“Luigi’s Mansion” was a surprising game on a system full of surprising games. The Gamecube was, in this reviewers eyes, a golden age for Nintendo’s finest franchise experimentation.
A ghost-hunting adventure as gaming’s greatest second-banana? Sign me up. But even more surprising, however, is how much Nintendo have since supported this idea of Luigi as a spectral exterminator after this first unexpected outing.
Luigi’s Mansion often feels like something that absolutely shouldn’t work, but absolutely does, and this year’s 3DS remake proves that it was never just a phase for our loveable green hero.
Long before the Year of Luigi celebrated the pratfalls of the heartbreakingly named Luigi Mario, his luck was already changing. You see, Luigi has just found out he has won a mansion! Sure it’s far bigger than he could ever know what to do with, and is out in the middle of nowhere, and is for sure 100% definitely haunted and – hey, did he even enter a competition to win a mansion? – but despite all of that, Luigi dutifully trudges to the house on the hill to claim his prize.
What he finds is a house packed to bursting with spooky ghouls and spectres on the prowl. After a brief run in with the questionably brilliant scientist E. Gadd, who quickly straps a vacuum to Luigi’s back and tells him to clear the house of its ectoplasmic visitors, we’re off.
A lot of the game’s narrative charm comes from Luigi himself, who meekly traipses the haunted halls of his new house, whistling a wobbling tune and looking about in wide-eyed fear. Seeing Luigi react to the various jump-scares Nintendo have in store for him over the game’s short runtime was all the narrative drive I ever needed when I first played through Luigi’s Mansion, and honestly it’s just as compelling here, long before you ever get to the twists that lie in wait at the games closing act.
The premise of Luigi’s Mansion is simple – suck up and bottle ghosts with the help of the Poltergust, E. Gadds trusty backpack-vac. As you make your way through the halls, collecting keys and unlocking new, ghost-filled wings of the mansion, it quickly becomes obvious that Luigi’s Mansion has one huge inspiration. No, not Ghostbusters – it’s a gentrified version of Resident Evil.
Whilst the game is lacking in the visceral thrill or the bloody sights of that title, Luigi’s Mansion is a survival horror game that takes place in an ever expanding mansion in the middle of nowhere. Whilst your opponents are a little less flesh-and-blood than Resi’s shambling horrors, they fill the roll quite nicely – and are much more fun to dispatch. The mechanic of sucking down a ghost – or five – in a fishing-esque tug of war is just as fun today as it was nearly twenty years ago.
There are light puzzles scattered throughout the game too to keep you on your toes and some fun boss battles, and should you ever need help you can call upon the aid of a friend who will turn up in your game as Gooigi – an even greener version of the cowardly plumber.
Thanks to a couple of stellar remakes, I’ve had the joy of playing some of Nintendo classics on-the-go with the 3DS, and Luigi’s Mansion stands toe-to-toe with those greats. Having a portable Gamecube title is still a brilliant novelty, and Luigi’s Mansion more than looks the part when you’re out and about. Especially so when you crank the 3D effects on and revel in just how good this game looks with the extra depth.
The music is still charming as heck, and comes out of left-field from a company who don’t usually dabble in horror. I especially love the aforementioned whistling Luigi uses as a coping mechanism to his terrifying ordeal, and his little tunes get stuck in your head for days, weeks – even decades. Trust me on that one.
“Luigi’s Mansion” for 3DS was a fun, unexpected experiment in 2001. Whilst this new remake on the 3DS doesn’t have the same surprise factor, it’s still a fantastic time, and one I enjoyed getting the chance to replay on a new home with a couple of extra bells and whistles. If you’re a big fan of the original, or you never managed to play it before now, I highly recommend it.
As with most Nintendo games, it’s aged phenomenally well, and stands up as a charming, engaging adventure with gaming’s finest forgotten hero.