock Job Rights so you can unlock those right away as well.
I also really recommend switching on Japanese voice acting rather than English voice acting. While the English voice actors do fit their characters well, only a few scenes are voiced where every scene is voiced if you choose to have Japanese voice acting instead. So before you get too far in (or in my case, 17 hours in), make sure to switch.
While the first few hours of Mary Skelter 2 had me pretty neutral on the game (mostly because I was lost on things that the game assumes you already know), once the story picked up it seriously grabbed me. I went from only playing for two hours to upwards of 10 hours the very next day. I really wanted to see what happened and all the character interactions you get as you progress through the story. Not even the things that I found annoying didn’t take much away or kept me from continuing. If you like dungeon crawlers and looking for a game that will last for a long time, Mary Skelter 2 is definitely worth it, even if you never played the first game. It’s worth it even more when counting in the fact that it comes packaged with a remastered version of Mary Skelter: Nightmares. I had about 74 hours in my Mary Skelter 2 playthrough on easy doing everything I could except one work order that required me to activate the Jail’s Libido 15 times. Though, if you also count the lost hours due to me dying and foolishly not saving periodically, it would actually be about 81 hours. Keep in mind that I spent no time grinding out levels, so if you hate grinding, no need to worry too much about doing it.
With the main reason why I was neutral on Mary Skelter 2 at the start was being lost, there is a prequel story available for both the first and second game. Everything does become clearer as the game goes on, but reading the prequel story (or at least taking a quick peak at the wiki) will clear things up faster. I found links to translated prequel story on this immersion roadmap.