If nothing else, I am a hopelessly devoted fan of the Luigi’s Mansion series. The original was one of the first video games I remember playing on the GameCube (along with Super Mario Sunshine, which is criminally underrated and deserves a sequel for the Switch), and its spooky-with-a-side-of-cute flavor captured my heart from day one.
Now that was in 2002. 17 whole years later, I still love this weird green man and his reluctant ghostbusting gig, and it gives me all kinds of joy to say that Nintendo knocked Luigi’s Mansion 3 out of the park!
Like the previous two games, the premise of Luigi’s Mansion 3 is straightforward: you play as Luigi, armed with a vacuum that traps ghosts, and you’re trying to free Mario and friends from paintings, where they’ve been trapped by King Boo. In some ways, this means Luigi’s Mansion 3 isn’t terribly different from its predecessors.
But this time, we’re not investigating a mansion won in a giveaway Luigi never entered, or a series of mansions discovered by Professor E. Gadd. This time, it was supposed to be a relaxing vacation at a swanky resort hotel.
This time, there are 17 whole floors to explore.
When I say that I GASPED when I saw how much was ready for me to wander through, vacuuming all the breakables and collectibles in sight, I do mean that I gasped. 17 whole floors is a DREAM to explore, especially given the care that went into making each one suit a theme once you got past the plain old hotel tutorial floors (they’re short floors, never fear, you get the themed goodies soon enough!). I was in awe of the way they managed to make the Boo puns suit each floor, not to mention pleased that they carried on the tradition of giving the Boos you capture the most TERRIBLE pun names ever, and the music was reworked floor by floor, while still keeping the series’ core musical theme at its center. From a design standpoint, visual and sound alike, this game is a treat (and yes, my favorite floor is the pirate-themed one; if you’ve seen the boss ghost, and if you know that I just like pirates, you’ll understand why).
Plus, the animation for the characters had a little extra life to it, more so than the last two games! You really got the full impact of every panicked expression Luigi wears (and the smiles for cuter moments, like when he pets his very good ghost dog, Polterpup), and it comes down to subtle details in squashing facial features and adding slight hints of texture to make it more expressive and cartoony. Major props to the folks behind this!
(Extra props to the folks who animated Mario, especially his late-game appearances. They highlighted the differences in attitude toward danger between Mario and Luigi so well, and I’m STILL laughing about it.)
Anyway, another major improvement is the way the game progresses. While the series has always been a little linear, requiring you to fight most boss ghosts in a certain order so that you unlock the next area in a certain order, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon threw out the more open layout of the original Luigi’s Mansion in favor of a structure like the original Mario Bros games. I couldn’t STAND running missions in the World 1-1 format, and it made Dark Moon unbearable for me, which was tragic, since I wanted to like it.
THIS TIME, though. THIS TIME, we’re back to a more free style of movement! You still have to tackle the floors in a relatively fixed order, but you’re free to move between unlocked floors whenever you like, and there’s no worrying about whether or not this collectible or that character will be available in the mission you’ve selected. It may be linear all the same, but it’s much more freeing and much more like the original game, which makes it better in my book.
Another awesome feature that they added this time around is a series of achievements! Some of them are actually pretty tough, so tough I still haven’t achieved them, but they’re fun to collect. I’m also a huge achievements nerd (nothing satisfies me like a checklist, if I’m being honest), so that explains my excitement, but still! Achievements!
And easily the unexpected highlight of the game, star of the show, we have…Gooigi.
You may ask why I’ve looked at the sentient Jello version of our beloved hero and decided that he was the star instead. You’re probably right to ask that. But Gooigi is a silly and inventive new feature that allows you to play co-op from pretty early in the game (you unlock that near the end of the tutorial content), and he’s a critical feature to solo play as well. Plus, he’s just a squishy, unperturbed version of Luigi, and the cut-scenes they share together are INCREDIBLE and full of delight. I didn’t expect to like Gooigi so much (to tell the truth, I worried he was going to be an annoying new mechanic), but he ended up being entirely endearing and adding a fun new element overall.
Really, there were only two things about the game that I took issue with. One was the amount of personality the boss ghosts have. On the one hand, they have plenty, and it shows in spades during their cut-scenes (which are STELLAR, again, kudos to the folks doing the animation) and their boss fights. On the other hand, I really miss the way the original gave you short lore blurbs about each major ghost, and how the ghosts all connected to one another and had a reason to be in the mansion. This time, save for the simple and somewhat boring explanation of “they were invited by the big bad,” I can’t see much reason for the distinct boss ghosts to all be in this hotel, and I miss that little extra lore touch.
The other thing that bothered me was the final boss fight. In a game that is otherwise fun and moderately challenging, but never outright frustrating or difficult, the boss fight introduced some incredibly punishing elements that killed my enjoyment of those final moments. It took me seven tries to beat the final boss even though every other boss in the game required only a single attempt from me, and I found that level of difficulty scaling more than a little extreme. My sister says she had better luck and only needed three or four tries, but that still strikes me as unusually difficult for a game that otherwise doesn’t demand a high level of skill.
And since I don’t want to spoil the final fight too much, I’ll say only this much more on it: timer elements in boss fights are cruel and I hate them, especially when there’s nothing you can do but let the timer tick down while waiting and waiting and waiting for the opponent to choose the one attack you’re actually able to counter. From a pool of five attacks. 😒
That said, I wouldn’t let the difficulty of the boss fight discourage you from the game if you’re interested. That one gripe aside, it really is a phenomenal, fun, vibrant game, and I had a BLAST avoiding NaNoWriMo by playing it!
Plus, if you have Nintendo Switch Online, you can play in the ScreamPark or ScareScraper, two features I’ve not yet personally tested. ScreamPark appears to be a more mini-game based multiplayer option, while the ScareScraper returns from Dark Moon, the online co-op ghostbusting experience.
On the whole, while Luigi’s Mansion 3 can’t outshine the original (listen, I’m an original LM devotee and you can’t change my mind), it packs an incredible punch, delivering hours and hours of joyful gameplay in the form of DIY ghostbusting. If you have a Switch and some spare time and the itch to explore a haunted hotel, I really cannot recommend it highly enough. And if you’re a chicken like me, never fear: Luigi is more of a chicken than both of us combined, I promise. You’ll be okay. 👻💚
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