Often it's nostalgia that is the driving factor in the purchase of a port. When I saw Luigi's Mansion coming to the 3DS, I knew it was time for me to replay an old favorite. I'm pleased to say that the game has aged relatively well, although I'd be remiss to mention it has some port-related hiccups.
Luigi's Mansion is an old classic of the GameCube. The original game released in 2001, and it finally gave Luigi a moment in the spotlight, as well as some much-needed character development. If you've played the GameCube version, you can expect the much of the same. That means plenty of Luigi, sucking up ghosts, exploring the spooky mansion, and gathering money collectibles.
The premise involves Luigi winning some sort of faux free mansion contest and finds himself in a whole heap of trouble. To make matters worse, Mario's gone missing in this mansion, and it's teeming with ghosts. You team up with Professor E. Gadd who equips Luigi with the trusty Poltergust 3000: a vacuum cleaner re-purposed for sucking up ghosts. On your way, you'll fight Portrait Ghosts (which were once captured by E. Gadd and put in paintings), boos, and more.
That's about as deep as the story goes, but if you're playing a Mario game for any sort of story, you'll be disappointed. If you're playing a Mario game for gameplay though, you'll be in for a treat. There are two main parts to the game: exploring and combat. The mansion is massive and feels like a living, breathing entity. There are so many rooms, and each one has a distinct personality.
Navigating the mansion with the map is essential thanks to the 3DS' duel-screens. There's a map on the bottom screen which allows you to explore with ease. You don't have to interrupt gameplay by pulling up a map. The two other options, Items and Ghosts, are on the bottom screen aren't nearly as useful, but it's nice to have. The items screen shows you have much treasure you've collected, and the ghost screen gives some neat lore bits on ghosts you've defeated.
The second component of gameplay is the ghost hunting. The Poltergust 3000 is the game's combat mechanic. If you shine your flashlight on a ghost enemy, it stuns them briefly and allows you to suck them up. The ghost will take you on a wild ride around the room you're in until a numbered health meter drops to zero, defeating them. It's also worth noting that there's a new flashlight option for different playstyles. You can charge up the new strobe flashlight and it'll shoot out in a larger radius, allowing you to possibly tackle more enemies at once. The downside is that it's a charge, so you leave yourself vulnerable for ghosts to attack you and whittle down your health points.
Pulling Luigi in the opposite direction of the ghost is the only way to drop that meter, and the game feels like you're in a true struggle with some sort of enemy. Sometimes you have to give the ghost some slack and let him pull you for a bit or else you might fall down. While the ghosts are flailing around, they'll drop money and mushrooms that shrink you, removing your ability to use the Poltergust for a moment.
Throughout the mansion, there are tons of unique Portrait Ghosts with different personalities, like a terrifying grandma that shoots needles at you, or Biff Atlas, a weightlifter. Finding out how to take down each one is a puzzle. In Biff Atlas' case, you need to knock the punching bags in the weight room in order to make him vulnerable to your flashlight. Only then can you suck him up.
I think some might find the gameplay loop to be tedious, but the game never overstays its welcome. The loop usually involves exploring, solving some sort of room puzzle (which are really just bare bones and require little effort to solve) and sucking up Portrait Ghosts. You'll get a key for the next room, rinse, repeat. Split into four different acts, the game is only about 6 hours long. Still, I enjoyed finding out what was in the next room and experiencing it as I did so many years ago.
Unfortunately, Luigi's Mansion isn't flawless, although most of the flaws are a result of the port rather than the original game. Sure, the original game isn't perfect, but at least it controlled well. The 3DS lacks the same control layout as the GameCube controller, leading to some annoying issues. Aiming is just so cumbersome in Luigi's Mansion. In this version, you can move your aim up and down with either the gyroscopic function of the console or the D-pad. Either option just feels, quite frankly, terrible.
The motion controls aren't awful until you realize that they completely distorts the 3D. I wanted to have the 3D on eye-irritating full blast like I usually do, but because you're often having to aim at these ghosts zipping around the room, you're just going to make the screen a blurry mess. If you use the D-pad, it's inconvenient to use too since you're required to have your finger on the circle pad during combat. Granted, strafe to maintain your aim or circle around with the Poltergust, but it's not very precise. If I had the New 3DS' second stick, I might have had a better time. For those of us who don't, the controls can be burdensome.
Usually, frustrations arise during Portrait Ghost fights that require that precision aiming. Some of these foes just move more than others. Nana the grandma requires you to suck up her yarn balls and shoot them at her. The process of aiming to get one of those balls, then positioning it in such a way that it hits Nana can be tough.
But really, controls are at its worst when you fight some of the bigger bosses. I won't go into spoilers, but sometimes the controls feel like the real challenge during those fights. One good thing about the gyroscope, though, is the Game Boy Horror. You'll probably rarely use it, but the motion controls feel natural when you do. You can use it to scan environmental objects and get some clues about how to tackle a Portrait Ghost that might befuddle you.
As far as new features go, we have a few good things aside from controls. The Hidden Mansion is a harder version of the first playthrough, a feature returning from the original game. You have amiibo functionality that gives some advantages to the player. For example, the Luigi amiibo revives you if you run out of health. There are even in-game achievements for those completionists out there, requiring you to complete increasingly difficult tasks and challenges.
The two inclusions I enjoyed most are being able to fight Portrait Ghosts from the gallery and co-op. The gallery contains portraits of all the notable ghosts you've caught. You can walk up to a portrait, view it, and refight that battle and get a high score. There are three different frames you can get for these paintings. Beating the Portrait Ghost on time gives you a golden picture frame, and it can be quite satisfying to see a glistering, gilded gallery.
Co-op is great fun too. Your partner will be a green glob that's taken the shape of Luigi. His name is Gooigi. If your friend has another copy of the game, you can play the entire thing co-op. There's also download play for those who don't own it. You can still do portrait battles and a training mode with anyone you meet. The downside is that it was quite laggy. I noticed FPS drops, although I couldn't tell if it was because of connection or performance. I was right next to my partner, so any signal interruptions should not have caused it.
An upside to this version of Luigi's Mansion is that it looks great too. I had some concerns after seeing trailers on it. However, if you can overlook the smaller resolution of the screen, it's a pretty game. That, and when you can actually use the 3D, it just looks really good. There are some noticeable visual improvements that make it look even better than it still looks on the GameCube.
When it comes down to it, Luigi's Mansion on the 3DS is a good port, not a great one. The controls are really my biggest complaint. Other than that, I can really appreciate the effort developer Grezzo put into making everything look good. If you haven't played Luigi's Mansion or want to replay an old classic, this is the time to do it. Nintendo's ghostly spookfest isn't going to scare your pants off, but it's perfect at getting you in the Halloween spirit.
TechRaptor reviewed Luigi's Mansion on Nintendo 3DS with a copy provided by the publisher.
Luigi's Mansion for the 3DS isn't a perfect game, but it provides plenty of fun for a decent price. The main issues with the game boils down to the controls and how it impacts the rest of the experience, but at least it looks good and has plenty of bonus content with the port.(Review Policy)
- Beautiful Graphics
- Satisfying Gameplay Loop
- Great Additional Features
- Wonky 3DS Controls
- Frustrating Boss Battles