Review by Rottenwood

"I'm-a Luigi! Number One!"

Much ado was made when Nintendo decided to buck tradition, and release their new GameCube console without a 'Super Mario Brothers' title at launch. Could Nintendo move consoles without plucky little Mario and his platforming perfection? That remains to be seen. Instead, Nintendo loaned Mario's spot to his brother Luigi, for an odd little ghost-busting adventure called 'Luigi's Mansion.' Does capturing spooks measure up to Koopa-stomping and recreational mushroom use? Well, yes and no...
It must be said that Nintendo is fairly bold for trying something new with 'Luigi's Mansion.' A typical 'Mario' game at launch would have been a safe maneuver, and more readily accepted by the gaming masses. Letting Luigi take the helm in a quirky new style of game was a nice change of pace. (With that said, Nintendo, I'd still love a next-generation 'Mario Brothers' game whenever you're ready.) It's rather depressing to hear folks complain when gaming companies stray from formulas and convention when making new titles in long-standing series. A glaring example is the backlash that occured when Nintendo unveiled the new cel-shaded look of the 'Legend of Zelda' series. For crying out loud, people... relax. These are only video games. Let the designers practice their art in the way they choose, and be glad that some companies would rather attempt something fresh as opposed to taking the road of predictability for easier money. I mean, look at how sad and tired the 'Crash Bandicoot' series has become due to lack of innovation. Crash used to be kind of cool once. Really!
'Luigi's Mansion' has as little plot as necessary. Luigi has this haunted mansion, Mario gets captured by the Boos in said mansion, Luigi has to rescue him. Good enough for me. Luigi ends up befriending a funky little professor named E. Gadd (har har), who gives Luigi the tools to defeat and capture the nasty ghosts. With a flashlight in hand and the Poltergust vacuum system on his back, Luigi is ready to capture the ghosts and rescue his brother.
The game play is fairly basic. Luigi walks throughout the mansion, clearing each room by snagging all of the ghosts within. As each room is cleared, Luigi will score keys that open new areas to explore. He'll also find a heck of a lot of cash, coins, and jewels, which function as the game's score. (Scoring systems using plain old points are apparently dated these days.) Naturally, there are basic ghosts that are fairly easy to defeat, and more complex spooks that require a bit more strategy to capture.
Most of the action involves blinding the ghosts with Luigi's flashlight, and then sucking them up with the vacuum while they're stunned. The vacuum can also suck up other items like cash and rats, and it can spit back any large item that gets stuck on the nozzle. (Thus turning it into a makeshift projectile weapon.) Luigi will also gain elemental powers over time, letting his vacuum spit out fire, water, and and the like. The Poltergust vacuum is a fun little device, and using it to interact with the various items in the game is a gas.
The controls are simple enough, although sucking in ghosts with both the analog and camera sticks takes a little practice. The GameCube's controller is terrific, though, and everything will be second nature before you know it. Pressing the A button to have Luigi call out for Mario was a cute touch. I especially appreciated the way the map would pop up whenever I gained a new key, showing me which door the key would be used for. I know that sounds like a feature that oversimplifies the game, but it sure beats going door-to-door with each new key you find, hoping it works.
'Luigi's Mansion' is darn beautiful, with impressive lighting effects and fun colorful graphics. Nintendo haters and 'realism' freaks will continue to whine about the cartoon-like style, but what can you do? If I wanted realistic visuals, I'd toss away my video game consoles and go look outside. I once had someone tell me that 'Luigi's Mansion' had 'soft graphics.' What does that even mean? When did video gamers become so depressingly macho and self-conscious? Oh well.
The music is less showy, but effective in its own way. It tends to be quiet and hover in the background, to add a little tension to the haunted surroundings. Luigi will sing along with it, too, and the confidence in his voice will change depending on how nervous he is. I love little touches like that. Overall, production values are high throughout, which is not surprising in a first-party Nintendo title.
In fact, the game's only weaknesses are its length, and a slight feeling of repetition. Folks like me with full-time jobs and busy schedules will get plenty of mileage from 'Luigi's Mansion,' unless we ask for a few days off after launch like I did. But gamers who play for hours a day will probably finish this title in a weekend. It's worth playing more than once, but I doubt it will inspire a ton of repeated playings like 'Super Mario Brothers 3' and the other 'Mario' masterpieces. The game play is just too limited to keep you coming back a few years down the road. Again, the game is a lot of fun, but there's only so many times that you can pull the old 'flash-the-ghost-then-suck-him-up' trick before it gets a little dry.
Still, 'Luigi's Mansion' is a great launch title and it comes very recommended. It got mixed reviews on-line (where many people saw fit to judge the game and parrot early reviews without even playing it), but it's a title that everyone should check out. It was a pleasant surprise to me, and I think you'll feel the same way.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/20/01, Updated 11/20/01

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