Luigi’s Mansion Review

Few first party Nintendo games have had an odder existence than the likeable but rather lightweight Luigi’s Mansion. Originally released on the GameCube back in 2001, it was the launch title that didn’t feel like a launch title, and in 2018, it’s being re-released, one would assume, to revitalise interest in this strange Nintendo sub-series ahead of the release of Luigi’s Mansion 3 on the Switch – problem is, it’s being released on the 3DS.

It’s a bizarre choice (right up there with Metroid: Samus Returns releasing on 3DS rather than Switch), but for a series as bizarre as this, its reappearance on the ageing 3DS hardware seems strangely apt. Would I prefer it on Switch? Of course, but like Luigi’s Mansion 2, there is something to be said for the games’ exceptional use of 3D. I know, who cares about 3D in 2018? Not many I suspect, but like Mario 3D Land and Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, the use of 3D here is exceptional and is the one thing (arguably the only thing) that genuinely elevates this re-release above the GameCube original.

Sure, there are a few extras here, but none add the kind of longevity that the original game always lacked – it lacked re-play value in 2001 and it still lacks it in 2018. The fact of the matter is, Luigi’s Mansion 2 was, and still is, the far superior game, but honestly, if you’re willing to overlook the limited content and the utterly unreasonable price point (I can’t believe Nintendo are asking £35 for this), Luigi’s Mansion is still a huge amount of fun.

Beyond the fantastic 3D visuals, it’s the array of adorable little touches that ultimately elevates what should be little more than a Nintendo curio into one of the more interesting first party Nintendo titles around. It always suffered from its position as a launch game – I, like many, opted for Star Wars Rogue Squadron II and Wave Race: Blue Storm at launch, but judged on its own merits, Luigi’s Mansion, like the titular hero(?) himself, delivers a brilliantly unorthodox alternative to brother Mario’s more colourful and conventional adventures. From the way he nervously hums the games’ theme tune to the multitude of charming incidental details that serve to bring its haunted house to life (so to speak), Luigi’s Mansion does overcome its brevity (to a certain extent) on the strength of its charm alone.

It’s not just charm though – longevity aside, Luigi’s Mansion is a polished, enjoyable, and above all else, unique gaming experience. An action, survival horror, puzzle game? Yeah, I suppose that just about right. The thing is, there is nothing really like Luigi’s Mansion, and that’s a big part of its draw (and the reason why it got so much grief first time around). Sure, vacuuming up ghosts is all very Ghostbusters, but mechanically, this never feels like a Ghostbusters rip off – the pace is too deliberate and the emphasis on environmental puzzles much more measured. This is a slow game that wants you to notice its attention to detail, to bask in its gothic but defiantly family-friendly tone. It’s an odd game, but one that embraces its otherness in a way that genuinely sets it apart from its more celebrated first party stablemates.

Of course, as charming and enjoyable as it might be, that doesn’t make up for the games’ brevity or almost complete lack of challenge. Again, it’s fun for as long as it lasts, but last long it most certainly will not. The extra features don’t add up to much, and outside of the fantastic use of 3D, this is a fundamentally worse looking game than the 2001 original. It’s still a decent perfectly pretty video game in its own right, but it’s still disappointing that the 2018 version somehow looks technologically inferior to the 2001 vintage. Yes, I know the 3DS is rather long in the tooth now, but the game also falls criminally short of the high standards achieved via its 3DS follow-up,  Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. And that’s probably the biggest problem; if you’ve already played Dark Moon, going back to the far more simplistic original will likely prove rather galling, and if you’ve never played either game before but are interested in the series, I’d be hard pushed not to suggest skipping straight to the notably superior sequel.

Luigi’s Mansion is a tricky game to review – it’s a game more than the sum of its parts, but one that ultimately suffers in comparison to its previously released sequel. There is plenty to like for fans of the series and the huge levels of charm and personality do make up for some of the games’ more glaring omissions, but with its high price point and disappointing lack of new content, it’s actually rather hard to recommend a return to the original Luigi’s Mansion. If you can get past the cost and brevity of the experience, you’ll likely enjoy your time with the game, but beyond the impressive use of 3D, this is a disappointingly backward step for a series that truly found its footing via this games’ genuinely fantastic successor.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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