Way back in the year 2001 a few things happened, well two really. The first was that in March of that year I married my beautiful wife. The second, and more relevant to this subject, is that the GameCube launched in North America. With it came a small handful of games, one of which starred Luigi. People were up in arms because Luigi’s Mansion wasn’t the Mario game they wanted. The game ended up being very special to me because I was playing it the day my daughter was born, well sort of. As a result the game holds a special place in my gaming library and I pull it off the shelf at least once a year to play it. There aren’t many secrets left in that game for me to uncover and I can roll through it in a couple of lengthy play sessions. It’s sort of a family entertainment thing for us around Halloween.
For years I’ve been practically begging Nintendo for a sequel and right around the time the 3DS was announced, so too was a sequel to Luigi’s Mansion. Then delays kept happening and dates kept getting pushed. I was beginning to worry the game was never going to come out and I was worried that being on a handheld meant it wasn’t going to live up to the expectations I had set for it. Well, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is out. Was the wait worth it?
What You Need to Know
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a third-person adventure starring Mario’s younger brother Luigi. This time around, the ghosts of Evershade Valley have been living peacefully for years, but King Boo has shattered that peace, literally. An object known as the Dark Moon has been keeping the ghosts in check, but the pesky poltergeist has broken the jewel and sent its pieces to five different mansions. Luigi, being the best ghost hunter that Professor Elvin Gadd knows, is tasked with recovering those scattered shards and restoring peace to the valley.
To do so you’ll use the new and improved Poltergust 5000, which comes with some very nice upgrades. A strobe bulb will temporarily stun the ghosts allowing you to vacuum them up. A darklight will uncover hidden objects in the world and new upgrades will allow you to increase the suction of ghosts and earn money along the way. There are five mansions to explore and the game should take you between 12 and 15 hours to complete.
Early on I was a little worried that Luigi’s Mansion was going to lose some of the character of the first game. Gone were all of the named ghosts with very distinct personalities and mannerisms. Instead you get a more generic palette of ghosts that are essentially different because of the amount of health they had. What you get instead is a number of ghosts that all have very quirky, mischievous personalities. Most of this is displayed through scenes where Luigi looks through a crack in a wall. He’ll see things like ghosts sleeping on beds; but one will wake up and smack another one with a pillow while blaming it on the third ghost and they continue a cycle of abuse and blame. Another time you’ll see two ghosts in a garage with one pretending to drive a car while another one does some “mechanic” work on it. While these ghosts all look very similar they all have very different ways of acting that brings some of the character the game would have otherwise been missing.
To go along with that, Luigi is quickly becoming one of the most charming and endearing video game characters to star in a game. He’s very much the reluctant hero. He doesn’t want to be doing any of this, but knows that it needs to be done. You’ll see him slump his shoulders and sigh when the Professor gives him a mission. He gets scared every time he gets a call on his new Dual Scream communication device. The one spoken line he has before the end of the game (No, no, no. Bad doggie!) is easily the most enamoring lines of dialogue in a Mario game to date. He still hums along mindlessly to the game’s soundtrack. He bumbles across secret passageways because he just wants to take a moment to rest from all the chaos.
The first Luigi’s Mansion was a dual-stick game. That meant you really need to use both the analog stick and the C stick to properly dispose of the ghosts. The move to the 3DS meant one of those sticks had to go away and the combat has been changed slightly to better fit the handheld. The ghost fishing mechanic, as it’s been referred to, uses only the Circle Pad of the 3DS and works similarly to the original game; but it’s actually easier this time around to control the ghosts. There’s a small meter that fills up and once it’s full you can press the A button to perform a more powerful suction action that removes large chunks of the ghost’s health. You also have upgrades that can be added to the Poltergust that will add to this meter. Each of these sections will make the Poltergust more powerful and will give monetary bonuses depending on how much of the meter you fill up.
This time around Luigi isn’t just exploring one mansion and ridding it of ghosts. There are five mansions to clear out and the game is more mission based than “open world.” This makes having the game more portable friendly allowing you to get in and out and feel like you’re progressing.
Professor E. Gadd will give Luigi specific objectives to carry out each time he goes into the mansion. This can be anything from simply retrieving the Poltergust to clearing out the cobwebs opening more areas. Having a specific objective in mind just makes the game feel more focused. It gives Luigi a purpose for being in the mansions and means you don’t feel quite as lost as you could have in the first game.
Who would have thought Luigi’s Mansion was a series that would have benefited from multiplayer, but it does. There are different game modes that can be played with up to four players. The best part is that this multiplayer is local or online and can be played with only a single copy of the game. The game modes vary slightly, but they all use basic mechanics from the single player portion.
These multi-player modes are also co-operatively competitive meaning you’re all trying to achieve the same goal, but you want to do more than your opponents in the process. After each round four red coins are scattered throughout the floor and bonuses are given at random. The more red coins you have the better chance you have of scoring one of the power-ups between rounds.
This will probably end up being a mode you don’t play often, but do pull out on occasion when you have friends over or you just want something a little more light hearted than a traditional multiplayer game. It’s a lot of fun and a nice bonus to an already solid game.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is one of those games that I was actually a little apprehensive about playing. I’ve got such an emotional investment tied to the first game and have been waiting so long for another one, that it could have gone very wrong. Instead everything went very right and it’s definitely a worthy sequel. The combat is just as fun and satisfying as the first game. The exploration is still very much there, despite being a little more linear in nature. The visuals are fantastic. The music is good. There’s just not a lot bad that can be said about this game. It’s charming, it’s fun. It’s been a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait.
Review copy of the game purchased at GameStop.
Played through the entire story and a dozen or so multiplayer modes.
Total play time: 16 hours