Mario is Missing
I’ll always remember November 18, 2001. I was standing in front of a Toys ‘R’ Us (R.I.P.) on a cold morning. It was the first time I had ever lined up for a video game console: the Nintendo GameCube. After waiting several long hours, I finally had Nintendo’s shiny cube in my hands, along with the launch game Luigi’s Mansion. Although it was odd to have no first-day mainline Mario game, I was still excited to experience a brand new adventure starring the green-capped younger brother Luigi. I beat the game within the same weekend, but to this day, I retain fond memories of busting ghosts throughout a comically spooky mansion. Nearly 17 years later, my nostalgia would be put to the test with the remake of Luigi’s Mansion for the Nintendo 3DS.
The core story and gameplay haven’t changed much from the original GameCube title. The plot follows Luigi, who wins a mansion from a contest that he never entered. If this isn’t suspicious enough, Mario has gone missing, so it’s up to Luigi to investigate this mysterious mansion, a home to a gaggle of ghosts. Luckily, he meets the eccentric Professor E. Gadd who equips him with the Poltergust 3000, a powerful vacuum to suck up the spirits. It’s not a complex story, but this was one of the first tales to establish Luigi’s cowardly and quirky character through his frightened quivering and freak outs. He’s also charming, as illustrated by his stammered screams of “MARIO!” and his tendency to hum along to the soundtrack.
Speaking of the music, I appreciate the returning main theme’s spooky vibes and E. Gadd’s techno beats. The 3DS version’s visuals look similar to the GameCube title, but they’ve been updated to sharpen textures and change character designs. It’s not a perfect transition, and small details like the ghosts’ transparent look have been removed, but the graphics look clean for a 3DS port. A big draw is the new stereoscopic 3D, a feature that was initially planned for the GameCube version. The depth effect is impressively strong and makes every room feel larger, but it’s not required for play. Another convenient change is that the map is now a permanent fixture on your bottom screen. Purists will be happy to know that the display is still lovingly referred to as the Game Boy Horror.
Between Luigi’s Mansion and its 3DS sequel Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, I have always preferred the first game. Dark Moon utilizes a mission-based structure, but the GameCube title and 3DS remake allow you to freely explore one large mansion, similarly to Resident Evil and other survival horror titles. To be fair, the game is still linear. Most of the mansion is gated off, and you can only unlock rooms in a specific order. Nevertheless, there’s an addictive progression loop of entering a room, clearing it of all ghosts, and obtaining the key for the next.
Different ghosts reside in each room. Some are the standard colorful spooks that have become synonymous with the series’ branding. Defeating them simply requires you to shine your flashlight on them, then suck them up with the Poltergust vacuum until their HP runs out. It’s more challenging than it sounds as the ghosts are constantly pushing back and laying traps. As a bonus for the remake, you can substitute the flashlight with the Strobulb from Dark Moon, which lets you flash ghosts with one big blinding light. I found it easier to shine my standard light on ghosts, but the Strobulb is a welcome addition.
The real fun lies with the Portrait Ghosts, more threatening spirits representing a large family, ranging from an old butler to a creepy baby and everyone in-between. You must solve puzzles specifically related to the Portrait Ghost to capture it. For instance, creating a breeze in a bedroom to distract a vain mother or playing instruments for the musician, are some of the brain-teasers that expand the game’s mechanics to more than mere ghostbusting. There are nearly a couple dozen ghosts, some of them full-scale bosses, and each one is a wholly unique experience. Although Luigi doesn’t gain much upgrades beyond a few elemental powers, the game is cleverly designed around using your few abilities to the fullest.
Unfortunately, the same praise can’t be given to the controls. The GameCube version was partly intended to showcase the dual-stick controls with the controller’s new C-stick. While Luigi walked, you could move the flashlight and vacuum in different directions with the right stick. However, assuming you have a New Nintendo 3DS, you only have a tiny nub as your second stick, which is hardly ideal. It’s already a small button, and I still had to push it hard to rotate Luigi’s flashlight, even at the highest sensitivity settings. At one point, I thought my nub was broken. The only alternative to the nub or the rare Circle Pad Pro is using the D-pad. Yes, the D-pad, which is under the left Circle Pad, meaning you can’t move while rotating it. If you have an old 3DS without the Circle Pad Pro, the D-pad is your only option. That is, except for the motion controls, which exhibit their own flaws. For one, the gyro only allows for vertical movement, so you can’t turn your flashlight or vacuum left or right. Thankfully, you can turn motion off if you’re in public or if you wish to see the 3D, which is otherwise hard while constantly tilting the system.
A more favorable update is two-player co-op support, where another player plays as the gelatinous Gooigi (don’t ask) who controls just like Luigi. If both players have the game, you can explore the mansion together, but in single-cart download play, you are limited to playing training and Gallery Mode. To its credit, the Gallery Mode is much improved for both single-player and multiplayer, allowing you to refight any Portrait Ghost. The game records your best times, which adds to the replayability.
Frankly, any additions to replay value are welcome since the campaign is six to eight hours long, the latter only being the case if you strive to capture all 50 Boos hiding throughout the mansion. After beating the game, beyond replaying the campaign for better endings, there is also a special, harder playthrough with stronger ghosts and more traps. It’s significantly more difficult than the GameCube iteration of this mode, at least, for the original North American version, so this might be one of the biggest appeals for hardcore fans. Those who find any aspect of Luigi’s Mansion too difficult, whether the main or postgame, can also use four of the amiibo figurines (Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Boo) for health bonuses and other helpful goodies.
Luigi’s Mansion for the 3DS is a good port that is bogged down by the troublesome control limitations. It’s problematic enough that I would still recommend the GameCube title if possible for newcomers. If you’re a series veteran, this is still largely the same game, although the expanded Gallery Mode, multiplayer, and improved postgame might still prove enticing. Otherwise, the core gameplay is as solid and engaging as ever, and this remake rekindled my appreciation for Luigi’s first big outing.
Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was posted on DarkStation.