Luigi's Mansion Review (3DS) -- I Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts
17 years since releasing on GameCube, the delightfully weird Luigi's Mansion returns on Nintendo 3DS for a new generation to play this quirky cult classic.
Review copy provided by the publisher
While Nintendo has gotten especially good in the past years at coming up with interesting twists on the Mario series — giving us everything from Mario Tennis, to Mario Kart, to Captain Toad, and beyond — few were willing to go as far as Luigi’s Mansion. Set in a completely different style from the likes of his brother, Luigi’s Mansion gave everyone’s favorite, slightly awkward Mario Brother a chance to shine in the spotlight, and though it was divisive at the time, Luigi’s Mansion has taken on a life of its own as a cult classic in later years.
From its charming and spooky mansion setting, to a vast array of colorful and delightfully eerie ghosts, and the introduction of gameplay that brings out the inner Ghostbuster in all of us, Luigi’s Mansion marked a radical departure from anything else we had seen from Nintendo when it comes to the Mario series. Though some aspects of the game landed more successfully than others, Luigi’s Mansion was certainly a game that you could at least say was interesting, and had plenty of charm and wit to make up for some of its more egregious elements, though how well the game has held up with age might be up for some slight debate.
Originally released in 2001 for the GameCube, 17 years later Luigi’s Mansion has come back for a new generation of players to explore its titular mansion on Nintendo 3DS, while also giving those that may have played the title back in the day a nostalgic ride through one of Nintendo’s quirkier titles of the past few generations.
To start things off for those that may not have played the game before, Luigi’s Mansion begins with Luigi having won a mysterious mansion from a contest, which is even more suspect given that he apparently didn’t even enter any contest to begin with. After embarking to meet up with Mario to check out the new digs, eventually Luigi realizes that Mario has in fact gone missing instead, as he explores the mansion in the hopes of finding his lost brother.
After joining forces with the paranormal researcher Professor E. Gadd, he sets Luigi off with the superpowered ghost containment device called the Poltergust 3000 and a flashlight to capture ghosts and bring them back for his research, giving Luigi a fighting chance against the many ghastly residents of his newly-won mansion.
Though it was divisive at the time, Luigi’s Mansion has taken on a life of its own as a cult classic in later years.
Remembering when I first played the game nearly two decades ago (man I’m old), the fact that a GameCube-era title like Luigi’s Mansion was able to make its way to the Nintendo 3DS is certainly novel in and of itself, and I’m happy to say that the game is still a fun blast from the past that occupies a unique part of Nintendo’s roster of games, especially coming from the Mario series.
Though it’s still a fairly brief experience that should take players only a few hours to complete, the core experience of exploring the mansion, solving environmental puzzles, and sucking up ghosts still has a fun, whimsical hook to it thanks to the eerie charm that Luigi’s Mansion captures. The 3DS version of the game enhances that by not only bringing over the original experience from the GameCube, but even incorporating a few new modes, features, and refinements along the way.
The biggest of these inclusions is a new co-op mode that allows two players to explore the mansion together, with one player obviously taking the role of Luigi, and the other taking the role of a green, gooey clone of him called…Gooigi. While I don’t expect Gooigi to capture the Internet’s fasciation like Bowsette, the option to play the game with a friend should offer a nice bonus for younger players that may have a bit more of a challenge with the game’s puzzles and bosses, though in the hands of more experienced players, it may be a bit unnecessary given the game’s relatively easy difficulty.
The core experience of exploring the mansion, solving environmental puzzles, and sucking up ghosts still has a fun, whimsical hook to it thanks to the eerie charm that Luigi’s Mansion captures.
Other than the integration of co-op, Luigi’s Mansion also adds in a few additional bells and whistles thanks to the features that the 3DS hardware has over the GameCube release. One of the biggest of these comes from having the game’s map displayed on the bottom screen of the 3DS, and while it’s by no means a unique feature for 3DS games, having the map available so easily at all times is a hugely advantageous way to explore the mansion and find where you need to go next, given how much backtracking and revisiting rooms that players will need to do throughout the game. And even though the “3D” aspect of the 3DS has largely been relegated to a novelty at this point in the system’s life, Luigi’s Mansion offers a surprisingly compelling reason to play the title in 3D, thanks to the added depth of its hallways and corridors, and its fun and spooky atmosphere.
While Luigi’s Mansion still holds up well in many ways from its charming setting and quirky premise, a few aspects of the game show that this mansion may be in need of some slight renovation. Controls are especially one of the biggest issues that I had in my return trip to the mansion, and as much as I had the benefit of playing the title on a New Nintendo 3DS XL with the additional nub analog stick, sadly the nub does little in providing a way to control Luigi and the Poltergust that feels as satisfying as the GameCube controller’s C-stick did when it first released. That isn’t to say that the controls are terrible by any means, as the game is quite serviceable on the now seven-year-old-3DS, but I couldn’t help but notice at times that the controls could feel somewhat sluggish and imprecise.
While some parts of Luigi’s Mansion may be beginning to show their wear, by and large the game is still just as much of a quirky, experimental romp as it was 17 years ago.
Using the nub stick to control the Poltergust and suck up ghosts is serviceable, but by no means does it have the same sense of fun that it did in the GameCube release, which also had the benefit of controller vibration to give some more satisfying feedback to Luigi’s ghoul-catching. As a slightly better alternative, gyroscope controls are also available for those that may opt to control the Poltergust (or the Game Boy Horror) in a more intuitive way, but it may not be the best option for everyone, such as trying to play on a train or bus (as I played most of the time) where motion controls may get a little more dicey to use reliably.
While some parts of Luigi’s Mansion may be beginning to show their wear, by and large the game is still just as much of a quirky, experimental romp as it was 17 years ago and a completely fun experience for players new and old to enjoy. Releasing just in time for Halloween, Luigi’s Mansion captures the essence of the season in a delightfully creepy way that will make it enjoyable for younger players, while also giving older players a chance at rediscovering the GameCube cult classic. With Luigi’s Mansion 3 on the way for Nintendo Switch next year, 3DS owners now have the ability to play the series’ first two titles in one place, and even though it has a few blemishes, Luigi’s Mansion is still worth a return trip…just don’t mind some of the residents while you visit.