- New content, like offline co-op, is cool
- The graphical design holds up well
- Better feedback when wrangling ghosts
- Portability is a plus
- Despite all the options for controlling the vacuum, none of them feel right
- Many legacy problems are still present
- The co-op feature will likely be forgotten before long
- The old school design will turn off some players
Luigi Returns to His Haunting Grounds
Following their work on Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora’s Mask 3D, Grezzo’s port of Luigi’s Mansion to the 3DS is better than the Gamecube original, but only by a hair. Just enough to make it worth recommending if you’re a fan. Just enough for a new generation to consider digging their 3DS’ out one more time. Just enough, in fact, to justify its existence, but no further than that. Thanks to some new additions and the changes that come with new hardware, a mix of new and old problems give this port just enough of a net gain to say it’s better. However, it still may not be the version of Luigi’s Mansion you really want to play.
To get it out of the way, the biggest change in this version is the inclusion of offline co-op. Through either download play or a local wireless connection, players can play as Luigi and an ectoplasmic mass called Gooigi, to tackle the main story, a boss rush mode, and a training mode, depending on whether one or two copies of the game are present. I think this is a cool idea, but I can’t help but wonder how relevant it is. Will enough players be able to find a partner to make the experience worth it? Without online play, this co-op has a good chance of being forgotten entirely. Until the next port of the game, anyway.
The other major additions to the game are easier to predict – stereoscopic 3D graphics, and a control scheme tailored to the 3DS. The 3D effect, which we now know had been in the works for this title since its development on Gamecube, works well for enhancing the atmosphere of the game. I kept it on longer than I planned, however my eyes eventually felt strained and once I turned it off, I didn’t really miss it. The rest of the graphical engine is a faithful recreation of the original game, to the point that I wish screenshots did it more justice. I still find myself marveling at how, despite the relative low power of the system, Nintendo consistently makes ports that look fantastic.
Aside from the expected use of the touch screen for the game’s map, the revamped controls are rougher than I’d like. There are three ways to control Luigi’s Poltergust vacuum – the d-pad, the second analog nub (or Circle Pad Pro), and the system’s built-in gyrometer. None of these feel like a perfect fit – I found myself using a combination of all three because they felt jittery and rigid in different ways. Physically moving the 3DS to activate the gyrometer felt best, and gave my hands the most freedom. This freedom is important, since interacting with the environment has now been assigned to the X button, while menu confirmations are still handled with A. I’d love to know why the developers felt the need to make this change, because using X to interact feels about as natural as rewiring you gas pedal to control your car radio. Why would you even do that.
Something I think is worth keeping in mind is that, despite the cute exterior and familiar characters, this is still a survival horror game. If you make a mistake, the game won’t hesitate in letting you know. Dying anywhere in the game kicks you back to the title screen, and when you reload, you start in the first room of the mansion with the progress from your last save. This creates a lot of backtracking to areas that take minutes of tedium to reach. This kind of old school design can be rough, especially on the harder new game plus difficulty. However, considering all of the key puzzles and limited health items, it’s par for the course with this genre. Your progress is supposed to be hard-fought.
There are other minor annoyances: sometimes, Luigi holsters his vacuum at the wrong time, leaving you vulnerable when he pulls it out again. Physics with certain items feels off and out of the player’s control. There’s also Luigi’s tendency to get scared by every ghost he sees, even if he’s seen them a million times over. These are legacy problems just as prevalent on the Gamecube that would take a remake of a much larger scope to fix. I do think this version of the game gives you better feedback when wrangling ghosts, but much of what’s here – even the good, like the music, sound effects, and cool graphical details – feel the same as ever. If you were turned off by the issues the original version had, this isn’t a port for you.
If you’re willing to go back to the well again, or simply need to experience Luigi’s Mansion for the first time, this version is a good avenue into the Gamecube classic. However, it’s important to judge a port like this on whether it lives up to the original release or improves upon it. There are improvements here for sure, and I think the dashes of original content make it the better version, but the mix of new and old problems prevent it from achieving more. It’s slightly better, but it’s no Dark Moon. There’s only so much Nintendo can do, it seems, without blowing the doors open and just remaking the title from the ground up.
This review was conducted using a retail copy of the game that I purchased. This game is also available in its original form on the Nintendo Gamecube.