I think it’s worth taking a moment to remember how influential Luigi’s Mansion was when it first came out back in 2001. Nintendo had their newest console on the market and instead of launching it with one of its flagship titles like Super Mario or The Legend of Zelda, they went for a quirky, horror/comedy starring Luigi, of all characters.
I still remember gamers scoffing at the idea of Luigi as a leading man; but Luigi’s Mansion was wholly unique, fun, and a very daring attempt to take established horror tropes and spin them in a kid-friendly way. Now the seminal title lands on the 3DS, and while it is still the great game it always was, it’s little more than 3DS life-support at this point.
There isn’t really a lot to say about Luigi’s Mansion on 3DS, since it’s essentially a straight up re-release of the original. When Luigi receives a strange letter saying he won a contest he didn’t remember entering, he goes off to claim his prize: a haunted mansion! However, when it is revealed that Mario came to the same mansion and was bested by the paranormal pests, Luigi teams up with Professor E. Gadd to defeat the ghosts and solve the mystery of the mansion.
It’s part puzzle game, part Ghostbusters as you explore the mansion and suck up all the ghost with your literal ghost vacuum: the Poltergust 3000. It’s pretty straightforward, but it remains as fun as it ever was with a great sense of atmosphere and a lot of nice little touches. It’s interesting to see the small ways they were trying to capture the feel of a horror game in Luigi’s Mansion—the way opening doors changes perspective to a tight close-up of Luigi’s trembling hand reaching for the knob, or the dynamic use of lightning flashes, or even the designs of some of the more dynamic ghosts.
And it’s easy to forget that this was one of the first games that gave Luigi a great depth of personality, something his brother would never really be afforded. Not only does Luigi display a range of emotions, but he actually gets a voice, through the game’s “Gameboy Horror” scanning device. When the player scans certain items, Luigi will offer his thoughts on them, offering a unique look into Luigi’s mind.
Being on the 3DS offers little advancement for the 17 year-old game aside from the option to switch from the original game’s way of stunning ghosts by turning the flashlight on and off, to using the method from Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, of flashing them with a big burst of light; and the addition of 3D and motion controls. There’s also the addition of multiplayer co-op, but it hardly seems like an addition since it’s dependent on you having a friend who has both a 3DS and a copy of the game. Chances are you’ll be playing the game solo for the most part.
And while I don’t think the 3DS is a bad system by any means, there’s really no reason for a re-release of Luigi’s Mansion to exist on it; not when it doesn’t really take advantage of the hardware, and not alongside Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon which both looks, and feels better since it was actually designed to be on the system it was made for. This would have been much better as a HD re-release on the Switch, given that system’s portability and controller gimmick which would have justified the multiplayer by making it, you know, PLAYABLE.
Luigi’s Mansion is exactly what it is. If you loved the original on the Gamecube, there’s really no reason not to pick it up, and I could even say that younger gamers who enjoyed Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon should give it a try to see where the series started, but truthfully it’s not really worth owning over its predecessor. It’s a nice dose of nostalgia, and that’s about it.