3DS REVIEW: Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is the Best Entry in the Series Since the First One!
by Ray on
I could have easily just typed out “Imagine Rare in their N64 heyday developing a Luigi’s Mansion game” and left my review for Dark Moon at that. But no, this sequel is even better than such a scenario. Back when the GameCube launched in 2001 there were three games I brought home alongside it. Wave Race: Blue Balls, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and a little something that was at the time known primarily for not being a new Mario game: Luigi’s Mansion. I’ll admit that I was fairly underwhelmed the first few times I played it. The somewhat repetitive nature of catching ghosts placed next to those gorgeous water effects in Wave Race and the visceral thrill of screaming through the trenches of the Death Star, left it feeling quaint at best. Of course I was attracted to the haunted house theme and the controls had a great feel once you got the hang of them. It’s just that it wasn’t the step forward that I’d come to expect from a first party title hitting store shelves the same day as a new Nintendo system. But many years have gone by and time has been incredibly kind to Luigi’s Mansion. Nowadays its looked at as sort of a cult classic which makes the fact that a second entry exists more than a decade after it debuted kind of weird. And even weirder than that, it’s quite possibly the best game for the 3DS so far. Let’s dig in.
Anyone familiar with the set up for the first game will feel some serious Déjà vu upon firing this thing up. Once again Professor E. Gadd has some ghosts he needs to get rid of and for whatever reason, Luigi is the only man for the job. The opening intro finds our hero lounging around his pad, minding his own business, before BOOM! His television turns him into a bunch of pixels and sucks him into the screen. Hey waitasecond. I’m pretty sure this is the same shit that happened to Captain N, the Game Master.
Yep, pretty much.
Once inside E. Gadd’s laboratory get ready to sit through a good chunk of fairly well written and often humorous text. It’s clear that Luigi isn’t all that into wandering through haunted mansions armed with nothing but a flashlight and a vacuum cleaner because the dude looks terrified. This is a character trait that was introduced in the first game and its one that goes a long way toward making Luigi a protagonist you can actually feel for. Details like his nervous body language and the way he hums along to the music of each stage really add a ridiculous amount of charm to the game, making an idiotic grin on your face hard to keep off.
The visuals on display here are all around very impressive. The attention to detail in each room can occasionally be kind of shocking and I’ve often found myself taking my sweet time checking out each space after its been cleared of ghosts just to soak in all of the design work. It’s kind of like looking into a creepy little doll house and I love it. All kinds of objects can be knocked around or sucked up which will provide plenty of time wasting opportunities for those determined to find every last bit of cash. The dynamic lighting showcase some incredibly cool effects as well with the work done on Luigi’s shadow standing out as particularly effective. What’s more, the 3D is by FAR the best I’ve seen in any 3DS game to date so start flexing those eye sockets because you may actually find yourself playing with the slider cranked up more often than not.
As far as the basic gameplay is concerned, not a whole lot has changed from the GC original. You’re still expected to smack ghosts right in their undead faces with a flashlight beam before whipping out the vacuum hose to suck ’em up. The only major difference here is that the the developers decided to forego that God-awful second analogue extension which meant there’d be no way to duplicate the C-stick control from the GameCube pad. When I first read that this would be the case I just assumed the aiming would be handled with the stylus. Y’know, sort of Kid Icarus: Uprising style and that really made me nervous. But thankfully the scheme they’ve devised (mapping the vacuum direction actions to the face buttons) works far better than I’d anticipated. It takes a little getting used to for sure, but the end result is one that eventually feels perfectly natural. All’s well on the control front.
As expected, there are some nifty new items introduced in this game but I don’t want to detail them too much as they’re so much fun to discover for yourself. Just be prepared for an extremely cool flashlight upgrade that provides a fresh take on the classic dark world/light world mechanic. It’s very clever stuff. In another nice homage to the original, Luigi is once again armed with a portable Nintendo system that displays his map. In the first game it was a Game Boy Color redubbed by our Professor as the Game Boy Horror, and here he’s equipped with that old “brick” DS as his guide.
Which is now referred to as a “Dual Scream.” E. Gadd is such a dork.
The actual structure of the game is probably the greatest deviation from the original. Instead of one huge mansion to explore, there are several, each with their own unique theme (Haunted, scary, spooky, etc.). They’ve all been broken up into bite sized “missions” which accommodate a portable experience and are timed, encouraging quick runs and stuff like that. I’ve read some complaints here and there that people didn’t like not being free to explore at their leisure but I honestly never felt restricted in that way. I kind of like the fact that you’re awarded a star ranking based on how quickly you’ve completed a stage, how much money you’ve collected, how many ghosts you sucked up and how much damage you took. Its the sort of set up that reminds me of the almighty Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. And any game that reminds me of the almighty Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is clearly doing something right.
In the end, *Dark Moon* is less of a sequel and more like a full on realization of the initial installment’s potential. Going back and giving the original a whirl after playing this makes it feel like little more than a rough outline for this completed masterpiece. It’s an incredibly fun and at times oddly emotional experience that is a clear reminder of just how damn creative Nintendo can be when they feel like it.
![Mr. Face say this game AWESOME. Mr. Face never wrong!](/images/mrface5.jpg?resize=150%2C150 "Mr. Face say this game AWESOME. Mr. Face never wrong!")