Retro Review: Luigi’s Mansion (GC)

Luigis mansion coverDeveloper: Nintendo EAD

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform(s): Gamecube

Price: $70.00 (new); $20.00 (used)

Release Date: November 17th, 2001
With the release of the Nintendo Gamecube came Luigi’s Mansion–a game destined to become the console’s fifth best-seller in the United States. Luigi’s Mansion promised a unique Mario experience. With an all-new style of gameplay that dabbled in the horror genre—not to mention Mario’s younger brother taking the spotlight—the game excited fans who were “looking for something new from Mario.” The real question is: is this mansion a palace of fun or a rundown shack of disappointment? Is this haunted adventure for everyone?

Storyline

Luigi: the naïve, gullible brother of Mario. The green guy’s usually seen either running in terror from something or finding himself in rather clumsy situations. That’s why, when he receives a letter in his mailbox saying that he won a contest he didn’t even enter, he has no second thoughts about it and immediately sets out to claim his prize. The prize? A mansion. A dark, creepy, dilapidated, ghost-filled mansion.

As Luigi enters the ghostly place, he is met by a curious character named Prof. E. Gadd, a comical ghost hunter who immediately sets Luigi up with all the ghost-catching equipment he could ever ask for. Things quickly go from bad to worse as Luigi discovers that something has released all of the ghosts from their painting prisons and let them roam freely about the house. Not only that, but Mario has gone missing and been presumably kidnapped. And… what’s that about King Boo?

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Content Guide

Positive Elements
Luigi is as big a chicken as they come. He’s terrified of his own shadow, not to mention darkness and ghosts! Despite all of this, he bravely enters the haunted mansion in search of his brother. Luigi’s love for Mario is apparent in his eventual, emotional reunion with him.

Spiritual Content
Despite the fact that this is a Mario game we’re talking about, I was surprised at what sort of spiritual content I found in Luigi’s Mansion.

Obviously, we’re dealing with a lot of ghosts here, so if the ghost factor bothers you, stop reading right now because this game isn’t for you. Ghosts come in numerous forms–from the classic Boo and other cartoony ghosts (think Casper here) to some rather human-looking ones. Even the human-looking ghosts have a cartoony appearance, but they are human-like (similar to Mario or Luigi). All of the human ghosts are the deceased family that once lived in the mansion, and there’s quite a few of them to be found–from the baby of the house, to the grandmother, to the family dog. Luigi’s quest involves hunting down all of these ghosts and sucking them up in his vacuum.

lm3Perhaps the biggest area of concern is the presence of a fortune teller who plays a rather large role in the game. While Nintendo does stereotypically poke fun at her predictions by making her slip up on her words and generally sound more-or-less genuine, she does say some things worth noting. Firstly, she makes many references to the “spirits” and how they give her the power to see into the future. She also mentions things such as “I can hear your brother’s voice calling out” or “The spirits have left me now.” In the game, you must visit the fortune teller five or six times in order to gain new information. I found this both unfortunate and unnecessary on Nintendo’s part.

One room in the game is called an “altar.” I did not find any noticeable religious ties to this room, however.

*SPOILER WARNING* The game climaxes when King Boo enters a portrait of Bowser and a fight between Bowser and Luigi begins. The entire fight is rather unexplained and weird. It is difficult to tell whether Bowser is real or merely a robot that King Boo is using. To damage Bowser, you blow his head off with an explosive. Yes, you read that right. After Bowser has been decapitated, his head will float around shooting ice balls at Luigi whilst King Boo emerges from within Bowser’s body and offers himself as a vulnerable target. Occasionally, Bowser will put his head on upside down and will run around the area aimlessly. At the end, we see a decapitated Bowser lying on the ground. Again, the whole scene is very unexplained and weird, fitting well with the horror theme of Luigi’s Mansion. *END OF SPOILERS*

Violence
Cutscene Violence. There are only a handful of cutscenes in Luigi’s Mansion and I wouldn’t call any of them violent. The one exception is the above mentioned “spoiler warning” in the Spiritual Content section.
Gameplay Violence. Keeping with the typical Mario trend, all violence in Luigi’s Mansion is very tame and kid-friendly. Luigi will occasionally be knocked over when he loses his footing. If he is caught on fire, he spins about yelling as he beats the fire out of his clothes. Scattered throughout the mansion are a handful of fake doors that will flatten Luigi to the wall when he tries to open them. When Luigi loses a life, he spins about and collapses on the floor. See the above-mentioned “spoiler warning” for one other worthy mention of gameplay violence.

Language/Crude Humor
I never came across any language worthy of too much concern. A character uses “stupid” to describe one or two things. A baby ghost says that he “hates grownups!”

One obese ghost is shown gorging food down at an alarming rate. A Toad drops an item in a toilet but chooses not to worry about it, saying that he will “flush away his worries.” Some items can be found inside toilets.

Sexual Content
One ghost you will encounter in the mansion is a bathing beauty… or so you think when you see her silhouette cast on the shower curtain. Lo and behold your surprise when you brush aside the curtain and discover an overweight, pig-like woman in a bikini! All joking aside, I didn’t find this to be inappropriate, as it is clearly meant to make you laugh. Still, it’s worth mentioning.

Drug/Alcohol Reference
The pool room appears to have some alcoholic beverages (wine bottles) sitting on tables. Still, it really could be any type of drink, I suppose.

Other Negative Content
lm10While most of the ghosts are cartoony, some are rather human-like in appearance. Among these are an elderly grandmother, a baby, and a set of twins. Though these are all enemies that try and inflict harm on Luigi, some may feel qualms about attacking them.

Luigi’s Mansion dabbles in the horror genre. Young gamers who are timid or afraid of ghosts had better avoid this one. Though it is cartoony, it can still be rather frightening. The music is disturbing and hollow and adds a sinister feel to the game. Dark rooms filled with ghosts are scattered all through the mansion, and often these ghouls pop out of nowhere. Some atmospheres, such as the graveyard, may be disturbing for young kids. Some bosses are a bit frightening. One contorts its face, one has glowing white eyes, and one has glowing red eyes. The more human-like ghosts remain largely invisible until Luigi turns his light away from them, which causes them to flicker and vanish in the darkness. Again, this is Mario that we’re talking about here–not Silent Hill or Dead Space–but it still may be a bit much for young gamers who have a fear for ghosts and the dark.

Gameplay

Luigi’s Mansion diverts from traditional Mario gameplay. It’s quite obvious that Nintendo was experimenting on a new gaming style for the Mario games with this title. Does it work? Yes… and no. I’ll get to that later.

Rather than collecting stars to progress, the player will find themselves in one massive level–a three-story mansion. The entire game is played much like a Nancy Drew title or a single dungeon in a Zelda game. The player will wander about the mansion, striving to open the next door to progress. A large part of the game involves the player searching the furnishings in a room for money, keys, and ghosts. Everything in a room can be touched, blown around, or sucked up in Luigi’s vacuum, which makes the game quite interactive.

Puzzle-solving plays a large role in Luigi’s adventure. Often, a player will have to light a torch, solve a riddle, search for a missing item, or trigger something by activating certain items like clocks or instruments. Again, the game is much like a giant Zelda dungeon.

lm9Ghost catching is perhaps the most important aspect of the game. Using Luigi’s special vacuum, the player can stun ghosts with a flashlight and then fish them into the vacuum after a brief “tug-of-war” battle. Ghosts may be easy–or very hard–to capture, depending on whether they are common ghosts or former mansion inhabitants. Sucking them all into your vacuum just feels great!

Unfortunately, a few gameplay mechanics weigh the game down a bit. First of all, I had a lot of trouble getting Luigi to turn so that he could properly suck up the ghosts (particularly when it came to the Boos). The lack of a lock-on device sometimes makes targeting your ghosts difficult–a factor that could result in everything from a lost life to a lost Boo. Once Luigi has begun to suck up the ghost in his vacuum, the lock-on feature finally kicks in.

Another factor that I found bothersome about Luigi’s Mansion is that fact that it takes a long time to get wherever you want to go. This is a mansion that we’re talking about here, so there are plenty of rooms to walk through. Fortunately, as the game progresses, Luigi can unlock doors that will act as “short-cuts,” but even with these the player will be doing a lot of walking… and Luigi isn’t exactly as fast as Sonic. The worst part about the massive amount of walking is the fact that there aren’t many saving points scattered close to the player. This means that if a player gets into a new room, but is low on health, he has to go all the way back to the closest saving point to ensure that he won’t lose any data. If Luigi makes tons of progress, unlocks several rooms, gets to the boss, etc., and dies without saving, he will have to go through the same stuff again. This is an especially annoying factor when it comes to bosses because the player is forced to sit through the pre-boss cutscene each time he fails to defeat the boss.

My cousin watched me play Luigi’s Mansion one day and finally laughed and said, “There’s no way that I could ever play this game! I haven’t got that kind of patience.” He’s right, too. Patience is pretty much a requirement if you’re going to have fun with Luigi’s Mansion. You’ll be doing a lot of backtracking, aimless wandering, searching, and jogging all the way back to your latest saving point, just so you don’t lose your data.

Don’t get me wrong! Luigi’s Mansion is a lot of fun… if you’ve got the patience to play through it. Its challenging puzzles will have you scratching your head a time or two because of their Zelda-like quality. I confess, I did have to look at an online guide once or twice because I was so stuck… and then I wanted to slap myself because it was all so easy.

Luigi’s Mansion is a short game. I beat it over the weekend in about three or four days of moderate playing. Players are encouraged to play the game again in order to improve their final grade (based on the amount of money the player collected in the play-through), but aside from that, Luigi’s Mansion really doesn’t have any additional replay value. After the first, full game completion, a new mansion mode will be unlocked with some very minor changes to the original game–such as Luigi’s vacuum being stronger.

Presentation

The graphics are decent. They aren’t very impressive when compared to newer Mario games like Super Mario Galaxy. However, Luigi’s Mansion was one of the first games to be released on the Gamecube, so you really can’t judge it too severely. Some textures have an almost Nintendo 64 look, though character models are crafted rather nicely. The color scheme is drab and fits well with the flavor of the horror genre. A lot of patience and care went into designing the various rooms in the mansion. Each room is filled with spooky odds and ends that Nintendo obviously spent a lot of effort designing. In the area of artistry, Luigi’s Mansion is quite satisfying.

lm2Very rarely does a game with one dominant theme have a good soundtrack. However, Luigi’s Mansion miraculously gets away with this bragging right. All through the mansion, one theme is dominant–the main theme of the game. Luigi is either constantly whistling it or humming it nervously (depending on where he is in the mansion). Of course, boss themes and such break the main theme trend, but only temporarily. Surprisingly, hearing the main theme over and over again just doesn’t get on your nerves, however. If anything, it adds a lot to the fearful feel of the game. Variations of this theme do help relieve the player of having to hear the same tone over and over again, which is nice.

Voice acting is minimal but frequent at the same time. Luigi is always muttering, humming, or whistling nervously. If the player presses the “A” button, Luigi will call out Mario’s name in a variety of tones. Prof. E Gadd speaks in a gibberish language similar to Midna’s in Twilight Princess. All voice acting, though minimal, is very appropriate for a Mario game.

I never came across any glitches in Luigi‘s Mansion. It appears to be very stable.

Conclusion

I picked up Luigi’s Mansion waaaaay after it was released–as in the-Wii-has-been-out-for-four-years already. However, because I had always been curious about the game, and Luigi is my favorite Mario character, I knew that I just had to buy it and play through it. The result? I was treated to a fun, but spooky, little adventure similar to the Zelda dungeons I was so familiar with conquering. Despite my familiarity with solving puzzles, however, Luigi’s Mansion still surprised me–and stumped me good–at least three times.

However, while Luigi’s Mansion is a treat for puzluigi04zle-solving fanatics and horror fans, some may be turned away by its repetition, constant backtracking, and shortness. Not only that, but this mansion is crawling with ghosts! Timid players (younger ones, in particular) had better think before they give this one a play-through.

From a Christian standpoint, Luigi’s Mansion is a give-or-take depending largely upon a person’s beliefs. The game revolves around ghosts, a haunted mansion, and a fortune teller. This latter factor, in particular, may turn some away, especially with her constant mention of the “spirits.” Young children should definitely be given a talk about what the Bible says about the dangers of tampering with the occult, even if the occult is presented in a cute or tongue-in-cheek manner.

However, if you find that Luigi’s Mansion is for you, you’ll be in for a brief treat that will tease your brain, delight you with a few goofy thrills, and teach you a lesson or two about what real love and dedication is all about.

The Bottom Line

Luigi's Mansion is a short, spooky game that will tease your brain, delight you with a few goofy thrills, and teach you a lesson or two about what real love and dedication is all about.

 

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Casey Covel

Casey Lynn Covel (known online as “Cutsceneaddict”) is an award-winning, published writer, avid reader, and aspiring author. She runs a nerdy writing blog called Meek-Geek and founded PROJECT: Magic Kingdom Hearts in 2012. When she’s not writing for Geeks Under Grace, Florida Geek Scene, Beneath the Tangles, or FROM JAPAN, she enjoys cosplaying, and has won several awards for her work. Follow her on Instagram for her latest cosplay endeavors. #meekischic