My my, Nintendo have been good at plucking trying to reclaim their past glories. First they announce they’re going to release Earthbound on the Virtual Console, then they offer Kirby’s Adventure for 30p on Wii U (which you should totally go and buy). Now, they’ve given us a sequel to one of the GameCube’s earliest and most promising, but also criminally overlooked games, Luigi’s Mansion.
It’s difficult to know where to begin with Luigi’s Mansion 2, because it’s rather different to its predecessor. While the first game had Luigi exploring a single mansion, largely alone, this instalment takes a mission based approach to things and at first it’s quite hard to adjust to. You’ll typically be sent for a ten to fifteen minute quest in one of a few mansions, largely at the whims of Professor E. Gadd., the weird old man from twelve years ago who’s probably on some sort of register.
You’d initially think this would subtract some of the solitary feel of the original game, and perhaps it does, but a sequel’s job is not to copy the first title and it does an admirable job of filling the shoes left by its older brother.
See, the whole setup is that Luigi is not cut out for hunting ghosts, but is sent to do it anyway because he’s the only one who has. This is reflected in what’s actually one of Nintendo’s most characterised roles. Compared to Mario, the silent everyman who resolutely charges into danger to save Princess Peach, Luigi is a bona fide coward. He can’t run very fast, he can’t jump and he recoils at the slightest noise. He hums to keep himself occupied during quiet moments. In other words, Luigi acts as any of us would given his scenario and it’s quite the stroke of genius.
Those quiet moments, by the way, are perfectly paced and Luigi’s Mansion 2 manages to spread itself thin enough to stop the Dead Space problem of having zero tension. The understated musical backing during the exploration sequences gives way to raucous orchestral wailing during combat and really helps to give the game a sense of depth and production value.
Combat, too, has changed from the original. In order to stun ghosts, Luigi must produce a particularly bright flash from his torch, which allows for charging to bring more ghosts out for capturing at once, for instance. Then, the game really starts to suck. Quite literally. See, instead of just yanking the vacuum away from the ghosts like you used to, you can now hit A when enough charge has been built up to perform a powerful special move that helps to speed up combat and stop the old problem of being driven into a corner by the ghosts.
The ghosts now look rather different, probably as a consequence of it having been so long between games that Nintendo probably thought nobody would notice. I actually preferred the appearance of the older kind. They were fatter and more weird-looking – more Marioesque, if you’ll excuse the pretentious language.
Still, the rest of the graphics look lovely – brilliant use of lighting, as well as the cobweb and dust effects being retained from Luigi’s Mansion. It’s a particular testament to Nintendo’s skill with their own hardware that they’ve taken a little device like the 3DS and made something that looks as though it could be on the Wii U if it were in a higher resolution. I appreciate the use to which they’ve put the 3D effects, too. The levels really feel three dimensional, when they could so easily have adopted a top-down approach and had the game ready much quicker.
Nintendo is at their best when they innovate, which annoys me when I think about how little they do so. Still, on this occasion they’ve really pulled out their best stuff and between the new additions to the gameplay formula (a new UV light able to show up hidden items and doors is a particular favourite), clever level structure and the retention of the atmosphere and graphical style that made the first game great, we have one of the depressingly few great 3DS games. It’s a little easy and the puzzles can sometimes be too obvious, but if you own a 3DS and, like me, have been umming and ahhing about what to get for it, you should definitely consider Luigi’s Mansion 2. 8.8/10.