Before Luigi jogged his way on over to the Nintendo 3DS in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, he starred in the original series’ starting entry on the GameCube launch title, Luigi’s Mansion. Having never played the first one before, I wanted to be able to compare to its new handheld successor and just experience it for the first time. Upon opening the doors to the mansion, I found something flawed, but very special.
The premise of the game is essentially to clear out this mansion that Luigi somehow won and save his star-studded brother Mario for once. The only problem is that the mansion is filled to the brim with mischievous ghosts lurking everywhere from inside of the furniture to the ceiling. With help from a little ghost-busting professor, Luigi is equipped with a vacuum to capture all of these ghosts and bring them back to him to be transformed into a painting. The gameplay mechanics actually work surprisingly well, thanks to Luigi being able to lock onto the enemy, allowing you to engage the ghosts with a pleasant ease. While there is the option to change Luigi’s range of motion to strafing all the time, he turns around way too slowly for me to imagine that mode being playable at all.
The general design of the mansion ends up being the game’s biggest flaw, because of an excessive amount of backtracking, complete with Luigi’s silly, but annoyingly sluggish running. By the end of the game, you will likely have journeyed through most of the mansion’s five floors multiple times, which can get a bit old. The biggest instances where this aspect of the game just tested my patience was with boss battles.
Most of the boss battles are tricky, and that’s great, but only to an extent. The final boss battle is particularly difficult; odds are you won’t beat them on your first try, and therein lies a problem. Losing in Luigi’s Mansion brings you right back to the title screen to return to entrance of the mansion. Some bosses require quite a trek just to reach them. If you’re having a hard time with a boss for some reason, having to go all throughout that house over and over again can be a pain in the ass; it’s not fun. Fortunately, this is Luigi’s Mansion only big problem.
Each of the rooms that occupy this poor sucker’s mansion has a different quandary to be solved. There is a certain number of ghosts in every room that must be revealed in a certain way. With every type of ghost acting differently, it’s fun to play around with objects around the room waiting to incite some reaction from the spirits inhabiting it. Some just needed a cold shower, a billiard ball to the face, or their food taken away. Most of the puzzles will be surprisingly simple, but a few do meet the bill of a healthy challenge. In all, Luigi’s Mansion ends up feeling a lot like Nintendo’s take on Silent Hill.
The music of Luigi’s Mansion is definitely bold, using an eclectic mix of simple whistling, some sort of hip-hop beat, mild electronica, and your standard haunted house organ music. It’s always a treat to hear Luigi nervously humming along to the music as he trembles through the halls, something even I do — usually at Halloween Horror Nights with some much less terrifying song stuck in my head. This is a side of Luigi, or of any Nintendo character for that matter, that we don’t see very often, and it’s mighty refreshing, even nearly 12 years later.
Luigi’s Mansion isn’t the longest game out there, but it’s still satisfying, as a whole. The amount of backtracking might pad the time you spend in the mansion, but it doesn’t hurt the game enough to impede on the fun. The cheapest copy you can find will probably be around $25, even today, but it’s still something nice to have in your collection. Upon beating the game, you will unlock a mirrored version of the map with more difficult enemies and less health, if you’re into that. It’s a nice touch to really give you your money’s worth.
While Luigi’s Mansion may not be the strongest first-party title for the Nintendo GameCube, it’s certainly one of the most interesting. The accompanying music is strange and bold, but very refreshing. With gameplay slightly akin to Silent Hill with a charming personality that is still rare nowadays, the occasional trudge through the dozen-year-old mansion is well worth it. An excess of backtracking can sometimes test the player’s patience, but it ultimately does not stop Luigi’s Mansion from being one of Nintendo’s many gems of generations past.
[+Silly and charming personality][+Great bold soundtrack][+Challenging boss battles][+Solid controls][+Simple, fun, and varied puzzles][-Excessive backtracking might test your patience]