The original mansion is back, and ready.
Luigi’s Mansion is not on the Switch. That is the biggest disappointment from the entire experience I had playing through the 3DS remaster 17 years after its launch alongside the Nintendo GameCube. But I’m not going to use that as a strike in this review. I don’t want this to be a comparison, because by and large, both versions are one and the same. There are a few features worth checking out on this version that aren’t in the GameCube classic, bundled with a handful of downgrades.
It’s exciting that the original Luigi’s Mansion has finally been made available again, in it’s entirety. The set-up is the same; Luigi has won a mansion in a contest he didn’t sign-up for. Mario went to check it out but has gone missing, and Luigi has teamed up with the eccentric Professor E. Gadd to save Mario from the clutches of King Boo – ghostbuster style! Using the trusty Poltergust 3000, a vacuum cleaner-esque device that is capable of capturing spirits, he traverses a mansion that is spewing all sorts of ghosts in hopes of saving his brother.
Luigi’s Mansion’s visuals were a notable achievement at the GameCube’s launch. The dust particle effects alone were very impressive. In the Nintendo 3DS version, they’re present, but significantly downgraded. It’s a small disappointment, but it echoes throughout a lot of the details that were in the original. Not all of these are downgrades. In fact some of the textures that were really blurry in the original have been cleaned up and made legible, specifically a lot of the paintings throughout the mansion. The final boss arena has way more detailed models. The graphics seemed like a constant back-and-forth between losing some details and adding a little something new. For example, the entire 3DS now acts as the Game Boy Horror. This means Professor E. Gadd will take up the entire bottom screen when he calls you, and you can laugh at his quirky portrayal. You can also use the bottom screen to review the map, portrait ghost bios, and treasure collected.
Boos now have four teeth, and their leader has a focus on purple instead of turquoise, a la Dark Moon. While I am much more attached to the former, the small focus on maintaining some consistency in their presence across Nintendo’s IP is uplifting. Perhaps in the future, King Boo will look less generic in his appearances in the spin-off titles. He and the rest of the ghosts looked neat in 3D, even if their models were not-as-clean renders. It was as if the blume effect came from behind them, instead of emerging from the models, which seemed to be a decision for the 3D effect. They were more opaque, which took away from the appeal.
Co-op is the biggest addition, and it is very welcomed. You can play the entire game with a friend who has their own copy, or you can have a friend help you tackle boss fights and portrait ghost fights via download play. I only had one copy, so my friend helped me tackle the bosses, and he was using a first generation Nintendo 3DS, compared to my New Nintendo 3DS XL. It’s unclear to me if the performance improves if both parties use newer models. Our play session was rocky, to say the least. The load times were pushing 30 seconds, and the frame rate dipped pretty low and jumped inconsistently. We were able to have a little fun re-capturing the portrait ghosts, and this made getting a better time and a gold frame easy. But the boss fights were not fun because of the poor performance. I’m going to blame the old hardware here, because conceptually, the co-op was a welcome feature. I do hope it returns, but with added online support, as this version was local only. Amiibo are also available and add small perks, like turning poisonous shrooms into ones that heal you or helping keep track of Boos on the map. Nothing game changing, but all fairly handy.
Because of the lack of analog shoulder buttons and a C-Stick, the 3DS version has a variety of controls schemes that make up for the original control. If you have a New Nintendo 3DS, you can use the small C-Stick to aim the Poltergust and adjust it’s sensitivity. Or you can use the D-Pad. The Circle Pro Pad is also supported, as well as motion controls (you tilt the system to aim). I found using the D-Pad was the easiest, but still wasn’t optimal because I was sacrificing moving Luigi for a few seconds while aiming. Using the Circle Pro Pad seems to be the way to go for the smoothest experience. Another new addition is the Strobulb light, which can charge and flash ghosts. Instead of merely shining a light on a ghost, you can charge the flashlight, and then release a large, bright flash that engulfs the room to stun ghosts. This mechanic is brought over from Dark Moon and is a welcome option. I prefer the original “shine-and-stun” flashlight because many of the smaller rooms, like the Wash Room and Laundry Room, were too tight for me to give up time to charge the Strobulb flashlight. But it was very useful in larger rooms, because it could reach a wide range of ghosts that were spread out..
The last change is predominantly in E.Gadd’s lab. The gallery space has been overhauled to showcase the various portrait ghosts. Each can be refought at any time and will update the picture frame based on the best score, so there is no need to have to replay the entire mansion in fear of not getting the best ranked portrait ghost frame. They also keep track of the time taken to beat the portrait ghosts, which would be cooler if there was a way to compare scores with others, such as an online leaderboard. Achievements are an addition as well, which provides insight on replayability. Fans of the original will remember that based on how much treasure you earn, you are rewarded at the end. For completionists, the achievements and this endgame reward will certainly require multiple playthroughs.
And that’s Luigi’s Mansion. Really, it is the same GameCube game with a sprinkling of flourishes here and there for the 3DS. I really appreciate the new artwork for the portrait ghosts, the attention to detail with controls, and that the 3D effect was used. If you enjoyed the original on the GameCube, this is the same experience. There wasn’t an attempt at fixing the less-well received aspects of the original, such as chasing the Boos around the mansion, adding a few extra doors as shortcuts to bypass backtracking, or adding any new rooms or portrait ghosts. It’s not as visually impressive as the GameCube’s version. It’s not really any longer, even with the achievements, Most probably aren’t going to play for every ending. But all that said, it still works well, and I walked away pleasantly surprised. Then again…what ghost up, must come down.