In the most recent Nintendo Direct, the Big N shocked plenty of fans by announcing a third entry in the Luigi’s Mansion series; while the franchise enjoys a loyal fan base, it was nevertheless a very pleasant surprise. Alongside Luigi’s Mansion 3, a port of the original title to 3DS was announced as well - the perfect way to put the series back in the spotlight, you might assume. How did Luigi’s spooky first outing survive the port to the 3DS, you ask? The differences can be easy to spot, but when you’re playing the game, you’ll hardly notice them. Before we get into the minutiae of what makes this version different, let’s talk about why Luigi’s Mansion is so uniquely suited for the 3DS.
Luigi’s Mansion was first released alongside the shiny new GameCube in 2001. At the time, Nintendo was the subject of much derision for not launching their new purple box with a ‘proper’ Mario title, but as time wore on, gamers grew to love Luigi’s solo outing, and in 2013 the game received a superb sequel on the 3DS in the form of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. When this was first announced, some questioned why the original wasn’t coming to the handheld, and with good reason. The first game had a history with 3D, originally having been designed to be played in stereoscopic 3D on the GameCube before Nintendo scrapped the plans prior to launch due to the cost of the technology at the time.
For those wondering what Nintendo’s plans for 3D GameCube support may have looked like, the answer is now here. The 3DS version of Luigi’s Mansion includes full 3D support, a feature Nintendo seems not to mention very often these days. While we aren’t sure if this is the exact same implementation of 3D that would have appeared in the GameCube version, it feels as though it's the right one. The 3D gives the mansion a sense of depth, which makes revisiting all the old rooms feel fresh and new.
As soon as the game starts, you’ll see the same intro you would have 17 years ago. As Luigi approaches the mansion, lightning crashes around it, crows squawk at each other and Luigi fearfully illuminates the foyer with his trusty flashlight. Once you’re inside the mansion, the much-lauded physics of the GameCube version are present and accounted for. Tablecloths still get drawn into the Poltergust as though they were truly caught in a vacuum. Similarly, the way paper flutters through the air is cool to see and all the more impressive when you remember that this is happening on a portable console this time around. Progress is a wonderful thing.
It all feels very familiar, but if you've played the GameCube version you’ll get the sense that some things are different, even if you’re initially unable to place your finger on it. Compromises were made to get Luigi’s Mansion running on the 3DS, but they're hard to notice at first glance. If you look closely you’ll notice anti-aliasing doesn't seem to be present in this version. Luigi’s model can appear jagged at times, but the small screen on the 3DS hides some of this. Other details, such as Luigi kicking up dust as he runs through the halls of the derelict mansion are either removed or reduced, but these minor omissions don’t impact gameplay in any way, and they're really only noticeable when looking at both versions side by side. Possibly as a result of some of these visual changes, the frame rate appears to be on par with the original as well, making for a level of presentation that in practice feels similar, even if the mechanics are slightly different.
Speaking of mechanics, Grezzo - the team behind this port - has made some changes to make life easier on the more diminutive hardware. While New 3DS models have a second analogue stick to replicate the functionality of the GameCube C-stick, it’s fairly difficult to use to aim the Poltergust. To overcome this issue, the 3DS’s motion controls are used instead. While it took some getting used to, we were up and running with the motion controls fairly quickly. These weren’t the only changes we found in this new version, however. The strobulb and control scheme from Dark Moon are also selectable as options; if you started the series with the sequel, you may find these more suitable for you, but we didn’t find an advantage to either control scheme. Amiibo functionality has also been added, though it seems to be very limited. If you do use amiibo, be forewarned that the changes appear to be permanent. For instance, scanning a Mario amiibo will replace all poison mushrooms in the game with Super Mushrooms, which weren't in the original version. If you're looking for the purist's experience, scanning amiibo may not be in your best interest. Finally, the bottom screen displays the map. We’re in love with having the map on the touchscreen, as it comes in handy when you need to find your way around. We would love it if the map actually updated Luigi's location on the fly as you travel through each room, but we'll settle for the fact that we can at least see it at all times.
Strobulbs and amiibo aside, the biggest change Grezzo has made to Luigi’s Mansion is the inclusion of a co-op mode. Early in the game, you’ll be introduced to Luigi’s new, even greener comrade, whose name we cannot mention here. With a second 3DS (and a second copy of the game), you can have a friend join you to take on the ghosts haunting the mansion. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to try this mode out before launch, but a more limited version of the mode is available via download play, which we thoroughly enjoyed. In it, you can take on some of the game's challenges, but the real attraction is getting to roam the mansion with a friend, which you sadly cannot do with a single copy.
Once you’re past all the new stuff, there’s a wonderful time to be had. The core gameplay is simple; you find ghosts, stun them with your flashlight to expose their heart, then suck them up with the Poltergust. Once you start drawing a ghost into Luigi’s vacuum, it’ll attempt to get away by dragging him all around the room. To combat this you push the analogue stick in the opposite direction the ghost is headed. In the early parts of the game, this is fairly simple as you’ll only need to contend with one or two ghosts at a time, but the game slowly introduces further complications as you travel deeper into the mansion.
Speaking of which, the game is split into areas. At the end of each area is a boss ghost, which will be holding the key required to reach the next area. If you know what you’re doing and where to go, as well as making use of the 'Game Boy Horror' comms device to fast travel back to the Foyer when necessary, you can get through each of the game’s four areas very quickly. An average playthrough of Luigi’s Mansion takes about five or six hours, but it’s the type of game that feels endlessly replayable, due in part to how quickly you can make it through. For us, we found ourselves doing multiplay runs through the game in order to stack up as much cash as we could in order to receive the best possible grade at the end of the game. We won’t spoil it here, but depending on how much cash you can grab during your adventure, you’ll get a slightly different ending.
When Luigi's Mansion launched alongside the GameCube all those years ago, it proved to be quite a divisive game, and not just because Mario was absent from the cover. The short length definitely played into that; people were expecting something as groundbreaking and epic as Super Mario 64, but what they got was a more compact offering which tried to do things differently. As a result, there were some decidedly lukewarm reviews at the time of launch, and while the passage of time has softened critical opinion of Luigi's GameCube debut, some of the complaints do still hold. This isn't quite in the same league as a 'proper' Mario adventure - most of those games present massive worlds to explore and weeks of gameplay. We'd also say that the 3DS sequel is a superior game in almost every respect; even so, there's no denying the quality of this title - despite its brevity, it has more magical moments than most modern games, put it that way.
Luigi’s Mansion proves that there’s still life in the 3DS, even as the Switch seems positioned to become its replacement. This version is so much more than a look at a title from that past. We’re getting to play a lost piece of Nintendo’s history; a game that was originally designed for 3D, but was never fully realised due to the limitations of the technology at the time. After nearly two decades, we're playing Luigi's Mansion as it was originally intended, and it is as fun now as it was when the GameCube launched. If you’ve never played it before, you should definitely pick up this version. If you already have, the added functionality in the 3DS port provides more than enough reason to pick up the Poltergust one more time, although if you're one of those people who found the 2001 original disappointingly shallow (yes, such people actually exist), then this update is unlikely to change your mind, even with the welcome introduction of 3D support.