Luigi has always been my favorite little plumber man, but I never really knew why. For some reason, I always gravitated towards him over Mario. I vividly remember playing Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES as a kid and giving all of Mario’s lives to Luigi and letting him die just so I could play as him instead. I think this all came to a head when the first Luigi’s Mansion came out on the Nintendo GameCube in 2001. I never owned it as a kid, that didn’t happen until I was about 13, but I always looked at it with envy and intrigue because it was a survival horror game I could play without crying. After finally getting my own copy and beating it I fell in love. I loved the atmosphere, the music, the bouncy animation, and the memorable portrait ghosts. Then they came out with a sequel called Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and!……..I didn’t like it as much. Don’t get me wrong though it was still fun and the visuals, charm, and personality beat the original in spades but the mission-based structure and lack of consistency in the atmosphere really held it back for me. I liked it overall but it made me miss the originals style that much more. Then last September Nintendo decided to just announce a third game out of nowhere and of course, I was stoked. It looked like a true return to form and while it kept the dynamic art style of Dark Moon, it had a single location like the original game and it brought back the expressive ghost bosses. Fast forward a year and one playthrough later I can say I am beyond satisfied with what I got but there are still some things that got under my skin a bit.
Let’s start off with my favorite aspect of Luigi’s Mansion 3. This game is positively stunning. Everything from the character animations to the room designs are brimming with life and personality. While I don’t think the atmosphere of the game is as strong as Luigi’s Mansion 1 (A hope that I really should just toss aside) I think it more than makes up for it with the most superb use of lighting and shadows I’ve seen in a Nintendo published game. There are so many little things in the environments too that really went a long way for me. The way almost every object reacts to Luigi’s vacuum is super cool to watch and even more so to mess with. The fact that sand reacts accordingly depending on whether you suck or blow on it and that they designed puzzles around it is extremely fun and almost every floor has a puzzle or hidden item that plays with ideas like that. Characters react to the vacuum accordingly too and it’s really cute to see. Thanks to this aspect I now know Toad’s mushroom head is a hat and that sucks! Everyone also animates beautifully in each cutscene and I would recommend this game for them alone. Seriously this game might be home to my favorite iterations of these characters. Mario and Luigi can barely speak in full sentences and yet they’re both just oozing with personality. The boss ghosts are all super fun too but I wish they all had more dialogue. Outside of Helen (The secondary antagonist) and Morty (The director), none of them really speak. Again, it’s not a huge deal but it would have given them a lot more personality given how strong the writing is in this game. You can tell Next Level Games had a blast working on the presentation for this game and it makes me wish they would get the opportunity to work on some of Nintendo’s other franchises someday.
Or make another Punch Out. I liked their Punch Out game a lot.
Now in terms of gameplay Luigi’s Mansion 3 is kind of a mix of the prior two games with a few added mechanics. Luigi still sucks, blows, and busts like he always has and he retains the Dark-Light device from Dark Moon but NOW he has a plunger! Why does he have a plunger?
Because it’s funny.
In all seriousness, I actually like the plunger a lot because it adds some extra fun to the puzzle-solving and combat. It’s not much but it’s a cute idea. What IS a lot though is the addition of Gooigi. The slime-man acts as an extra tool in Luigi’s arsenal and as a player 2 if you choose to play this game with a friend. I didn’t two out the co-op option personally but I did really enjoy using Gooigi. I hated the awful sounds he made when he entered storm drains but I thought he added an extra layer of depth to the exploration of the hotel. I wish the game required him in combat situations more though because outside of one or two encounters and the final boss you’re never required to use him when it comes to sucking up ghosts but all in all? I like the funny goop man. I hope he sticks around.
Now in terms of general improvements, Luigi’s Mansion 3 chose to distance itself from Dark Moon by actually having a decent structure. Luigi’s Mansion is back to being set in one location and while it isn’t a mansion, it certainly retains the spirit of one. Every floor of the hotel has a specific objective that you have to complete and outside of a few instances of backtracking (I hate you Polterkitty), the game is constantly pushing you forward to the next floor. While I know some may think it’s being too I think it more than makes up for it with how varied each floor of the hotel is. Each floor has a specific gimmick that you have to overcome like exploring a pyramid or climbing a big tree that somehow only takes up one floor. Each floor also has a set number of gems to collect and Boo’s to capture so you’ll always have something to look for and collect on each floor. The game may be short if you’re blasting through the main story but there IS quite a bit to do, especially if you’re playing with a friend.
Now I love a lot of what Luigi’s Mansion 3 introduces to the series and I think the actual game mechanics are fun…but when it comes to playing it? I have a few gripes. For one Luigi walks way too slow for my liking. I get that moving too fast would make the game pretty short in a sense and I know Luigi is supposed to be a “scaredy cat” but he could put a LITTLE more pep in his step considering he’s trying to save his friends. The slow movement can make backtracking for collectibles a bit of a chore and it can get pretty annoying going back and forth between floors sometimes. Something else I had an issue with were the returning gyro controls from Dark Moon. Don’t get me wrong the controls worked most of the time but I always felt like my aiming was slightly off or that I was drifting too low. Maybe if I messed with the sensitivity it could have gelled with me more but it just felt iffy to me in a few instances, ESPECIALLY in portable mode. It probably didn’t help that I was playing with the Switch Pro Controller since the thumbsticks on that thing do not feel comfortable for this game at ALL. The placement of the right thumbstick is really inconvenient considering how often you need to use the face buttons so I found myself have to form my right hand into a claw and that SUCKED. If you’re going to play this game I would really recommend just using the Joy-Cons. I know they’re small but the button and stick placements really do make this game feel a lot better.
One last thing I want to mention is the online component because my experience with it can easily fit into 3 sentences. It’s pretty good! It’s an arcade-style game where you and 3 other players travel up the hotel and rack up the most points. It’s fun, it’s simple, and it’s stable which considering Nintendo’s history with online games is a freaking miracle.
Also, you can play it locally I guess.
So, to summarize, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is well worth your time. It’s a huge step-up from Dark Moon in terms of gameplay and general structure. While I have some qualms with the controls and overall speed it by no means had a lasting negative effect on the game for me. I think Luigi’s Mansion 3 is an absolute joy from start to finish and if you have any affection for the lesser brother I wholeheartedly recommend it.