So, I’ve never played Luigi’s Mansion before. Playing this game for the first time made me feel like a kid that’s brand new to video games. It has a distinctly nostalgic feel to it, despite the fact I hadn’t played it before now. It actually reminded me of the first time I played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Although they are completely separate franchises, the level design in Luigi’s Mansion feels oddly reminiscent of those unique Zelda dungeons.
Luigi’s Mansion finally gave the more neglected Mario brother his own game when it originally released in 2001, as a launch title for the Nintendo GameCube. Now available on the Nintendo 3DS, more people have the opportunity to see him in this spooky adventure, especially since it hasn’t had a proper re-release. As you probably know by now, most Nintendo games aren’t exactly dripping with lore and narrative, and Luigi’s Mansion is no exception. Here’s the setup — Luigi wins a mansion in a contest he didn’t even enter, so he thinks it’s a great idea to check it out right away. He finds his new mansion overrun with ghosts, and his captured brother is somewhere inside. Luckily, a baby-faced ghost hunter named Professor E. Gadd is here to help. He lends Luigi the use of a Poltergust 3000 — its function is pretty self-explanatory — and a GameBoy Horror for finding and sucking up ghosts. And with that, the adventure begins.
Aside from run-of-the-mill ghosts — of which there are plenty — the professor needs Luigi’s help to turn each special ghost back into portraits, with 25 in total. Each portrait ghost has its own personality and mechanic for capture. For example, you catch the ghost dog, Spooky, while he’s off guard chasing a bone. On the other hand, bosses require a bit more calculation, like the baby Chauncey, who shrinks Luigi and slings rocking horses at him. All the fights are interesting and have a personalized spin. Sussing out the proper way to successfully trip up each boss felt rewarding, even if that often took me longer than I would like to admit.
Throughout the course of the story, Luigi explores four different areas in the mansion, each like its own dungeon complete, with those aforementioned unique ghost bosses. Level design is top-notch — each area is exciting to explore in its own right, and some specific rooms also do really clever things. For example, a mirror in the storage room reveals a switch on the wall, which is otherwise impossible to spot because of the diorama-style camera angle. Small details like this showcase the amount of love and care that went into making this game. I would expect no less from Nintendo.
The 3DS release integrates motion controls into the ghostbusting process, making an already awkward system even more clunky. I found myself struggling to get used to them, both because of the less-than-ideal 3DS joystick, and the finicky motion controls. I would have a ghost firmly in my grasp — or it’s ghostly body firmly in my special vacuum cleaner — only to lose control, because I got a little too excited and moved the handheld around. The motion controls, however, are not mandatory, though I didn’t learn that until later in my playthrough.
The design of the 3DS does pave the way for a handful of quality of life improvements. Its dual screens allow the map to always be in view, so I never felt lost or confused about where I was or needed to go. It’s also easy to access the inventory and to keep track of how many ghosts you’ve captured. Despite that improvement, the graphics in this version are nothing too spectacular. I never expect much from the 3DS in the first place, but the graphics didn’t hamper my enjoyment in any way. The lively ghosts (excuse the oxymoron) and clever level design made up for any graphical shortcomings.
This release also introduces a two-player co-op mode, wherein a second player helps Luigi as his slimy clone, Gooigi. I haven’t been able to test this mode for myself, because it requires the other player to own a 3DS and their own copy of Luigi’s Mansion. There’s also a co-op time trial mode which pits two players against portrait ghosts in an effort to set record times — similarly, I wasn’t able to try this mode out, but its worth noting that you only need a single cartridge for two people to play. Along with motion controls and a few co-op modes, the other addition to this version is amiibo support. For many, there may not be enough here to justify buying the game. However, for those such as myself who haven’t had the opportunity to play Luigi’s Mansion before, this release comes as a welcome chance to see this classic. It also comes at the perfect time, with Halloween just around the corner.
Though it doesn’t offer much new content, Luigi’s Mansion on the 3DS provides an opportunity for new players to experience this oft-forgotten Nintendo classic. The personality of each ghost, character, and the game as a whole goes to show what makes the original a cult classic . I’m always happy to see Luigi back in the spotlight, and it’s always the Year of Luigi in my heart.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS version of the game. A copy was provided by Nintendo.
Although its release on 3DS doesn't provide much new content, Luigi's Mansion is clearly a classic. Its clever level design and fun characters certainly hold up after 17 years, even if the graphics may not. This release seems best suited for those new to the game, but it can be enjoyed by all Luigi fans.