Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon Hands-On Preview

Let’s face it: Luigi lacks the composure that his brother shows in the face of ghastly encounters. In fact, one could easily refer to the green-clad plumber as a ‘scaredy cat.’ There, I said it, though I’m not going to complain because his designed fears have paved the way for an entertaining side series in the form of Luigi’s Mansion, which will soon receive its second iteration thanks to the three-dimensional capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS. Commence Operation Scare Luigi Silly Part Deux.

For the uninitiated, Luigi’s Mansion launched alongside the Nintendo GameCube in 2001 and quickly became a fan favourite. As its aptly-titled moniker suggests, the game saw the younger Mario brother set out on a quest to explore a haunted mansion using little more than a powerful and very high-tech vacuum cleaner. Playing on its hero’s fear of spirits, it mixed humor with polished gameplay, delivering a rather unique and easy to like experience. As a result, it quickly became one of the console’s most popular titles, and is still remembered fondly to this day.

After a decade filled with fans expressing their interest in a sequel, Nintendo finally announced that one was in the works for its high-tech handheld. Entitled, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, the portable ghost-hunting extravaganza sends our unlucky hero into the throes of the paranormal once again. Pitting the green-clad scaredy cat against more than one mansion, it promises to offer fans a high quality return to stylized darkness.

Not too long ago, I was given the opportunity to experience part of Luigi’s latest adventure for myself. A demo kiosk was set up with what seemed to be the onset of the game’s campaign. What started off with a gate-based entrance to a creepy looking property had the character shivering with fear within moments, and it wasn’t just because of the darkness. It didn’t take long before I found ghosts hiding in the garage, and my hunt for the apparitions kicked off an interesting ten to fifteen minute-long jaunt through a eerily quiet old house, complete with tons of in-depth sleuthing and some light scares.

Right from the get-go, I became giddy regarding this trip through nostalgia. That’s not because Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a remake, though. Instead, it was due to the expert transition that the series underwent in its travels from television screens to Nintendo’s three-dimensional portable. What I played really was that well-made, and it felt like a console-esque experience on a handheld. That’s what I was hoping for, and I’m surely not alone there.

Instead of having a separate controller with quite a few buttons to work with, the game’s development team was forced to map a directionally-based control scheme around the 3DS’ input options. The result is something that fits well with what’s offered, providing an easy to control experience that even newcomers will be able to adapt to quickly. Easy to memorize button combinations allow Luigi to vacuum things nearby, whether they’re above him, in front of his face, or by his feet. Those options aid players in their key-finding attempts, which require some in-depth sleuthing using the cleaning device. That means sucking up multiple things in each environment is the way to go, even if you feel bad about destroying a carpet-based relic or a portrait from yesteryear.

Complementing all of the above-mentioned features are beautiful visuals, which I believe are some of the handheld’s best so far. Quite frankly, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a gorgeous game, boasting environmental elements that are  detailed, colourful and stylized at the same time. Visceral thunder and lightning effects also add emphasis to the creep-filled world, giving extra reason for Luigi to walk on his tippy toes. Though, I’d be remiss without mentioning how great his flashlight looks when it’s directed towards the camera, thanks to impressive 3D effects that also enhance the game’s other visual achievements.

As of right now, Luigi’s next fright-filled adventure is scheduled for a Quarter 4 2012 release. Hopefully we’ll hear about an exact release date soon, though, because I can’t wait to get my hands on the full version of what could easily be one of Nintendo’s best 3DS titles.