In preparation for the most recent one, (I know it is already released but I’m getting it for Christmas) I decided to replay the original Luigi’s Mansion for the GameCube: A game I’ve completed so many times, I could have reviewed it in my sleep. It is almost as if I’ve resided in the mansion before.
The GameCube was the first console I remember playing as well as adoring, and Luigi’s Mansion was one of the numerous games that helped cement that adoration. But rather than me gushing over the lovely controller and nostalgic memories, let’s talk about the actual game (and of course, i have tried my best to avoid any conspicuous bias).
From a surface level perspective, Luigi’s Mansion is admirable for its unique concept alone. It was neat to see Nintendo stray from their traditional format to put Mario’s beloved, craven brother in the spotlight where he embarks on a mildly spooky adventure through a haunted mansion. It’s always a treat when they wander in new directions from their typical platformer, and this game is no exception.
Luigi’s Mansion is beautifully introduced. The player is thrown into the grim foyer of the mansion without guidance to induce weakness when faced with the dopey apparitions. Luigi stumbles upon Professor E. Gadd, who supplies him with the necessary tools and tips for vacuuming ghosts. The player is then thrown into a training gauntlet to prepare for the forthcoming severity that is the dark and gloomy mansion. It is within the time spent in this preparation phrase that suddenly makes Luigi’s — or more significantly, the player’s — mission feel vastly important.
Sucking up spirits with the Ghostbuster-esque machine (Poltergust 3000) is nothing less than exhilarating. The imaginably discrete controls are finely realized and are arguably the most important aspect to assess when looking at a neo-3D game (at the time) like this one which was conceptually unprecedented. Though this may sound silly, approaching the spirits actually takes a deal of courage, for they are explicitly hostile. Clearing that first room of ghosts is instantly rewarding, and that feeling never withers.
The vibrant atmosphere of Luigi’s Mansion is characterized by the many strange and bizarre ghouls who inhabit the mansion, wreaking a diverse, broad cast of antagonists. There is a whole slew of various phantoms — all with different properties — to encounter within the confined walls of the palace. The plentiful spirits range from docile to assertive: the childly ghosts are often more terrifying than the adults, so it’s safe to say who knows what you’ll expect when entering a room.
Although it may be due to my extensive amount of time spent with the game, the design of the mansion itself is superb and easily memorable. Every room and corridor is justly distinct and it should be of great surprise if one were to get lost within the hospitable but unwelcoming residence. Likewise, the mansion is suitably packed with a handful of secrets, including entire hidden rooms. Some lie right under your nose, and others take a bit of thorough prying.
All of this isn’t to say Luigi’s Mansion exists without its hiccups, however. First off, the transitional phases are linear and dictated. Most of the game is collecting one key at a time to advance to the next specified room. One can imagine how painfully piecemeal and restricted this becomes. Another hiccup to mention is how irritating the erratic movement of the panicking ghosts can be, especially when furniture and other nearby ghosts can interfere with your current pursuit. It is also worth mentioning the slightly tedious fourth area, which has the player seesaw from the third floor to the basement and back up a few times.
Altogether, Luigi’s Mansion is a game I’ve admired since its conception, and one I still find admirable 18 years later. Although not perfect, it has some of the greatest replay ability with its proper one-night concept, begging for the player to return and face its ordeal again and again since it only takes a few hours to entirely complete.