Won’t Stay Puffed –
Nintendo has kicked off the “Year of the Luigi” with Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon for the Nintendo 3DS. A true sequel from the Gamecube cult favorite, Luigi once again is tasked with busting ghosts and saving the day.
Professor E. Gadd forces Luigi to help restore the shattered Dark Moon which has caused all the spirits in the land to become aggressive. Just like the original Gamecube launch game, Luigi is frightened at everything, is an unlikely hero, and even nervously hums along to the game’s soundtrack. If nothing else, Luigi’s Mansion oozes charm with typical Nintendo first party quality.
Dark Moon was created for a portable environment as the game is broken up into individual stages as opposed to one grand adventure. This is sounds ideal but is severely dampened from the lack of a save-anywhere feature. Some stages can take 30-40 minutes which makes not having the ability to save willingly a major oversight.
This 3DS exclusive is essentially an adventure game as most rooms and stages require some type of environmental puzzle to be solved in order to progress. Whether it is using dark light to restore a hidden object, launching a Toad onto a platform, or watering a plant, Dark Moon forces the player to think often in unconventional ways. Sometimes the solution is not always visible which can lead to getting “stuck,” hence some stages can take a while to complete. Replay value also comes in the form of earning a higher score by finishes stages faster, not taking damage and finding higher amounts of gold. Most stages contain secret gems to collect and hidden Boos to defeat. These extras will either be loved or completed ignored depending on player dedication. There is no substantial reward for painstakingly collecting everything the game has to offer either.
Combat, although charming, is not without its flaws. Ghosts must first be stunned by warming up Luigi’s flashlight like a shotgun blast then suctioned inward with the R button. The control scheme seems skeptical at first, but using the face buttons to control the two types of flashlight lights as well as aiming vertically actually works quite well. Sucking up ghosts is just like tugging on a fishing line; the player must hold the analog stick in the oppose direction to reel in the spirits. This combat system is rather clever but is frustratingly unfair when facing multiple opponents. Outside of an awkward diving option, the player has little to no control of Luigi’s direction when inhaling a ghost. Other nearby enemies take full advantage of this vulnerability by attacking when the player has no control of Luigi, resulting in unfair combat scenarios that are frustrating. Perhaps this is what the developers were hoping for as group attacking enemies simultaneously is really the only way to clear some battles. Bosses are also a culprit of this “hit him while he is down” mentality. One later boss is different from the rest as Luigi must launch cannon balls at an ice monster while sliding down a tunnel; this fight particularly seemed buggy as launching that final cannon shot into this monster’s mouth failed to register on multiple occasions.
For the most part, the main quest will probably take around a dozen hours to complete; add on several more if you are planning on collecting every secret. The ending is reminiscent of the original Gamecube title and is rather predictable.
In addition to the single player campaign, there is also local and online multiplayer modes. Up to four players can play through a series of stages cooperatively but with a competitive flare and incentive for earning more points than your buddies; this mode actually reminded me a lot of Zelda Four Swords. This multiplayer mode will not set your 3DS on fire but is worthy enough to sink a few hours into… that is, if you can find a stable online connection. Trying to join an online lobby is the biggest hurdle to overcome as I received connection errors for the first dozen attempts to connect. Giving up, I had much better success creating my own room and waiting for randoms to join. Unfortunately, I was never able to finish a full game without another player dropping out. But this could potentially happen when playing any online game. Perhaps it would have been more beneficial if there was some type of penalty in place for early quitters to help keep players in the game.
Graphically, Dark Moon uses the 3D effect rather well and each of the five mansions have be created with care and variety. The baby-like speech of the Professor and Luigi’s constant quivering one-liners create an outstanding sense of personality. Familiar tunes also echo in every hallway and the crackling laugh of a Boo provides a sense of warning that many other games should strive for. On the other hand, the load times are longer than you would think and waiting for the pixelator at the beginning and end of each stage gets old rather quick.
Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon certainly is a quality gaming experience for Nintendo’s 3D handheld but it is not without its flaws. Combat can be frustratingly cheap and most players will likely to get stuck on more than one occasion, but charm and personality help overlook these issues. It is not the killer game Luigi fans might have been hoping for, but at least Luigi gets to take center stage for a change.
Better Than: Mario Is Missing
Also Try: Rygar (Wii/PS2)
Wait For It: Super Luigi U