November 18, 2001
Way back in the days when the Nintendo Gamecube was gearing up to make it’s debut Nintendo had never once made any console not to debut in the safe hands of their intrepid mascot Mario. The time for variation was due and whilst handing the baton on to his brother may not seem the variation you’d expect it was, at the very least, something. Whilst remaining safe within the realms of the same franchise it is actually more of a diversion from the norm than one may realize. The game offers a massive tonal shift from whats gone before with the routine expectations of Mario leaping about collecting coins to a more sombre affair of sucking ghosts into a machine worthy of a lawsuit from the writers of Ghostbusters. Just to hammer home the message that this is not a Mario game your one duty is to rescue the aforementioned brother.
The games strongest selling point is its unique approach to a seemingly well understood character. Whilst we know Luigi can crack out his flutter jump whenever he needs to and collect size improving mushrooms (sex jokes aside please) with the best of them here jumping is limited to an automatic function. Gone are levels and worlds, replaced instead with one large map (the titular mansion) , leaving Luigi to roam from room to room free of order to suck up ghosts willy nilly and rid the world of the poltergeist menace quick-sharp. This more open world approach is actually quite refreshing and it’s a lot of fun to see Luigi in such an environment. This is hammered home with their being one regular set save function in the form of your assistant Toad, making a welcome return.
It makes great use of atmosphere. Whilst not exactly creeping in a DeadSpace 2 kind of way it certainly has a fantastically squirm inducing charm for the under 10’s that many over can at the very least appreciate. The sudden appearances of ghosts, flickering lights and jumpy music make the game a great middle ground for young gamers looking to reach beyond their limited experience with the playfulness of platformers. With Luigi’s Mansion they get all the childish fun they are used to but an inkling toward something more from the gaming world. Much like a young pop fans first album with guitars in showing early signs of their transition into full blown metal fandom as a teen.
Luigi’s character itself is a delight. His constant quivering and squeals bring of fear bring him alive as a character meaning he is less a block of pixels you push around and more a self serving character who it feels is the very right person to be at the epicentre of this adventure. Of all the Mario franchise characters Luigi is the MOST perfect to put in a situation generated from fear and creepiness and that understanding and respect for the legacy of it’s creations is what makes Nintendo the best at what it is. It is not all fun and games of course and Luigi’s Mansion received it’s negative reactions for very just cause. Much as I just lauded praise upon the characterization of Luigi it would be nice if every now and again he could just damn well shut up. The game is also ridiculously short, having first played this as a youngster (who is not the most proficient game player at the best of times as it is) I blitzed through it in a couple of days prompting my pubescent brain to wonder, with it being my first GameCube game, if the size of the discs affected the size of the games.
The game can also be repetitive and whilst there is nothing wrong with repetition in games, in fact I’d argue games are by their very nature repetitive at best, but in a game so short repetition really is a bug bare as you are presented with very little of the same over and over again.
This accompanied by Luigi’s incessant inability to shut the hell up (yes I know that contradicts what I said earlier. Characterisation is good in nice small doses! … Ssssh!) can generate an utterly infuriating experience. Of course this can all be cut short when the gameplay decides to hurl something utterly magical your way to bring the monotony which it so often does; the bosses are unexpectedly unique given you are essentially just sucking ghosts into vacuums. A great example of this is the final boss fight which throws so many curveballs and flashes of nostalgia your way it’s impossible not to balled over by the develops investment into sheer love for what they do.
Luigi’s Mansion is, for the most part, an underrated gem that perhaps lost the credit it deserved o the grounds of simply ‘not being a Mario game’ (On that note anyway of such a basic mindset just needs to go away. Go on. Go away. Please…. Please). If you’re willing to persevere through it’s repetition and tolerate it’s lack of length, which given how cheap it’ll be by these days not really a problem, you will find some truly unexpected and magic sprinkles of gameplay. Do not allow this game to get lost and unplayed. It’s not as if a sequel is being made anytime soon.
A lot of gamers were on the fence about this Luigi’s Mansion. Did you love, hate, or not sway either way on this game?