Nintendo proudly declared 2013 to be the year of Luigi, so that the taller, quieter, less famous of the Mario brothers could finally start getting the kind of credit that he deserved. As such, Luigi will be appearing in four titles to be released this year, with the first being Luigi's Mansion 2 (also known overseas as Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon.)
The original Luigi’s Mansion was first released in 2001 as a Gamecube launch title, and was well received as a quality - albeit fairly short - adventure, with an engaging character and story. The sequel is available exclusively on the 3DS, and despite appearing on the smaller console, is a much larger game.
As in the first title, the basic goal is to remove all of the ghosts from the titular haunted manor. But things are bigger and better this time round - the first game was contained in just one basic area, whereas this ranges much more widely...
Professor E Gadd, the inventor of the Poltergust ghost removal system, has noticed that the normally well behaved ghosts in the area have suddenly become angry and destructive. He believes this is due to the mysterious disappearance of the Dark Moon, which has been split into numerous pieces and scattered across the landscape, which is cloaked in a thick, unnatural fog.
Having proven his mettle before, Luigi is duly summoned to retrieve all the pieces, and restore order to the mansion and surrounding area. Luigi approaches the task with his normal . . . well, panic, and pleas to be excused from the task. However, he does manfully get on with the mission when it’s clear he has no other choice but to be the hero.
Graphically, this has to be one of the nicest looking handheld games ever made. Ever. The characters, including the supernatural effects, the lighting, backgrounds, settings, and colour palette used throughout are all superb. It’s stylish, it’s slick, and it completely nails the look of the well loved Luigi.
The controls are easy to use and master, and the playability engaging from the very beginning. There’s enough variety throughout to keep players entertained, with different missions and aims, and the ability to improve your gear as your skills also rank up.
As always, Nintendo have produced a superb musical score and atmospheric sounds to add depth, humour, and tension to the title. Also, Luigi occasionally sings along with his theme song, presumably to calm his nerves, so you know it’s gotta be good.
Luigi is, in a word, adorable. His every quiver with the torch, counterpointed by his numerous panicky noises, and the way he leaps out of his skin every time a ghost appears are incredibly endearing. (Although his cries of “Maaaario....? MARIO?!?” from the first title are sorely missed.) The characterisation is amazingly good throughout.
As mentioned earlier, with the addition of a wider area, and a variety of focus during the missions, the playability is excellent. The intensity and complexity ramps up gradually as you work your way through, and the ghosts get noticeably tougher and smarter as you go on. For the completionists there are special hidden gems to collect, as well as the normal pile of treasure to be found throughout.
The only slight complaints that could be made are that occasionally there were a couple of points I found myself wondering how on earth I was supposed to get to the area highlighted on the map as the next target. This was either because I had to figure out how to use a feature of the Poltergust 5000 that wasn’t particularly apparent at first glance, or because the ghosts had made such a mess throughout the Mansion, Luigi couldn’t always just march straight through the door to the room in question.
Another slight niggle was that there were a couple of boss fights that took a few tries to master, and if the boss defeated Luigi, he had to start the level again. This would take about five minutes to work back to the boss fight, which could be frustrating if Luigi was wiped out again in a mere 20 seconds, and had to repeat from the beginning once more.
(He’s a trooper though. You’ll never hear a word of complaint from Luigi.)
That aside, it’s hard to review this game, and not make it sound like a gushing love letter to Nintendo. But it’s that good . . . they have smashed it out of the park yet again. The company may have been struggling with hardware sales in recent months, but their game development on marquee titles remains second to none.
The pride in the Nintendo legacy is apparent in every single aspect of this title; the attention to detail, and sheen of professionalism is everywhere. It’s a triumph - visually one of the best handheld titles ever seen, and in terms of capturing your emotions, Luigi has you on board from the first sequence. You want to guide him to victory (and safety!) because he is just so darn sweet.
Highly recommended. Buy it.