Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Luigi's Mansion (GCN) Retro Review

Time for the first review of February 2013. It is of the retro variety. In anticipation of next month's Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon for the Nintendo 3DS, SuperPhillip Central reviews the original GameCube launch title Luigi's Mansion. Let's see how "spook-tastic" (boo this man for using that phrase) the game is eleven years and change later.

Who You Gonna Call? "LU-IGI!"

When the Nintendo GameCube was originally unveiled, it seemed to be a given that a new game starring Mario would launch right alongside with it. In November 2001, Mario was nowhere to be found. Instead, Luigi took up the starring role for once in a different type of Mario spin-off in Luigi's Mansion. The game not only was a spooky romp, but it was a nice tech demo of the graphical prowess of Nintendo's new 'Cube. More than a decade later, and Nintendo is finally releasing a sequel to the game, much to fans' rapture. Before Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon rises on the Nintendo 3DS, how does the original Luigi's Mansion fare after all these years?

Luigi receives a message in the mail congratulating him on winning a luxurious mansion. Reveling in the news, Luigi lets his brother Mario know, asking for the two of them to meet one another at the mansion to celebrate. However, when Luigi arrives at his won mansion, not only is the mansion not like the one on the brochure, but it's infested with ghosts! Add into the equation that Mario is missing and Luigi isn't the bravest plumber on the planet, and you have a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, a researcher of the paranormal named Professor E. Gadd enters the picture and gives Luigi two special devices: a ghost-sucking Poltergust 3000 vacuum and a Game Boy Horror handheld device.

There's little time for pleasantries--
Mario is missing! 
At the beginning of Luigi's Mansion, all but a few doors are firmly locked shut, with the only means of opening them is via a key. Generally the way to get keys is through turning on the lights in a room by sucking up all of the ghosts inside. When a key is collected, the Game Boy Horror will show a map of the mansion, and which specific door the acquired key unlocks. Each room is properly named, so they are easy to recall and navigate to.

Get acquainted to collecting a lot of keys.
Move over, Dirt Devil-- The Poltergust 3000 is quite the capable vacuum as well. I don't see any ghost-busting capabilities on your standard issue Dyson vac either... Regardless, when a ghost appears and is caught in Luigi's flashlight, it will act like a deer in headlights for a brief moment, showing its weak point, its heart. (The closer your flashlight shines on a ghost, the longer it will be vulnerable for Luigi to start sucking up.) It is at this moment where you hold down the right shoulder button to begin vacuuming. A ghost will not go down without a fight. It will start to furiously survive by moving madly in all corners of the room. By holding the C-stick in the opposite direction that the ghost moves, the ghost's health dwindles more quickly. Once it hits zero, Luigi successfully captures it. A word of caution, as getting hit while vacuuming will interrupt the process. The controls can take some getting used to, but ten minutes of pure gameplay will make it seem like second nature.

Luigi's Mansion focuses a fair portion of the gameplay on puzzles, whether related to the environment or ghost-related. The majority of rooms have a special portrait ghost in them that need to be put back into their pictures. The catch with these particular poltergeists is that their hearts won't appear through the normal means of shining Luigi's flashlight on them. In these cases, some ingenuity is needed. One of the earliest ghosts will only reveal its heart through having all of the instruments in the room begin playing. Another will be ready to be vacuumed up when it yawns. These portrait ghosts have much more health than your average specter, so sometimes it might feel like an endurance match to reel them in.

The portrait ghosts possess the most personality.
At an early point in the game, Luigi unwittingly opens a hatch on the floor that unleashes a flurry of Boos into the mansion. He is then tasked with vacuuming them as many of the fifty as he can. The game requires you to at least catch forty to face the final boss. Regardless, catching these Boos isn't as fun as you might think... or maybe it's just as bad as you might think.

When a room has been cleared of all "ordinary" ghosts (just how ordinary a ghost can be is beyond me) and the lights have turned on, many rooms will have a Boo hiding inside them. Luigi's Game Boy Horror has a signal on it that will indicate when he is close to a Boo. Blue means there are no Boos to be found, yellow means there is one inside the room, and red means Luigi is very close to it. Once found, Luigi can begin sucking up the ghost. However, many times the Boo will flee from its current room to an adjacent room, meaning you have to follow if you want to capture it. On many occasions I found myself trekking back and forth between hallways and rooms just to suck up 15 out of 150 HP of a Boo. Sure, a Boo's health doesn't regenerate, but it is still a tedious hunt to be had.

Outside of ghost hunting, Luigi can amass mad money in his mansion. Drawers, shelves, coat racks, treasure chests, and more are loaded with coins, dollar bills, pearls and gems to collect. Once the game has been finished (which won't take most players too long, perhaps 5-8 hours), the game tallies your total money gathered and rewards Luigi with a real mansion worth living in. Depending on how much money he amasses, Luigi can live in a shack or a mansion that royalty would be jealous of.

Search high and low for cold
hard coins and cash!
There are four chapters in Luigi's Mansion, which the game calls "Areas." After an Area has been concluded (i.e. the boss has been beaten), Professor E. Gadd will paste every poltergeist back into its portrait and award money to Luigi. Depending on how quick you captured a portrait specter, you get one of three portraits of that ghost.

You can't help but feel sorry
for Mario's shadow-- I mean-- Luigi.
After you have embarrassed the final boss, reunited with Mario, and seen the end credits roll, Luigi's Mansion offers a second quest of sorts. This hidden mansion has a reversed floor plan of the original mansion. Ghosts are stronger, causing more damage, but so is the Poltergust 3000. Ghosts that took twelve seconds to suck up in the initial game now take a handful. This new mansion adds to the replay value of what would be a very short single-player adventure.

Luigi's Mansion is still a stellar looking game. It is all of the touches added to the game that make the sum so appealing. From Luigi nervously humming along with the music in hallways, to shadows cast by different points of light, to Luigi's breath showing up in the chilly recesses of the mansion, there is a lot to appreciate in Luigi's Mansion. Still, after 11+ years, the game looks and feels great.

Spooks aren't generally what you'd expect from a Mario spin-off, but that is what you will sometimes get with Luigi's Mansion. The game will most definitely deliver thrills and fun too. Even though I had mostly remembered the solutions to most of the puzzles Luigi's GameCube launch title possessed, I still had an enjoyable time. The puzzles are smart, the difficulty is challenging and balanced, and there are some signs of longevity. I say bring on Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Nintendo!

[SPC Says: 8.0/10]

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