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Luigi’s Mansion

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Released: 2001

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: GameCube

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo EAD

Why Luigi’s starring role on the GameCube is far better than you’d think.

The Background
The most interesting aspect of Luigi’s Mansion only came to light a few short months ago when a roundtable interview was hosted by IGN at the 2010 E3. Hideki Konno, Nintendo’s development head of Nintendo EAD Software Development Group 1, who is currently spearheading the 3DS project, revealed the following information:

“When I was directing Luigi’s Mansion, we experimented with placing a 3D panel on the screen and making it play in 3D. However, at that time we had screen resolution issues and cost issues. And to separately sell a panel for 3D gameplay wasn’t a practical idea as a mass-market product.” In a way, it’s typical of Nintendo being ahead of its time, but one of the biggest and most completely unjustified complaints of Luigi’s Mansion – that it’s far too short – is now de rigueur in the industry.

Originally unveiled at Nintendo Space World 2000, Luigi’s Mansion started off as a tech demo in order to show off the GameCube’s impressive lighting and particle effects, but by Nintendo’s next event it was revealed as a brand new adventure. To no doubt help establish it as a brand new title, Luigi, rather than Mario, became the star of the game, making the system the first home console in Nintendo’s history to not actually feature a Mario game in its launch line-up.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Luigi’s Mansion, though, is that even though it received almost universal praise in every review we’ve ever read about it – so-called longevity issues aside – the scores never tallied up. It’s almost as if reviewers couldn’t accept that Luigi and not his brother was launching a new console. Despite the barely above
average scores, Luigi’s Mansion still went on to become the GameCube’s bestselling launch game, an accolade that it thoroughly deserves.

Luigi humour

The Game
When King Boo and his 50 loyal servants capture Mario, the cowardly Luigi must step up to the plate and rescue his more heroic brother. Armed with his trusty Poltergust 3000 and a Game Boy Horror, and guided by the scatty Professor E Gadd, Luigi must slowly explore the huge mansion and not only rescue Mario, but also suck up King Boo’s cohorts and another group of ghouls that have escaped from the picture prisons in which Gadd had previously imprisoned them.

At its heart, Luigi’s Mansion is nothing more than a straightforward boss rush, albeit one cleverly hidden within the framework of an imposing haunted mansion. Each room that Luigi enters cleverly mixes puzzle and action elements – certain ghosts can only be captured when their guards are down – to create a highly innovative and entertaining experience, which is as refreshing today as it was a decade ago.

Utilising gameplay mechanics that the official Ghostbusters game failed to improve on eight years later, Luigi’s battles mainly revolve around sucking up ghosts by utilising both the directional stick and C-stick. It’s a beautifully simplistic mechanic that also elicits great humour, due to the poor plumber often being dragged around helplessly by larger opponents as he struggles to gain the upper hand. Clear out all the ghosts in a particular room and you can progress to the next one, ever aware that somewhere in the gigantic mansion is your lost brother. Eventually items can be picked up that will imbue your Poltergust 3000 with the power to expel certain elements, but the core concept of hoovering up ghosts rarely ever changes.

Even with such repetitive gameplay at its core, Luigi’s Mansion never ever appears… well, repetitive. Each room that Luigi unlocks effectively acts as its own mini-stage, with ghosts – especially the many portrait ghosts that Luigi must recapture – all requiring new techniques and tactics to beat them. Whether it’s heating up a ghoul’s meal so that he’ll eat it, or creating a draft to distract a vain spook, you’re always impressed by the sheer inventiveness and humour to the situations that the game keeps throwing at you.

Add in masses of charm, humour and character – fake doors crush Luigi flat, while the clearly spooked out plumber nervously hums along to the game’s soundtrack and calls out to his brother – and Luigi’s Mansion proves that even the most cowardly of heroes can have his day.

luigi catching

Why It’s A Future Classic
Everything about Luigi’s Mansion is a joy to experience. The pacing, despite its shortness, is superb; it’s filled with a variety of clever mechanics; and it features a range of clever and inventive boss encounters. Yes, it’s amazingly streamlined and essentially a simple boss rush, but it’s one that you’ll constantly find yourself returning to, simply because it’s just so damned entertaining to play.

The game’s perceived lack of longevity also works in its favour, as the mansion is such a joy to explore that you’ll constantly want to replay it, if only so you can finally nab all of King Boo’s hard-to-find servants and replay your favourite encounters. Criminally overlooked, certainly by critics, on release, Luigi’s Mansion truly is a slice of gaming brilliance that people are slowly but ever so surely beginning to warm to. What took you all so long?

Retro Gamer magazine and bookazines are available in print from ImagineShop