Game 65: Luigi’s Mansion

Posted: June 29, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 480/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

How has it been ten years since the sixth generation of gaming? I am being absolutely serious here. Maybe it’s because I was at a rather impressionable age in terms of gaming but the buzz surrounding the releases of the PS2, Gamecube and Xbox are etched well into my gaming memories… especially since it marked the first time that I was really torn about what console to get (in the end I got a PS2 for Christmas of 2001 which meant I was then able to use my saved money to get a Gamecube once it launced in the UK.

Despite the fact that Luigi’s Mansion was a launch title it was not a game that I ended up buying. Instead the first games I got were Super Smash Bros Melee, as Jeroen has previously mentioned, and Super Monkey Ball, which we will get to later. Looking back on my choices with the eyes of hindsight I don’t think I would have made different choices BUT I would have almost certainly bought a copy of Luigi’s Mansion… at least from the second-hand bin at GAME.

Our Thoughts

For this list, as mentioned, we occasionally borrow games. And that has its upsides and downsides.  With a number of games, you are happy that you do – sure, the games are good, but nothing something you’d play again. For me, that’s a game like F-Zero X.  Some games are good fun, and you wouldn’t mind owning them, but to be honest, it’s not such a big deal whether or not you do. To give an example here, that’d be Final Fantasy VII, VIII or IX. With some games, however, I want to run to the store, Amazon or eBay and get it immediately. Luigi’s Mansion squarely falls into this category. It just does a lot of things well – graphics, sound and especially gameplay. It’s just sheer fun… with just enough of a hint of being scary and disturbing to have an impact. The best game that I can remember borrowing from a friend was the second instalment of Lego Star Wars but I have to admit that Luigi’s Mansion is definitely up there amongst some of the best that I’ve have the fortune to borrow.

As I mentioned before, this is a game that I would buy if I had the chance to go back in time. Then again I did not have much money for games ten years ago (then again being unemployed upon writing this I have even less now) so I had to be very selective when I bought my games… and yet a stinker like the bloody awful Lost Kingdoms managed to get through.  Nobody’s perfect and that is why I am thankful for GAME’s then refund policy.

It’s certainly a game worth going back to. I must admit I’ve liked the idea of the game since I first heard of it, and it more than paid off and not just because Luigi is the lead of the game, although that certainly doesn’t work. It wouldn’t have worked as well with a more generic hero like Mario. Luigi was the perfect lead for this strange marriage of survival horror and Saturday morning cartoons. He is always portrayed as the coward (but I would say he just has good survival instincts) and so a game where he actually has to go tête-à-tête with room after room of ghosts was a perfect way to develop him as a well-rounded character. Despite the fact that he fell for the horror movie staple of “congratulations you won a mansion in a contest that you never even entered”.  

Clearly he stays optimistic. In fact, this is the first game in which his cowardice really comes out – aside from tv series references (which are obviously inconsistent) and a few veiled hints in earlier games, this is where we really see the coward Luigi appear, compared to his courageous brother Mario. Anyone would be well and truly shaken after spending a long time in a mansion strewn with ghosts… most without the best intentions.  With the creepiest encountered so far being a ghost baby, who shrinks you and sends rocking horses and balls after you, trying to kill you.  Yes… there are very things that can be more unsettling than supernatural children.

Character notes aside there is so much to recommend this game; even ten years after it was first released in Japan.  It highlights one of the main things, though: The game has character. From the ghost designs to the haunted mansion itself, it seems far more pulled together than most Mario games, with less of a need to fit everything in. It’s all a haunted mansion, not a hodgepodge of desert, sea, forest and pipe worlds. It has lots of scary ghosts, including the Mario staple of Boos, but sees no need to include much more than that. It has one good gameplay mechanic, vacuuming ghosts, with everything else stemming from that one application.

One major criticism that has been levied at Luigi’s Mansion is that it can be completed in about six hours. When you consider this was a full price title compared to shorter games like Portal it’s a fairly apt one. Then again, since it is a short game it is all neatly packed together with a decent scope for replaying.  The main way you can measure your success in the game is the amount of booty you can secure whilst battling ghosts and vacuuming light-fittings. So logically the replay value comes in quicker exorcisms and more efficient cleaning.  I wonder whether those six hours are for an experienced player who rushes through everything, or for someone who doesn’t know how to do all the puzzles and explores every nook and cranny. and there are a lot of smaller things hidden in the game to explore.

Every room gets its own unique sections and rooms, making them all interesting, and while you can get lost, it’s not through any repetition of rooms. In order to search for Boos you need to need to revisit rooms you’ve previously cleared which I guess is a bit of a cheat… but it doesn’t feel like one.  The thing is, there are a number of new power-ups and options that make you want to backtrack – gaining fires and having to light a candle that’s been floating around to go after a butler is another example.

I have to say that some of the puzzles are pretty clever.  Mirrors have a major purpose in the game that they can be used to be whisked off to the central foyer where the save game Toad resides. However, they can also be used to spot certain ghosts creeping up on you as well as alerting you to important items in the room. It takes a little bit for it to trigger that they are this useful but it is a nice bit of subtlety there.  And that’s where part of the cleverness in this game is. It’s not just about the action, jumping around platforms, being fast and killing enemies. While it’s useful for the lesser ghosts, far more of the game involves puzzle solving, from how to proceed to the next part to figuring out how to defeat the bosses.

I guess that a discussion mirrors can, in some way, lead on for us to about talk about graphics.  Since the leap between graphics quality between the Gamecube and the Wii was not as pronounced as those exhibited by Sony and Microsoft this game still looks rather pleasing.  Then again, Nintendo have always found a way to stretch the life of their game’s graphics by making them fairly cartoon-like.  How much better can you make a Boo look really?  As mentioned before, cartoonier graphics style ages better than trying to look realistic.

It may have also helped that Nintendo originally developed this game to be fully realised in stereoscopic 3D. They did this because they thought the market for 3D televisions would have begun 10 years ago (which, when you come to think of it, was pretty forward thinking).  For that reason alone, it seems a prime candidate for a 3DS update. Surely the 3D-capable code must be out there still. This is also the reason why I am surprised that there was no announcement by Nintendo of them porting this game anytime soon. The 3DS hasn’t gotten many game announcements at all at this point anyway, although undoubtedly the (our future, reader’s past) E3 will change that… and that’s a different subject anyway.  One for the next update of the book maybe? Quite possibly.

With that as our recommendation, there’s just one last adorable thing to mention. Sound-wise, especially in music, the game is obviously good, but there’s one thing that adds to it. Luigi hums along to the songs with a slight fright in his voice. It’s both adorable and catchy and just right for the game.

Final Thoughts

My opening thoughts about the game being 10 years old was really spurred on by playing this game. Whist it is true that graphically it is a little bit down on what we would be used to nowadays but it REALLY has aged well unlike a number of other games we have already encountered… then again what else would you expect from the boys in Nintendo?

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