Tucked away in a bar just outside the South Hall, Idea Factory International had a single Vita game to showcase to members of the press during this year's E3. Mary Skelter: Nightmares is a DRPG that I've been interested in for a while. Around this time last year, when the game was constantly getting new information prior to the Japanese release, I actually asked the company about when they were going to localize it during last year's AnimeExpo. After getting a closer look at the title, I feel it has the potential to be one of if not the best DRPGs in a good, long while.
The main theme of Mary Skelter would have to be the Prison Tower itself. For one, it's alive, and that means that it has its own wants and desires. However, the more interesting aspect of it would have to be the Giant Nightmares that inhabit each specific "section" of the Prison Tower. Regular Nightmares themselves are a similar concept to FOEs from the Etrian Odyssey series; however, instead of moving whenever you move across tiles or whenever you have a turn while in a battle, Nightmares in Mary Skelter move in realtime ... meaning that you do not get the luxury of calmly assessing the situation at your own pace. You have to make decisions as fast as you can. Giant Nightmares, in contrast, must be weakened by interacting with the environment, such as using a character's poison bombs loaded into a cannon to attack a Giant Nightmare eye. Giant Nightmare's may also light up specific tiles in the dungeon, where after a certain amount of time any party standing on it will incur a large amount of damage. The only way to avoid said damage is to either find a tile that isn't highlighted and flee to it, or to "splatter blood" on the tile by defeating an enemy on that tile.
Blood Splatters don't just help with environmental traversal but also play an important role in Mary Skelter's battle system. Whenever you deal a critical attack or deal an attack that hits an enemy's weakness, blood will splatter on the character that attacked. Once their gauge is full, that player will become especially strong, and certain class-specific skills will be unlocked. However, if players aren't careful to make sure that their party members don't stay in this powerful mode too long, their stats will skyrocket and go berserk, indiscriminately attacking both friend and foe. "Licking" blood allows you to reset a party member's blood gauge, as well as offer buffs based off of who you lick the blood off of. Together this leads to a dance between raising character's blood gauge and licking or purging them before they go berserk.
Outside of the dungeon gameplay, players also have access to the "Reclaimed Zone" home base where they can build bonds between their party members, as well as view prologue light novel sections in the library. Speaking of which, this highlights one of the new features that Mary Skelter features in its western release; although the original Japanese release had some of the prologue already in the game, with sections of it scattered across the dungeon, the game had many other light novel sections outside of the game in Japan. In the western release, however, light novel sections that weren't originally in the Japanese release will now be present here, fully translated, with extra pages to be found throughout the dungeons in the game.
There's much more to talk about here, but even then I might've remembered something wrong to begin with; it was a lot of information to swallow in 20-25 minutes. I can only imagine how much of the game's depth might've flown over the heads of anyone that didn't already have a history with having played DRPGs. Regardless, I'm very much looking forward to Mary Skelter, and I can't wait to properly get my hands on with the game myself.
If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2017 Coverage Hub.