Review by Kowbrainz
"Plot Twist: Mario is the new Peach."
It took almost twenty years before Nintendo made the jump from using cartridge games to discs. In 2001, the Nintendo Gamecube was released. While its three-inch discs were inferior to Sony's regular sized CDs, they were definitely a step up from the plastic cartridges of yore.
Luigi's Mansion is one of Nintendo's first games for the Gamecube, and is one of the only games to feature Mario's younger brother, Luigi, as the main hero. The plotline isn't anything spectacular, but this is expected of a Mario (or rather, Luigi) title. Luigi has received a letter telling him he has won a contest. His prize: a giant mansion. Since Luigi can't remember entering any such contest, Mario decides to wander down to the place and check the legitimacy of the deal. As Luigi soon finds out, Mario has been captured by the ghostly inhabitants of the mansion. With the help of Professor E.Gadd and a ghost-capturing, vacuum device called the Poltergust 3000, he sets out on a quest to save his brother from the ghastly ghouls. It's funny how this is the second game Luigi has starred in as the main protagonist, and yet its plot doesn't differ too much from the Super Nintendo flop, Mario is Missing, which also featured Luigi going after Mario to save him. Wait replace Luigi with Mario and Mario with Peach, and you've got the same formula which makes up just about every Mario adventure under the sun. Ah well, I suppose they tried to do something new, right? That's all that matters.
It's quite obvious that the game has had a lot of its inspiration come from the Ghost Busters franchise. As E.Gadd explains, the only way to rid the mansion of a ghost is to suck it up with Luigi's vacuum. Most ghosts will know how to resist being caught by the Poltergust, so the idea is to surprise them first before flicking on the vacuum, often by blinding them with your flashlight or stunning them by other means. Herein lies the bulk of Luigi's Mansion's gameplay finding out what a ghost's weakness is and exploiting it before sucking it in. The game does well to mix things up, too while your average ghost will be able to be stunned quite easily by your flashlight, others will require you to seek out an alternative method depending on the situations present within their room. One ghost might have a soft spot for food and require you to exploit that, while another might not like the cold. Determining these weak points of the ghosts is necessary if you wish to progress to the next area of the mansion.
If you're worried about the lack of different techniques in the game, I'll let you know that this is no Super Mario 64. Platforming is not the aim of the game here, and thus Luigi has no jumping ability and no regular attacks of his own. So, what can Luigi do apart from vacuum stuff up and turn his flashlight on and off? Not too much, although the abilities you're given are more than enough. Pressing the A button will allow Luigi to interact with his surroundings, sometimes allowing him to open drawers and cabinets for a bit of cash. A much cooler feature of the game is the inclusion of three elemental medals Luigi can collect in order to alter the function of his vacuum. After collecting a certain medal, you'll be able to suck up normally-unseen elemental ghosts and utilise their powers to expel fire, water and ice from your Poltergust. Certainly a more-than-welcome addition to the game, as it really helps mix up the puzzles and distract from the constant sucking-up of everything else that you'll be doing as you trek through the mansion.
The atmosphere created within the mansion probably isn't enough to freak you out like in some horror games, and while this is expected of a Mario game, the overall mood of Luigi's Mansion has been set nicely. Each of the rooms and its contents have been rendered well and the textures are a large step up from the Nintendo 64's. There are some nice graphical effects in each room you go, making fires and water features a lot more realistic than they have been before, even if the developers weren't going for a wholly-realistic look in the first place. In either case, it highlights just what Nintendo's cubed-console is capable of.
Sound is decent here, but certainly not worthy of an official soundtrack CD release. Sound effects are all very genuine and nice on the ears; however the game has very little music at all. Aside from the boss battles, there is only really one tune to listen to as you trek through the mansion, which will present itself either as a proper musical piece, or simply a tune hummed or whistled by Luigi depending on the status of the room you're in and whether you've cleared the area of all ghosts. And while it's definitely a catchy melody, a few more different ones wouldn't hurt.
The one real issue with the game is the length it will take you to beat it, whether you're trying to snag all of the so-called portrait ghosts' and all of the fifty Boos in the game, or whether you're just going for minimalist completion. In either case, no matter your skill level, the game is only going to take a few hours to beat tops. And while there have definitely been some good games which have lasted only a few hours, Luigi's Mansion still suffers from a bit of repetitive gameplay. You'll need at least forty of the fifty Boos to beat the game, and unlike the portrait ghosts, each is found by rummaging through a room's contents after that room has been cleared, then simply sucking it in. The only difference between each of them is the number of hit points, which slowly increases as you get closer to the end of the game and only really proves to be a nuisance. It won't be uncommon for players to dart back and forth between two or three rooms to suck one Boo up, since each of them just love to annoy by floating through the walls. Catching your tenth Boo might feel like a bit of a triumph, but it's hard to not feel a bit worn out of this process by the time you get to your twentieth.
There is a secret option open to those who finish the game which remedies a bit of this game length problem, allowing you to begin a brand new quest within the hidden mansion'. This is basically a hard mode for the game, but surprisingly it isn't just a version of the game where all the ghosts have more hit points. The Hidden Mansion quest tries to mix up the game as it was before, and changes the layout of the mansion's floors a bit. This change doesn't matter too much, as the ghosts you'll fight are still done in the same order as they were in the first play through. However, reach a boss battle and you'll find that the developers haven't been quite as lazy as you may have expected, as all bosses now attack more quickly and their attack patterns have been altered slightly to give those veteran players a bit of a challenge. Definitely a welcome addition, and it's much better to see a hard mode where the developers haven't just taken the easy way out.
That said, the fact remains that the hidden mansion is basically the same quest as the first one and isn't really adding anything too new to the gameplay, apart from serving as a means of pleasing those looking for a bit more of a challenge. Those looking for another game to add to their collection should definitely rent this out or borrow from a friend first, since it's easy to beat over a lazy weekend if you're up to it. Actually going the extra yard and buying it comes down to how much you love the Mario franchise and Nintendo and how much replay value you'll get out of the game, something which varies between players depending on whether they like the gameplay or not. Either way, a rent is your best bet. If you really want to buy, try and find a fairly cheap seller online and see how you go from there. Just don't go into the game expecting a thirty-hour-plus epic best seller, that's for sure.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 10/20/08
Game Release: Luigi's Mansion (US, 11/17/01)
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