A few days ago, I mentioned that I had celebrated my lack of a games backlog by buying Luigi’s Mansion 3 during the Nintendo eShop sale. I hadn’t played the first two games in the series, but it looked fun and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive and how often does Nintendo first party stuff go on sale anyway?
Upon starting it, however, and watching the opening cinematic, I was forced to realize that I had many unanswered questions that might hinder my enjoyment of the game. Like, why does Luigi have a ghost dog? Furthermore, why is Luigi in the ghost catching business in the first place?
Obviously I needed to dip back into the history of the franchise, and that meant spending a couple of evenings playing through his original adventure on the Gamecube, through Dolphin since I wasn’t going to go to the hassle of digging out the original hardware.
As an aside, I hadn’t really ever messed with Dolphin before and it turned out to be a very civilized experience. Luigi’s Mansion looked very good upscaled to 1080p and could easily have been mistaken for a much more modern game.
In short, I’m glad I did this. Luigi’s Mansion turned out to be a tremendously charming and enjoyable experience. At the end of it, I still didn’t know why he now has a ghostly dog but at least I understood the reason behind his one-plumber war on the spectral realm.
Wikipedia says he picked up the dog in the sequel, and I considered playing through that as well… and then I read reviews that mentioned mandatory balancing sections involving motion control and I put that notion right out of my head.
So I’m ready for Luigi’s Mansion 3 and if you are the sort of person who does not like to see any criticism of Nintendo first party titles we will both be happier if you stop reading at this point because I am about to say unkind things about a 19 year old game that was probably a fundamental part of your childhood.
Still with me? Good. Because, man, despite how enjoyable Luigi’s Mansion is, it is basically a showcase for all the worst elements of gaming in the late 90s/early 2000s.
You’ve got your forced-inverted-Y-axis control for aiming up and down, tank controls for horizontal aiming and movement, unstoppable cutscenes even on a repeat viewing, a fixed camera that is usually pretty decent but occasionally decides to be awful, no checkpoints and oh my god the backtracking. Every time you save and re-enter the game, you have to start from the mansion’s foyer and then slowly walk through several floors to pick up wherever you left off.
Luigi doesn’t regain health when loading a game or after fights, which isn’t really an issue – there’s an easily accessed healing item in a room just a few doors away from the foyer – but walking over to pick that up every time I needed to heal up was (again) more backtracking. Apparently in the 3DS remake of the game you can heal Luigi if you own the Toad Amiibo, which at least indicates that the remake team realized this was a pain.
There are also no pre-boss checkpoints, so dying to a boss means that you have to load your last game, putting you back in the foyer for an annoying walk back to the boss, where you will watch the pre-fight cutscene again. The flip side of this is that MOST of the fights are very easy, so the odds of dying to most enemies are very low… and then you get to the fourth and final boss.
Without spoiling the particulars of the fight, the last boss comes out of nowhere in terms of challenge and obtuseness, and I had to finally give up and look up how to damage him after three or four abject failures at the fight. Once I knew HOW to hit him, it still took several tries to figure out how to bait him into an attack I could punish with a counterattack. Once I had that down, it wasn’t that bad of a fight but it could seriously have done with a little more telegraphing.
I am very grateful for save states, once I looked up how to use them in Dolphin anyway. They meant that I could start the boss fight over from the beginning without the load screen -> walk through the mansion -> cutscene sequence every time.
The 3DS version lets you skip the final boss cutscene after the first viewing, by the way. Another significant quality of life change there. AND it lets you play with regular Y-axis controls.
What I’m saying is that Luigi’s Mansion is a really fun game and if you have somehow missed it then I quite recommend playing the 3DS version.