Every single Nintendo system to date has launched with a Mario title…yes, even the Virtual Boy had Mario Tennis! So it would be safe to assume that the case would have been the same with the GameCube, Nintendo’s next-generation wonder, surely? Well the Japanese über-company managed to prove us all wrong by giving Mario’s little brother a chance at headlining a console début for a change. Did he manage to pull it off, or was it one of Nintendo’s greatest mistakes?
It turns out the apparently Luigi has won a mansion in a special competition, you know, like you do. He is told to go over there and meet Mario, but on arrival the portly-plumber is nowhere to be found. In fact, the whole place is totally deserted! After searching a few eerie-looking rooms, a ghost jumps out at you and before you know what's happening a strange little man appears from nowhere with what looks like a vacuum cleaner and sucks the spectre up. He then hastily introduces himself as Professor E. Gadd, explains how these phantom spirits have escaped from the paintings around the immense house and promptly informs Luigi that his brother has most likely been abducted by the cheeky ghosts. Therefore the whimpering Luigi must rapidly learn how to use the vacuum contraption, otherwise known as the Poltergeist 3000, and head off on his set mission to suck as many ghosts as he can...
Do my eyes deceive me?
No, they certainly do not! This is indeed a First Generation GameCube title, and yet the graphical prowess exuded throughout is, mmm, simply splendiferous. If anything, the level of quality is not far from that of Super Mario Sunshine, which was released over half a year later. Now surely that says something? Whilst wandering around the mansion you will feel the urge to simply stop and admire the attention-to-detail on the furnishings of the haunted house – from the paintings, candles and carpeting to the wallpaper and amazingly animated (and lighted) chandeliers. That last feature is one of the most impressive, though, due to the lighting system used to create a sense of atmosphere. The flickering flashlight that Luigi carries casts light over anything you point it at, and it does so perfectly. As you move around and disturb the long-untouched areas, dust is kicked up and swirls through you beam of light in an eerie manner; and when you reach a colder section, such as when near a fridge in the kitchens, the moisture in poor Luigi’s breath vaporises right in front of you, giving you the feeling of almost being right there with him, sending a shiver down your spine.
Animation-wise, Luigi trundles along in the sort of bumbling way you would expect from an Italian plumber that really does not want to be wandering around a ghost-infested mansion. The ghosts themselves, each with their own distinct personality traits and distinguishing features (pink bows for girls, dummies for baby spooks, and so on) merrily continue with whatever they were doing when you entered the room, until you shine your torch on them and try to suck them up. Then they will fly about like mad, trying to escape entrapment in the vacuum sack. It is generally whilst attempting this Ghostbusters-related feat that you will stumble upon the fact that your entire surroundings are effected by the air circulation. Cupboards rattle, table-cloths flutter and chandeliers swing, each in the exact way they would in real life! The laws of physics are obeyed as much as is possible in a computer game, and for that alone, Nintendo should be greatly lauded…
Keep your ears on full alert…
The basic soundtrack is quite bass-orientated, which is unusual for a Nintendo game. But in this case it works out to be the ideal option, as the dark nature of the mansion itself and the spooky inhabitants call for something completely different to the normal happy-go-lucky music that is ever-present in Mario games. The main theme that runs in the background, thankfully avoids getting too repetitive as it fades in and out because of the thunder rumbling and cracks of thunder from outside, that manage to unnerve not only the unwitting Luigi, but the player as well. This, linked with the pitter-patter of Luigi’s footsteps, the creaking of doors and the wonderful tinkling noise made when pots and pans are shaken by the Poltergeist 3000, make the entire experience an aural pleasure.
Although there is not an abundance of digitised speech contained within Luigi's Mansion, what there sparingly is manages to satisfy on many levels. The humorous aspect is covered by Professor E. Gadd and his inane mumbling, which should raise a smile on even the most serious gamer's face, whilst the spectres and Luigi himself add to the creepy ambience. The game's hero, when on full health, will hum the game's theme tune while wandering around the abandoned corridors, and then call out "Mario...Maaa-rio!" in an attempt to coax a reply from his portly brother. But as soon his energy levels have taken somewhat of a beating, visibly shaken, Luigi's voice begins to warble a little and the humming becomes more disjointed, and the calls to his sibling ever more unsteady – ”Mario…? M-m-m-ario?!” These inclusions are certainly testament to the talent found at Nintendo, and are what other developers should emulate in their games…
Wander around, suck up ghosts, wander some more…
…but do not get me wrong, Luigi’s Mansion is by no means a boring and tiresome game. Just the opposite, actually, as Nintendo has managed to create quite a charming and endearing title, which stands the test of time far better than any of the other GameCube launch games. What really helps, to start with, are the wonderful controls. Perhaps for newcomer to the GameCube, the system of moving Luigi with one stick and the torch / vacuum with the other may seem daunting, but this is where the beauty of the GC controller is accentuated – it melts into your hands so perfectly that after just a few minutes you will be multi-tasking like a professional. Also, the actual movement of you character is smooth. You will not find Luigi to be an irksome, clunky cluster of pixels as his responses are lightning fast and the amount of animation frames poured into his chubby little Italian model is immense. Nintendo has even managed to avoid the possible problematic nature of a 3D camera by fixing the viewpoint and allowing walls to become transparent if Luigi travels out of view. All the key elements have been taken into consideration, leaving the gamer feeling refreshed as opposed to having a lingering feeling of frustration – and to top matters off, you have a special contraption called a Game Boy Horror, which allows you to zoom-in on items you wish to investigate, and it even provides the player with hints and tips about enemies you face!
As mentioned in the section regarding the game’s sound, there is a real character and presence to Luigi’s Mansion. Be it scenes involving banana skins and the quirky Professor E. Gadd that repeatedly raise a titter, or sections where you just know something is going to happen, yet when the spook finally jumps out from nowhere you still end up jumping or at least being marginally startled, the player’s emotions are toyed with on regular occurrence. Humour, tension, fear – all emotions that are invoked throughout the duration of this piece of art…surely there’s no room for anything else? Ah, but there is! Nintendo being the company that it is loves to embrace its past and embed a strong sense of nostalgia in certain sections of its titles – and the same goes for this one. Small references to preceding video-games are hidden away, ripe for the finding by stalwart fans of the company. Who says Nintendo doesn’t cater to its loyal followers any more…?
Many people will tell you that this game is far too short, and to be honest that is an extremely fair point to make. But there are some reasons why the game's length is just about right, and the main one that can easily be argued is that if Nintendo had made this title much longer, things might just have become slightly stale. As fun as the game is, there is only so much wandering around and sucking up of ghosts that can be done before boredom sets in. This is why the addition of playing through the game once more on completion, albeit with a trickier difficulty level, does not appeal on the whole. Perhaps if Nintendo deems Luigi's Mansion's sales impressive enough to warrant a sequel, the Japanese behemoth will increase both the length and difficulty, whilst also including several more attachments for the Poltergeist 3000 and extra side-quests.
The game controls are easy to master and the action plays like a dream. Also complete lack of slowdown is always a bonus...
A game that shows just how much attention-to-detail Nintendo pours into its games. Certainly one of the most impressive launch titles.
Whilst the actual main vacuum sound-effect may become slightly annoying after long periods, the overall in-game music and special extra touches make the experience a pleasurable one.
This is where Luigi's Mansion falls short...and by short, I mean very short! A tiny adventure, which lacks any real reason to replay it.
To simply state that this is Luigi's best ever game would be rather pointless, as it would most likely garner that label by default (it's best to forget about the edu-tainment title Mario Is Missing!). What should be said about the game, though, is that it is indeed worthy to stand side-by-side with his infamous brother's many titles. This is a delightful title that shows inspiration, immense amounts of detail and a wealth of creativity. Therefore, it is a dire shame that it all has to come to such an abrupt end. Perhaps since the game has performed so well in terms of sales, Nintendo will grant the slim-line plumber a sequel?