Talking Point: The Long Suffering Luigi

Green with envy

This week brought some disappointing news for fans of the other mascot brother, the one who wears green and can often be found sitting in the corner, twiddling his thumbs and waiting to get involved. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon was spooked into 2013 in North America, while European release news is still up in the air. Also in the past week we had an NA release date for Paper Mario: Sticker Star, with the main man gracing 3DS handhelds on 11th November, and we’ll assume for now that the European release will be at a similar time.

Ah, some may say, maybe Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon isn’t ready yet, and it’s being finished off to be polished to perfection. We wouldn’t be so sure of that, especially as demos have been at gaming expos since summer 2011, with the playable levels being boosted further at this year’s E3. It would have also made sense for this title to have arrived in time for Halloween, seeing as it features haunted mansions, ghosts and all manner of spooky goings-on. If there was a Nintendo franchise perfectly suited for some harmless fun during the scariest time of the year, then Luigi’s Mansion would surely be it.

Of course, it’s possible that the delay of Dark Moon is to allow development time, and that the new Paper Mario title just happens to be ready first for the busiest shopping period of the year. We would speculate, though, that this is another case of the man in red pulling rank, pointing at his frighteningly intimidating sales figures and saying, “stand down, brother, I’ve got this”. Luigi once again has to doff his green cap and step aside, while Mario gets the glory, attention and, as always, the girl.

Life is tough for Luigi: always player two, always holding the door open and playing second fiddle. In times gone past he was little more than a sidekick, popping up in various adventures as an extra character but never standing on his own two feet. When his big break came, with Luigi’s Mansion, he was finally given star-billing as Nintendo’s launch title for GameCube. It’s an excellent game, with a group of loyal fans, but it was arguably outshone by the graphically stunning Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II, and struggled to match the impact of Nintendo 64’s big launch title, Super Mario 64. It’s also a pity for Luigi, though it’s in no way his fault, that GameCube went on to become Nintendo’s lowest selling home console, trailing in third place behind the PlayStation 2 behemoth and the first Xbox.

Luigi has had plenty of appearances, of course, but the GameCube title is his only starring role to date. He has at least been a named as a co-star in the Mario & Luigi handheld RPG titles, a series that should be compulsory for portable gamers. Unfortunately for Luigi, he’s often portrayed as a frightened, cowardly figure, not a mascot with the heroic determination of Mario. We shouldn’t be surprised of course, as even his own adventure involved being in a state of pure, albeit comical, fear.

Still, Luigi fans have plenty of chances to play as their hero in various games. He features in both Super Mario Galaxy games, for example, and despite struggling to control his gangly legs he actually has the advantage of being able to jump higher than his rather portly brother. He is, likewise, available in Super Mario 3D Land, though his spirits are surely crushed when playing through the final level to rescue Princess Peach. In a touching cut scene, the captured princess sees Luigi enter the room and cries out his name as a warning. The problem? The game appears to use the same animation, so that while Princess Peach’s voice says Luigi, her lips say Mario. Even when “Mr Video Game” — as Mario is apparently known within Nintendo – isn’t on the scene, Luigi still struggles to be recognised as the hero.

Another blot on Luigi’s copybook is that, unfortunately, he’s a bit rubbish in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

But still, we’re looking forward to Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, giving the green brother a chance to steal the headlines. He’s also a mean platformer, who with good control can make jumps and leaps that would leave Mario behind, wheezing and struggling to utter ‘wahoo’, as he often does. Luigi is the champion for underdogs, under-appreciated siblings and for those in the shadow of others. Given the chance he can undoubtedly be a real hero.

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