First Impressions on Mary Skelter: Nightmares (PS Vita)

Since the PlayStation Vita is being discontinued in Europe and North America, I decided to avoid making any purchases in this season’s Steam sale and instead spend my money on handheld games that interest me, before they go out of print and become rare.

Among the games I picked up this month is Mary Skelter: Nightmares, which drew me in with its stunning cover art. The game is a 2016 dungeon crawling JRPG developed by Compile Heart and Idea Factory of Hyperdimension Neptunia fame in which the player explores a mysterious jail.

When I place the cartridge in my Vita and open the game, I’m greeted by one of the most beautiful opening sequences I’ve ever seen, made even better by the original Vita’s OLED screen. Great art, lovely colours, solid music – what’s not to like?

The first half hour of Mary Skelter is in visual novel format and serves as an introduction to three of the main characters as well as the setting. The first characters to be introduced are Jack and Alice; two prisoners with a close relationship who have been rotting away in the jail for a long time and are struggling to cope with the torture inflicted on them by the Marchens – sinister creatures that guard the jail.

After some chatter, we also meet Red Riding Hood – a girl who calls herself a ‘Blood Maiden’ and comes to take Alice from the jail. Naturally, Jack has no intention of being separated from his lifelong friend so decides to follow them.

Until now I have been playing the game on default settings, but the default text speed is getting tedious so I hit the triangle button to change it to fast and set the character voices to Japanese. The English dub isn’t horrible, but I definitely think the original voices are superior in this one.

Anyway, this is where we get our first taste of the dungeon crawling action. It is entirely first person, controlled with the d-pad rather than analogue stick and there are random encounters.

The battles seem fair, the maps are fun to explore and the first person perspective is far more pleasant than I expected, even for someone who gets motion sick easily.

As our party approaches the dungeon exit, we’re attacked by a ‘Nightmare’, which is basically an ultra strong Marchen that nobody has been able to defeat, but thankfully we manage to escape its wrath. Shortly after this, Alice goes insane and enters ‘Blood Skelter’ mode. This is usually fatal for Blood Maidens, but she survives, and its explained later in the game how she manages this.

After that horrific ordeal, Red Riding Hood takes Jack and Alice to a laboratory in the Liberated District – one area of this dystopian world that isn’t under the influence of the Marchens. There they meet an elderly professor, a young girl who dresses like a shrine maiden, a shop cashier, a doctor and plenty of other characters.

At this point, the story has enough substance to keep me interested and I like a lot of the ideas used, but the story scenes in visual novel format are beginning to feel a bit too long. But the characters are likeable and I have more than enough motivation to keep playing.

If you like dungeon crawlers, first person games, JRPGs and anime, Mary Skelter: Nightmares is definitely one to check out. You can pick up a PAL copy at Amazon UK.

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