Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD Preview – Revisiting one of the best 3DS games

Luigi might not light ghost hunting, but after a trio of adventures battling spectral miscreants, it’s pretty clear that he’s a dab hand at it. After the popularity and success of the third game a few years ago, Nintendo has decided to revisit the second game in the series, remastering Luigi’s Mansion 2 (AKA Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon) for Nintendo Switch.

Up until Luigi’s Mansion 3, this series always felt like more of a niche spin-off than a mainline franchise. Sure, the original game was a GameCube launch title and a technical showcase, but what everyone really wanted was a new Mario game. Then, over a decade later, Luigi’s Mansion 2 wasn’t coming to the home console Wii U, but to the 3DS instead – in retrospect, the more significant Nintendo console of the early 2010s.

By far and away the biggest part of Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD is the simple increase in resolution. The 3DS gave just 400×240 per eye, which ensured that pretty much every game on the handheld suffered with huge amounts of aliasing – something only amplified if you went for the larger screened XL machines. Just jumping up to 720p on the Switch screen makes a huge difference to the clarity of the visuals, and it just looks really clean and sharp before you consider any other tweaks and improvements that have been made. Assets have been replaced with higher poly count versions, so there’s more detail on Luigi’s dungarees where you can also see the stitching and denim texture, while there’s a more rounded appearance to his nose or the many door knobs he’ll tentatively reach out to open doors.

That said, you can still see that the framework of the 3DS original is still there in various places. It feels most obvious between missions, when you’re zapped back to Professor E. Gadd’s base, and you’ll notice the flatter lighting across Luigi’s face without the nuanced self-shadowing of the sequel, the short and limited animation loops and more. Put Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD up against its sequel more generally, and you see just how far ahead Luigi’s Mansion 3 is in terms of lighting, atmospherics, the packed environmental detail and just how wonderfully interactive and destructible the environment is. Taken on its own merits, Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD is a good looking game, but you might be left hoping for a little more.

Still, you’ve got the classic Luigi’s Mansion style of gameplay, as you take our scaredy-cat plumber from room to room through a haunted building, each one sure to confront you with mischievous ghosts or some kind of environmental puzzle. There’s secrets and little touches to sniff out in every corner, whether it’s just figuring out how to get through a blocked door by tearing off old wallpaper and peeking through broken slats to see what’s going on inside, spotting another route into the room, or spotting secret jewels that are tucked away in each location. It’s a testament to the game’s design that ostensibly hidden routes through the world feel natural and intuitive to find as you explore, especially as you add things like a darklight to your arsenal of tools.

For the ghost battling, we’re stepping back to before Luigi’s Mansion 3, which had a number of new ideas, such as ghost slamming and Gooigi. Fighting ghosts feels pretty simplistic through the opening manor of the game, with a quick flash from the flashlight weakening them and then just having to simplistically move in the opposite direction while vacuuming them up and waiting to tap A and deal a bunch more damage. Things get a little more complicated if a ghost appears wearing sunglasses, hide in the scenery and try to strike from afar, and the first boss battle leant upon some of the environmental puzzling techniques built up through previous missions.

Oh yes, the missions. Where the first and third games present you with a single environment that you gradually open up and clear of ghosts, Luigi’s Mansion 2 took the portable gaming remit to heart with a mission structure. There’s still cohesive locations to explore, but after you complete an objective, E. Gadd will zap you back to base, you’ll get a mission score and rating, and then be sent back in for the next goal. That allows the game to redress and reset the location’s rooms to a certain extent, so that they could be re-infested with ghosts or suddenly covered in cobwebs that need clearing, but it breaks up the game’s flow into 10-20 minute chunks and is at odds with the rest of the series.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 was absolutely one of the highlights of the Nintendo 3DS library, and with that portable consigned to the history books, it’s great to see it get the remaster treatment for Nintendo Switch. As someone that missed the original release, I’m certainly glad of the chance to play it on a higher powered system and am eager to dive into the later stages of the game.

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