Mary Skelter: Finale
The Fairy Tale Saga Reaches Its Conclusion In Mary Skelter Finale
Some RPG games have Visual Novel elements. Then there are Visual Novel games that have RPG elements. Mary Skelter Finale is very much in the latter category. Beginning with 2016's Mary Skelter Nightmares, the series combined visual novel storytelling and dungeon-crawling gameplay. There is a lot of prior knowledge required to know before starting the Finale, specifically how each party member is trapped in Jail. The characters, including the central character herself Mary, are almost all based on fairy tales.
Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and other obvious ones have an anime design to them. It's interesting to see how the Japanese media portrays classic fantasy fables in their own eyes. However, newcomers to the series should be wary of how they are introduced to Mary Skelter. While it's obvious given the title, Finale may not be a great starting point. There are some attempts made by Compile Heart to alleviate the burden of feeling lost.
There's Enough Reading Content To Last For Weeks
Mary Skelter Finale is less of a dungeon-crawling RPG and more of an anthology, which requires explanation. Advertized on the case is a "Before Story" mode. This mode features almost every single cutscene from the previous two games without the filler of gameplay. Each set of cutscenes are separated via chapters, including their respective bad ends and substories. What's more, is that there are music and gallery images from their respective games. If that's not enough, there are also high-resolution images of the novelizations of both Mary Skelter Nightmares and Mary Skelter 2 featured in Finale. That's the one thing I can appreciate Compile Heart for their presentation of a series requiring tons of knowledge beforehand. They give the player ample amounts of lore and backstory in an easy-to-follow package.
Ample being the operative word here as there are literally weeks of content to invest. Fast readers will probably catch up in a fraction of the time, but this is where Mary Skelter shines. Other Compile Heart titles like Neptunia or Fairy Fencer F offer a balance between story and gameplay. This makes their stories fairly easy to follow while also giving players a chance to play the game. Players who want to remain comfortable on their Switch and read Mary Skelter's story before playing Finale can choose to do so. It's a neat alternative to spending hours grinding, for those who just want to read.
Diving Into Mary Skelter Finale's Story Isn't For The Uninitiated
Acknowledging that Compile Heart is kind enough to give players a chance to catch up to the ever-expansive world of Mary Skelter, Finale pulls no punches. From the beginning, the game picks up right where the second game left off with promises of freedom. These dreams are instantly crushed as a new faction known as Massacre Pink makes quick work of everyone. The depiction of the "surface" is grim and bloody carnage, more than enough to set the tone of the game's main antagonists. One of the members of the Massacre Pink faction, Pyre, seemed to be an outlier. Of the trio of sisters, she was the one who was reluctant to kill anyone. Perhaps she becomes one of the main characters?
Speaking of protagonists, there isn't a designated "main" character as the story is told through multiple perspectives. The series protagonist, Jack, is once again the focus. However, another protagonist, Clara, recalls the events of the massacre leading up to her near-death experience. At certain points in Mary Skelter Finale, the player will have the chance to play as multiple parties. These are separated by their leaders, with Jack and Clara being the starting ones. It's not just an option, for it is a requirement in order to progress.
Survive Deep Dungeons Through The Power Of Teamwork!
The Mary Skelter series is largely a Dungeon RPG franchise, similar to Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi, with Mary Skelter Finale following suit. Fights are random encounters and scripted events are shown on the map, like most games of the genre. While Jack himself doesn't do the fighting, he supports the Blood Maidens through buffs at the cost of his blood. Taking note of enemy weaknesses will give players the upper hand. These advantages can be used to bolster offenses or clutch defenses.
At certain points, players will reach a dead-end prompting a switch in parties. Certain events will need to be resolved as other parties in order for the progression of the main party to continue. An example is very early on as Jack's party will approach two locked doors. As this is a dead-end, players will need to play with other parties to continue. Unfortunately, this was when I stopped playing. If I did switch parties, I would be treated to almost a half-hour worth of cutscenes. Realizing that I'd seen enough to get the gist, I felt it was enough.
Mary Skelter Finale is a game that demands a lot of time invested to understand the plot. It is also required to progress the story through its gameplay elements. The English voice acting is greatly appreciated as most games of this nature are exclusively Japanese. I don't mind either voice, but it's always welcoming to hear English VAs from time. Overall, the Finale completes the Mary Skelter series while giving newcomers the means to catch up. Just be prepared for lengthy cutscenes no matter what.
Mary Skelter Finale is released on the PS4 and Switch.