Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Luigi’s Mansion 2 for Nintendo 3DS

The original Luigi’s Mansion, a Gamecube launch title, was an underrated gem, unfairly criticised for what it wasn’t (a sequel to Super Mario 64) rather than appreciated for what it was. It may have taken over a decade to arrive, but the sequel more than lives up to its predecessor, actually exceeding it in certain ways. It’s not perfect; certain elements of the original’s charm are lacking, but it more than makes up for it elsewhere.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 takes place in Evershade Valley, an area filled with friendly ghosts under the study of Professor E. Gadd, returning from the original game. The shattering of the ‘dark moon’ above the valley turns the ghosts antagonistic, so Professor Gadd summons his old ghost hunting partner Luigi out of retirement to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Where the original Luigi’s Mansion all took place in one mansion, the sequel takes place in five. Although never actually scary, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is highly atmospheric, with the five mansions all feeling vivid and distinct from each other. I wish Nintendo would show an ounce of the innovation in the New Super Mario Bros. games that they do here. Exploring these mansions never fails to be fun, and although I did at times miss having a single massive location, the variety afforded by the different mansions means that you never know what you’re going to get. Many games ‘blow their load’ very early on; you see the best areas of Far Cry 3 or Assassin’s Creed III in the first twenty minutes, but Luigi’s Mansion 2 is consistently surprising and inventive all the way to the end.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 has more of a plot than we’re used to in Mario games, and there’s a definitely some charm to it. Luigi’s Mansion 2 light, but nonetheless well thought out, approach to plot is a good middle point between the bizarre nonsense of Super Mario Sunshine and the nonexistent laziness of New Super Mario Bros. U. Unusually for a Mario game (not counting the RPGs), the story is anchored around characterisation, namely that of Luigi himself. Luigi has always had more personality than his more famous brother, and a huge amount of credit should go to the legendary Charles Martinet for his voice work, as well as the animators who make Luigi so charming. Luigi’s wails as a ghost jumps out at him, his weary sighs as another obstacle blocks his path and his adorable little ‘I did it’ when he solves a puzzle goes a long way towards making Luigi one of the most loveable Nintendo protagonists I’ve ever played.

For the uninitiated, Luigi’s Mansion sees our green overall-ed hero  battling ghosts with his ‘Poltergust 5000’, a modified vacuum cleaner. Luigi is also armed with a torch, used to stun ghosts whilst the Poltergust sucks them up. There are multiple ghost types, which take different lengths of time to capture. It’s essentially ghost fishing, and it’s a lot more fun than it sounds. The ‘Poltergust’ isn’t just used for capturing ghosts however, it’s Luigi’s number one way of interacting with the environment. The mansions are filled with riches, used for upgrading the Poltergust, and collectibles, with much of these riches found by interacting with the environment in interesting and clever ways. This is a game which really rewards careful exploration and taking time. Luigi also gains access to the ‘Dark-Light’ attachment to his torch which he uses to expose objects that have been hidden by pesky Boos. One of the biggest strengths of this game is it’s boss battles, which are some of the most inventive, original and fun that I’ve enjoyed in gaming. Boss battles are often unnecessarily crammed into games that don’t need them, and Nintendo did a good job in crating boss battles which would only work in a Luigi’s Mansion game.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 follows a mission based structure, something which I would have expected to dislike. At the end of each mission, usually between ten and twenty minutes, Luigi is summoned back to E. Gadd’s lab and given a score. This mission structure does make things slightly more linear than the original, but there is nonetheless still room for exploration and moving off the beaten track. The game is a good length, with four of the mansions containing five missions and a boss, with one containing three missions and a boss. There are bonus levels available for those who capture all of the hidden Boos in each mansion, adding a good amount of replay value. My major criticism of this release compared to its predecessor is the loss of ‘portrait ghosts’, unique ghosts which could all be hunted as a side task, often needing to be captured in different ways. Their loss is a shame, but is somewhat made up for by the fact that the regular ghost enemies are much more dynamic, with matching personalities, than the original had.

The Nintendo 3DS may not be the most graphically powerful handheld on the market, but games like Luigi’s Mansion 2 prove just how much that it’s capable of. This is a gorgeous looking game, much better than the Gamecube original, absolutely bursting with personality in every room. The 3D is no slouch either; it’s not necessary, and those who hate it won’t be converted, but it does look excellent. The sense of depth really helps immerse the player into the environment. 3D always looks best in enclosed environments, and as Luigi’s Mansion 2 almost entirely takes place in enclosed environments it works wonderfully. The aforementioned voice acting from Charles Martinet is a surprising highlight; I’ve never heard a Mario character be so vocal, and it’s never less than charming. The music is lovely as well, with the classic Luigi’s Mansion theme song joined by some spooky and fun new tunes as well. It’s the little details that really make this game so special though; sometimes, when things are fairly relaxed, Luigi will hum along with the background music. The game is packed with these details, details which only ever appear in something created as a labour of love.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 is the kind of game that only Nintendo makes. The best Nintendo games are characterised by an attention to detail above and beyond what other developers are capable of. The second party team who developed Luigi’s Mansion 2, Next Level Games, have the potential to stand alongside Retro if this is anything to go by. If you own a Nintendo 3DS, this game is an absolute must.

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