Step aside Ghostbusters and outta the way Casper the friendly ghost; there’s a new spooky star in town!
One dark and stormy night, Luigi wanders through an eerie forest all alone with a torch and map in hand, searching for an unexpected and mysterious prize won in a competition he never entered. Having become hopelessly lost in a night so dark, he finally comes across a gloomy mansion, the one he had long been searching for amidst a terrible lightning storm. As he nervously sets foot inside, his brother, Mario, who should have arrived earlier is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Luigi is attacked by a ghost when suddenly he is rescued by an eccentric old man, Professor E. Gadd. With the help of his two inventions, Luigi must set out through the mansions many halls alone, capturing the escaped ghosts that lurk within and rescuing his brother from their chilling grasp.
As a young teen, this is exactly what I would have imagined a combination of Mario and Casper to produce, realised when Nintendo released Luigi’s Mansion alongside the GameCube as a launch title way back in 2002. Luigi’s Mansion has always been one of my all-time favourite classics, with many fond memories of sucking up ghosts whilst my brother and mum watched every moment with great enjoyment. I’m sure she wished I was just as enthusiastic about hoovering around the house as I was at hoovering up ghosts though…
Anyway, with all the old classics slowly making their way back, I always wondered if and when Luigi’s Mansion would make a triumphant return. Although I did enjoy the sequel, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, the original always held a special place in my heart. As you may imagine, I was ecstatic when Nintendo recently announced another sequel, Luigi’s Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch, whilst I was equally happy yet also perplexed when they announced the original would receive a port to the Nintendo 3DS instead. This choice, however, all made perfect sense in the end.
As president Satoru Iwata mentioned in one of his Iwata Asks columns, The Nintendo GameCube was originally designed to support Stereoscopic 3D, a technique used to create the illusion of depth, however, this functionality was sadly removed as technology at the time would have proved too costly. Thus, Luigi’s Mansion was never able to show its true potential, until now. Thankfully, with the release of the Nintendo 3DS and its Autostereoscopic screen, the mansion can be explored to its truest depths without the need of glasses. Whilst the graphics themselves on the hand-held show a noticeable improvement to the original, offering a more clean cut look, there are still limitations to what can be achieved here. That being said, there is something quite charming about these older graphics that bring back all my fond memories of this haunting experience. The Nintendo 3DS stretches out the hallways and backgrounds with great detail, whilst the depth draws you into the unique quirks of each room.
Luigi’s Mansion has finally been given the life it always deserved.
One part that I was particularly fond of that has been rekindled from the depth of my mind is the soundtrack, the main theme in particular which plays out most prominently throughout. This theme sees many variations within your adventure, from the upbeat tempo on the Game Boy Horror to the slower tones that play out throughout the dark and spooky corridors. The tension is slightly relieved when the lights come on, however, what really engraves into your memory is Luigi nervously humming along to the theme when all is dark. This does little to reassure him or the player, yet it is this familiar tune that will be playing out in your head for days to come. In fact, it was so hauntingly catchy that I distinctly remember having this as a ringtone for months! Overall, the soundtrack as a whole does a fine job at orchestrating and evoking the chills as haunting laughs echo the halls. Now, where can I find that ringtone again…
As a returning fan, I was all ready to jump back into the puzzling adventure and suck up some ghosts with my trusty Poltergust 3000. Despite 16 years having past since my last spooky encounter, I felt right at home and was surprised by how much I remembered to help me with the many ghostly re-encounters. Whilst this prior experience aided me, it also took away any real sense of challenge I would have otherwise faced, passing through most areas with ease. The main difficulty I did have was becoming acquainted with the new Nintendo 3DS controls. I decided to utilise the Strobulb from Luigi’s Mansion 2, making stunning multiple ghosts at once that much easier with a greater range compared to the standard flashlight by charging up for a more powerful beam. The real challenge came in controlling the Poltergust 3000. With a smaller screen and a more awkward holding position, using the C-Stick on the New Nintendo 3DS proved very cumbersome and painful at times, resulting in some very sore thumbs after many games of tug of war when hoovering up ghosts. I found my thumbs to become very slippery and often I would be waving my 3DS all around me as if I were actually performing this action in reality. As fun as this may sound, I found it difficult to aim precisely and viewing angles at times felt jerky and restrictive. Whilst this became somewhat easier as I played on, it certainly wasn’t the comfiest experience.
Despite the sore thumbs, the gameplay experience overall is a lot of fun and at times a little frustrating when trying to solve a puzzle. The adventure spans across four stages where you must pass through multiple rooms, clearing each of its ghostly intruders. There are many different types of ghosts, each with their own unique tricks and tactics. Some require a simple stun, whilst others will grapple you or throw banana peels to hinder movement and cause damage. Special tactics are also needed at times, utilising elemental emblems to expel fire, water and ice to weaken and capture ghosts or pass obstacles. Clearing a room will restore the lights and reveal a key which can be used to open up other rooms in the mansion in order to progress deeper. You will often find yourself retracing your steps, going up and down floors constantly which at times can be a little tedious. Luckily, the Game Boy Horror is always to hand on the bottom screen with a map to guide you. Each stage also features various portrait ghosts with unique personalities. Some can be quite scary whilst others are strangely charming. These encounters prove to be tougher, along with boss encounters at the end of each stage which will challenge your abilities. I found my way through the mansion quite easily, reaching the end without a game over right until the final battle. This can easily be achieved by exploring your surroundings, hoovering up sheets and shaking cabinets to reveal healing hearts, along with revealing other items such as valuable gems and money which may just alter the ending of your game depending on how thorough you are.
My completion time took me between 9 to 10 hours for a relatively good outcome, though first time players may find a longer adventure here whilst you find your feet. There are some new additional features that make the perilous journey a little easier and less lonely. Amiibo support has now been introduced. Luigi, Mario, Toad and Boo can all be scanned at Professor E. Gadd’s lab to grant special boosts such as Super Mushrooms and tracking for those pesky Boo’s. If you get lonely, you can also play co-op with a friend who takes on the form of an even greener guy. The full experience will require two systems and two copies of the game, however, a more limited experience can be played via Download Play on another system. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to test this out for review, but I’m sure it will be great fun with a friend in those tricky situations!
Luigi’s Mansion was never a game of substantial length. As a prior experience player, I was able to breeze through the game in very little time. New players looking to pick this up, however, will have a much longer haul I am sure. Despite the short length, there is still plenty of fun to be had, and with multiple endings on offer, you can bet you will be playing through again and again, to best yourself for the other alternatives.