Though I remember really wanting to play Luigi’s Mansion on my family’s GameCube, for one reason or another it was one of the games that we never bought for the console. Mario Sunshine was our Mario Bros. fix, Super Smash Bros. Brawl had me giving up on fighting games, there was plenty of Mario Kart: Double Dash, Viewtiful Joe, Metroid Prime, Wind Waker, Animal Crossing… and yet no Luigi’s Mansion. To be fair, it was really my brother’s GameCube, and I’m sure plenty of you know what sibling rivalries are like!
So it’s both a blessing and something of a curse in how a fresh opportunity to play this cult classic has been afforded to Nintendo fans. Despite the persistent demand for GameCube games on the Wii U’s Virtual Console, the early rumours of GameCube games coming to Nintendo Switch, it’s actually the 3DS in its twilight years that has been graced with a remake of the GameCube launch title. In some ways it makes a lot of sense, as Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon was a major title in the handheld’s early years, but when the Nintendo Switch is getting all of the buzz, it still feels like an odd decision.
The good news is that the game looks and plays very well on 3DS. With no memories of my own and no GameCube version of the game to hand, it was a trip to YouTube that let me compare the original to the remake. And a remake it is, as opposed to a port, with numerous clear visually differences between the two versions. The work was entrusted to Grezzo once more, whose back catalogue includes The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora’s Mask 3D.
Right from the opening cutscene, you see that the game has a much moodier, darker appearance as the lighting has changed. The mansion itself looks much more imposing in this moment, as Luigi skitters his way fearfully to the front door and lets himself in. Though the Luigi character model has been swapped out for the modern, lankier look of the green plumber, it’s actually a step back in terms of poly count, not that you’d really notice in the moment to moment.
The texture work is also a key part of this, and feels more detailed on the whole, even if close up cutscenes and transitions can show the limits of what they were able to achieve. That said, it’s still a big step up over Luigi’s Mansion 2, partially down to the New 3DS hardware and partially from Grezzo’s familiarity with a mature platform. You do still have the small screens and low resolution, which add a shimmer and noise to the graphics that can be a bit too noticeable at times, but the 3D effect is a very natural fit for the Luigi’s Mansion game, where every room and scene is viewed side on and it adds simple depth.
Where it all starts to feel a bit awkward is in the controls. Moving around is easy enough, but trying to petrify and capture ghosts requires that you’re able to quickly turn in order to stun them and then be able to pull in the opposite direction as you hoover them up. Simply put, it’s awkward getting this done despite giving you several different options. When hoovering, Luigi switches to strafing movement on the left circle pad, but holding B lets him turn and move in a direction again – not ideal when you want to be typically move away from the ghosts.
Alternatively, you can use the C-stick nub to turn and use the New 3DS’ additional shoulder buttons instead of the face buttons, but the horizontal sensitivity is too low and slow to be comfortable. Finally, you have the 3DS’ gyro, which can be used alongside the C-stick to tilt the Poltergust 3000 up and down. It’s almost certainly because of this that the sequel’s camera flash-style Strobulb attack has returned as an option, but since ghosts typically appear behind you, that’s still not ideal.
That said, Luigi’s Mansion is still a lot of fun to play. The ghosts are more mischievous than outright malevolent, feeling like a very Nintendo take on Ghostbusters a lot of the time. Every time you enter one of the creepy hallways or rooms, you’re on edge to see where the ghost or ghosts are going to appear, and often have to puzzle something about their idle behaviours in order to spark them into action and catch them. One early example has a spectre peacefully brushing her hair in a mirror, and it’s through vacuuming the curtains away from a broken window that you can disturb her and try to catch her.
Of course, if there’s something that always helps when you’re afraid, it’s having a friend alongside you, and the 3DS version has been enhanced with a co-op mode to add an even greener counterpart to your adventure. We weren’t able to test this, but if you both own the game this opens up the full mansion to explore together, while download play lets you take on Ghost Training and the Portrait Battles mode. Sadly, it’s nothing as ambitious as Luigi’s Mansion 2’s procedurally generated four player mode and can only be played locally.
Freeing Luigi’s Mansion from the GameCube’s back catalogue, Grezzo’s remake of the game for 3DS is fantastic, going far beyond a simple port. That said, the 3DS isn’t always the best home for the ghostbusting action and the controls feel a bit too slow and awkward when it counts.