Nintendo used to have this tradition where upon launch of a new console, they always released a Mario title to greet early adopters. The NES had Mario Bros., the SNES had Super Mario World, and the N64 had Mario 64. But when Nintendo launched their sixth generation console, the Gamecube, Mario was nowhere in sight. Instead, players were greeted with a quirky little title starring his brother: Luigi’s Mansion. There was no jumping or colorful worlds to explore. There was a dark atmosphere, ghosts, and a vacuum. Over the years, this game garnered a cult following and players have been yearning to return to the haunted side of the Mario universe. Now, with this title as well as the recently announced Luigi’s Mansion 3, those fans are going to have more than enough ghost-hunting to keep them occupied.
Luigi’s Mansion has been released and remade for the 3DS. Grezzo, the studio that developed this title alongside Nintendo, went about and built the game from the ground-up for the 3DS version. What that means is that there have been subtle little tweaks to things like artstyle, lighting, and character models, although it should be said that all of this was done with a lot of respect to the source material. Cutscenes and animations are very true to the Gamecube classic. Lighting is far more moody compared to the older title and can actually be an improvement in establishing atmosphere. Performance is near-identical to the original though some particle-intensive rooms, like the Cold Storage room, the game can slow down a bit. But if you haven’t played the title since it released for the Gamecube all those years ago, you probably won’t notice any differences at all.
"Controls in this title are manageable once you wrap your head around them. In order to compensate for the lack of a C-stick, the 3DS version has you tilting your gyroscope to aim your Poltergust up or down."
In this title, you’re tasked with navigating your way through a haunted mansion in order to find where your brother Mario disappeared off to. To protect yourself, you meet up with Professor E. Gadd and are armed with the Poltergust 3000, a vacuum cleaner that can suck up ghosts as well as interact with the environment to find keys and the like. There are a handful of different ghost varieties that require different strategies to beat, but they all boil down to flashing your flashlight at them and then sucking them up while they’re vulnerable. The titular mansion is separated into a whole bunch of rooms that usually require you to either exorcise the area of ghosts or solve a quick puzzle in order to progress. Neither the combat nor the puzzles are ever too taxing and they shouldn’t give any player too much trouble.
Controls in this title are manageable once you wrap your head around them. In order to compensate for the lack of a C-stick, the 3DS version has you tilting your gyroscope to aim your Poltergust up or down. But if you have a New 3DS, this is a moot point, as you can use the handheld’s right-side nub for aiming. The rest of the controls feel natural though it may take you a few minutes in order to comfortably be able to turn around and aim your flashlight at a ceiling ghost. The lower screen allows you constant access to a map, which is handy for remembering where to go or what door a key goes to. Once you’re given access to the Gameboy Horror, essentially a handheld viewfinder that lets Luigi scan things in the environment, you can also use gyroscope controls. Overall, the compromises the 3DS makes to accommodate this Gamecube title are acceptable and well-implemented.
Luigi’s Mansion 3DS brings a few changes that can warrant a double-dipping for die-hard fans. The chargeable strobelight from Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is here and you’re able to switch between that and the classic flashlight at any time. There are achievements that you can pursue while playing for a little extra challenge. There is amiibo functionality with a few different effects, giving you a Boo radar or a revive for when you run out of health. These things don’t change up the experience greatly and with the lack of difficulty in the title, it’s questionable whether or not they were really needed, but it’s there for whoever wants it.
"Boos are different from regular ghosts because they stay hidden in rooms that you’ve cleared and they can escape to other rooms once confronted."
Making your way through the mansion itself is as enjoyable as you remember it. Luigi’s Mansion is filled with creativity and it’s great to explore every corner of the haunted abode. There are no repeated rooms outside of a few bathrooms and each room has a handful of places for ghosts and treasures to hide. Because even though you may want to find Mario, that’s not your real goal. What you really want is money. Tons of it. There’s gold coins, bills, gold bars, and even diamonds and rubies tucked away in the crevices of this mansion and you’re going to want to find as much as you can before you finish the game. As archaic as a scoring system is in games nowadays, there’s something so satisfying about sucking up a gaggle of dollar bills as they explode out of a cabinet that you won’t care.
If there is one huge downside to Luigi’s Mansion, it’s the length. Luigi’s Mansion is an incredibly short title and it’s not unheard of to beat it in about five hours on a casual run-through. There is a harder version of the mansion with more difficult enemies and more treasure that unlocks after you complete the game your first time but this doesn’t change up the game much and only feels like a bandage on the length issue rather than a real solution. Even still, it doesn’t feel like the game pads itself much and every moment is progressing you further into the mansion. That is, until you meet up with the Boos.
Boos have always been an issue in Luigi’s Mansion. Boos are different from regular ghosts because they stay hidden in rooms that you’ve cleared and they can escape to other rooms once confronted. This is a fun mechanic until you look at the numbers behind it. There are fifty of them in total and all of them are required to be caught before you can finish the game. Since they only appear in rooms that you’ve already cleared, this leads to a lot of back-tracking. And if you reach the end-game with a large amount of Boos left in the wild, it can be an incredible pace-breaker to stop story progression and hunt for them. There is the aforementioned Boo radar to help figure out which rooms they are in, but that requires players to have an amiibo on hand and it only points out three Boos before its used up. It’s strange that Nintendo, 17 years after the initial release of Luigi’s Mansion, couldn’t find out a more elegant solution to this objectively bad bit of game design.
"Luigi’s Mansion on 3DS is a great recreation of the original classic."
Aside from Boos, the other notable ghosts that you’ll come face to face with are portrait ghosts. These are the boss ghosts and they all require unique strategies to defeat. They usually require some environmental interaction in order to become vulnerable to a vacuum attack. Most of them are pretty easy but there a small handful that have unique mechanics or transport you to an arena in order to have more creative battles. These large bosses are standouts. It would be nice to have more of these types of bosses since they challenge the player more but that may not be within the scope of a handheld remake.
There is also multiplayer functionality for friends to play with each other. If both players have this title, they can play through the whole game with each other. However, if only one player has the game then they can only fight bosses together. Multiplayer includes a lot of input lag and it can make the bosses that require quick reflexes a lot more difficult than they were originally.
Luigi’s Mansion on 3DS is a great recreation of the original classic. The entire adventure is here and it’s just as charming and unique as ever. Fans of Luigi’s Mansion who pick this up won’t be disappointed with what they find in this package. However, it should be said that as $39.99 title, you should consider whether or not five or so hours of original gameplay is worth it to you. This 3DS version is cheaper than what you’ll be able to find for copies of the original on Amazon, so if you are interested in Luigi’s Mansion, this is the version for you. If you decide to take the plunge though, you’ll find a Nintendo experience like no other that’ll have you wanting more.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS.
Recreation is true to the spirit of the original, gameplay is still engaging and fun, the mansion is fun to explore.
Short play-length, boos are a big pace-breaker, multiplayer component is not polished.