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Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon Review (Nintendo 3DS)
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon on the 3DS
Review by 
8.5/10 from 23 user ratings
The original Luigiís Mansion was, I believe, the first game that I saw images of for the Nintendo Gamecube. Because this was during a dark age before I discovered video game websites, I didnít really follow the game closely, and for one reason or another I assumed that it was basically just a Mario platformer, but starring Luigi in a mansion for some inexplicable reason. That seemed neat enough to me. Yet that it was not; Luigiís Mansion was a different beast entirely. The game released to decent but not amazing reviews, I skipped over it at launch, and when I finally played it a half a year later, my impression of the game was that the reviews were pretty accurate. It was fun for what it was, but it did not stick with me in any lasting way.

However, when the 3DS sequel was announced, it instantly caught my attention. I canít really explain why, other than the fact that I liked the idea of Luigiís Mansion, I just felt that the execution of the original game had left a bit to be desired. Twelve years later and with a completely new development team behind it (Next Level Games, the developer behind the Punch-Out!! revival on the Wii, among others), this seemed to me like a good chance for the Luigiís Mansion concept to finally meet its full potential.

Luigi is not exactly your typical alpha male, but he gets the job done.

Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon kicks off with Luigi getting an unwelcome contact from his old friend Professor E. Gadd, who is having some ghost troubles. Apparently E. Gadd had been living in relative harmony with the ghosts in Evershade Valley due to something called the Dark Moon, which can be thought of as Ritalin for ghosts; it calms them down and keeps them from acting out. The dark moon has been shattered, however, and the ghosts are running amok. E. Gadd tasks Luigi (somewhat against his will) with seeking out the various pieces of the Dark Moon to restore order to the valley. But what to do about the ghosts he runs into along the way? Suck them up with a modified vacuum cleaner called the Poltergust 5000, of course! Itís not the most amazing story ever, but the dialog is fun and even clever at times, such as when E. Gadd decides to call Luigiís DS a ďDual ScreamĒ, or when he mentions to Luigi that if ghost hunting doesnít work out, Luigi may have a future as a plumber. You gotta love the self-referential humour.

The controls are pretty straightforward at first, although once you acquire a few of the attachments to your vacuum cleaner they can get a bit tricky. Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon uses the x button both to aim up and for various context sensitive commands, and it can be a bit annoying when you are trying to aim up and Luigi opens a drawer or shakes a vase instead. Itís also a bit odd to me that you canít turn and use your vacuum cleaner at the same time, which may or may not be due to the lack of dual analog controls, although once I got used to it I didnít mind the more focused approach to busting ghosts. And any minor complaints aside, boy, is busting ghosts ever fun! Nothing feels more gratifying than popping a strobe to stun the ghosts, getting them hooked in your beam, and fighting hard (pulling away from the ghosts) to drain their power before sucking them in. Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon nails the ghostbusting controls, creating a smooth and satisfying core mechanic at the heart of the game.

Come on Luigi. Let a ghost have some privacy, will ya?

Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon is a beautiful game, although, due to the theme, the environments can be a bit overly dark at times. One area in which the game particularly excels are the animations. The characters are chock full of charisma, especially the ghosts, where the movements and facial expressions capture the vibe of playful mischief perfectly, such as when Luigi gets the water running and they ride down a wave of water like a waterslide. The 3D effect is nicely done and even helps out a bit at times (especially during a certain boss with hanging spiders that must be avoided), although due to the dark environments, there can be a bit of (no pun intended) ghosting at times, and there are some tilt mechanics in the game that can ruin the 3D effect. These are generally either optional or rare, so this isnít a huge deal or anything, but it can be a slight annoyance.

The soundtrack fits the mood perfectly, bouncing between what I can only describe as light-hearted scary music and, at times, not so light-hearted music that could almost find a home in a more serious horror game. The sound effects are pretty spot-on as well, with plenty of creaks and groans that help add to the feeling of being alone in a creepy mansion. There are some neat little touches here, such as when Luigi nervously hums along to the music playing in the background.

Although Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon is still similar to the original Luigiís Mansion at its heart, it has been enhanced and expanded upon in many ways. Two of the most noticeable changes are that there are now multiple mansions to explore (five, to be exact), each with their own unique theme or environment, and that exploration now takes place within the confines of distinct missions at each mansion, with Luigi rendezvousing at E. Gaddís bunker at the end of each mission to recuperate and plan for the next one. Personally I enjoyed the mission structure, as it gives context to your actions, helps with pacing, and allows for the mansions to change significantly while you are away (for example, you may leave at the end of one mission and come back to a spider infestation or plant overgrowth), but there are some annoyances connected to the mission structure as well. Not only does it limit exploration a bit, but the missions are fairly long without any way to save your game until completing them, and they often end abruptly, with no option to explore further, which can get in the way of discovering all of the extras your first time through a mission. A simple ďare you ready to come back yet?Ē from E. Gadd that lets you choose to return or keep playing on a bit at the end of each mission would have been a great addition, but alas, it is not present. Furthermore, although most of the missions are pretty distinctive, there are a handful of weaker missions that involve chasing a ghost dog through places that you have already been, and these missions donít really add too much to the game.

Remember that game "Ghost in the Graveyard"? Yeah.

You can view the core gameplay as consisting of two interconnected parts; it is both an exploration / puzzle game (figuring out where to go and how to get there), and an action game (busting ghosts and other assorted creatures along the way.)

On the exploration / puzzle side of things, you will generally (but not always) be given a specific task to do in a specific room in the mansion that you are currently exploring. However, it is a rare case that you can just walk straight to that room. Oh no. Not only are the mansions a bit obtusely designed with plenty of secret paths to find and puzzles to solve along the way, but the ghosts are often working their hardest to obstruct your progress. One thing I loved about Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon is that, contrary to my expectations coming into a Nintendo title, there is little to no hand holding involved. You may have an idea of where to go next, but figuring out the path to get there and solving the puzzles along the way are generally left up to the player.

Most of the puzzles are self-contained in a single room, although this is not always the case, especially in the later mansions. Some of these puzzles fall under the umbrella of what you may think of when you hear the word ďpuzzleĒ in the context of a video game; placing items on switches to open doors, watering plants to make them grow, melting ice to get past it, etc. Not to make these puzzles sound derivative, they definitely have their own little twists to them. However, Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon also has many puzzles that fall more into the environmental / observation category, which is where I think it stands out a bit more. The game will often play visual tricks on you, and sometimes the way to progress requires springing some trap door, seeing through a fake wall, or utilizing your Dark-Light device (an attachment to the Poltergust 5000 that lets you see objects that have been made invisible), among other things.

There is never a bad time for a good thumb-wrestling match!

Additionally, there are several Toads that you must rescue across the mansions and guide back to safety. Although these kind of escort missions can be annoying in some games, they work in Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon by changing up / adding to the way that you interact with the environment and solve puzzles. For instance, you will run into a patch of ice that can only support the weight of one body at a time. This would be easy enough to cross with just Luigi, but how do you get the Toad across? This is just a simple example, and the game takes the escort dynamic quite a bit further at times.

There are a couple of neat ways that you can use the Poltergust 5000 in Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon, but as these are limited in number, Iíd prefer not to spoil them all. Suffice to say, you will be doing a bit more than just sucking up ghosts with it, and at times it will help you move around the environment in some very creative ways.

And of course, running parallel to the exploration and puzzles is the action element, the ghostbusting. Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon has a variety of ghosts that you will encounter along the way, each of them with their own unique traits. One type of ghost focuses on possessing whatever it can find in the room and using it to attack, another hides in items and pops out to throw things at you, etc. As I stated above, the ghostbusting is very fun, due to the smooth controls at the center of it, and it is rarely overly difficult, although missions can be long and health can be sparse, so I still found myself struggling to survive at times. There are also a few other creatures in the mansions who can cause you harm, including rats, spiders and crows, among others. And of course, there are boss fights to cap everything off. I felt that the boss fights were pretty unique and generally well done, although I think that they start off a bit weaker and get better as the game progresses.

Everything in life is better with a friend! Or two, or three.

If you want more beyond merely completing the missions, there are all kinds of secrets to be discovered across the various mansions. Most secrets will result in acquiring cash (to be used to upgrade the Poltergust 5000) or health, but there are also a few warps to some timed treasure grabs, thirteen collectable gems scattered about each mansion (often found by solving unique puzzles), as well as a single hidden Boo in each mission. If you find all of the Boos in any given mansion, you will unlock a bonus mission for that mansion, although these bonus missions essentially all come down to the same thing; run through the mansion busting a large amount of ghosts as fast as you can. Still, itís a nice change from the slower paced regular missions.

The biggest addition to Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon, however, is the ScareScraper, which contains three unique modes (Hunter, Rush, Polterpup) that can be played with 1-4 players either online or locally (single-cart or multi-cart). Each of these modes has its own focus, whether it be ghostbusting, speed, or exploration, and they can be played at various lengths and difficulty levels, but they all involve rushing through multiple floors of a randomly generated tower, culminating in a boss fight at the top. I have been very pleased with the ScareScraper so far, and it manages to capture a nice mixture of competitive and cooperative play. And if you want more challenge that the main mode of Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon can provide, expert difficulty level is tough, even with helpers! Oh, and unlike many local multiplayer games on Nintendoís handhelds, the single-cart mode has practically everything that the multi-cart and online modes have, which is very much appreciated.

I may not have been the biggest fan of the original Luigiís Mansion, but Luigiís Mansion: Dark Moon has made a believer of me. This is a sequel that surpasses the original on nearly every measurable level, including the humour and charm, the variety of environments, the quality of the puzzles and exploration, the more satisfying ghostbusting, and the increased amount of extras to be found. And letís not forget the ScareScraper, an entirely new set of modes that can be played either locally or online, greatly increasing the replay value. Next Level Games is now two for two on Nintendo franchise revivals in my eyes (Punch-Out!! for the Wii being the first) and I canít wait to see what Nintendo ropes them into next!

And this is why my review is so late...

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Posted: 04/12/13, 21:16  - Edit:  04/12/13, 22:51
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I went today to go buy this for my niece's birthday tomorrow and it was sold out at my local Walmart and Gamestop. WTF.

Posted by 
 on: 04/12/13, 21:54
It seems Nintendo has underestimated the demand of a couple of recent 3DS titles. Maybe this is a good sign, in some ways? Some of these titles are probably outperforming expectations.

Of course, another theory I have heard is that Nintendo is specifically limiting retail copies to try to drive people to the eShop. Not sure if I believe that one.

Posted by 
 on: 04/12/13, 22:53  - Edit:  04/12/13, 22:53
Good review, Zero! I am still on the third mansion (I keep dying at the final phase of the boss, what is WRONG with me?!?!) but I agree with most of your assessment.

I do, however, enjoy the "chasing the dog" missions. There's something simple about them that is freeing, after all the puzzle-solving.

Posted by 
 on: 04/12/13, 23:25
Great review for a great game, but I'd have scored it a perfect 10, I love it that much.

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 00:00
I love this game, still playing it and my god it is awesome.

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 02:10
Nice! I don't own this game yet, but I'm anticipating a similarly good time.

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 02:15
Nice review! I'm still fairly early in the game but I'm enjoying it quite a bit. The ghost-busting mechanic and Scarescraper modes are particularly well-done and keep me coming back.

I do kind of miss the slightly eerier elements of the first game, such as the humanoid mini-boss ghost fights and the excess of dark, dreary rooms, but Dark Moon really steps up the variety and personality to sort of make up for that.

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 02:39
I'm glad this game turned out well. I loved the original.

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 02:59
Played this game for a bit a few days ago... apparently my 3DS battery only lasts for about two hours. But I like what I played of it!

I agree with Triforcebun, I liked how almost-scary the first game was. I also like having one big mansion to explore and not have to leave. This game should have been called Luigi's Mansions! I think it would be cooler to have one giant mansion with a bunch of different environments in it than a themed mansion for each one.

That said, I'm liking the game! Excited to play more. It kind of reminds me of Zelda so far. (And hey, in Zelda, the dungeons aren't split up into missions!)

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 03:00
@TriforceBun There are a few genuinely creepy moments in this one. Nothing overly scary, but some stuff that made me a bit on edge.

@Secret_Tunnel Hmm, I dunno, I think it breaks up nicely, and it'd be hard to explain all of these things being in one mansion. Plus, one of the mansions is kind of a "museum" with a variety of environments so you sort of get a bit of that.

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 03:15  - Edit:  04/13/13, 03:21
I quite love Dark Moon It's certainly giving FE: Awakening a run for its money as best 3DS release this year so far!

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 03:56
Awesome review. If I had more time for gaming I would have already purchased this!

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 05:11
I just realized this is the second highest score I have given out for a retail 3DS game, after Super Mario 3D Land. Seems about right to me, although there are a bunch of 3DS games that are all basically around the same quality (for different reasons) in my mind. Kid Icarus: Uprising, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and Mario Kart 7 are all up there too. But Luigi's Mansion may very well edge them out.

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 05:35  - Edit:  04/13/13, 05:49
I've heard so much good stuff about this game. RFN said it was a pretty good game, though they miss the large exploreable mansion. Weekend Confirmed was simply gushing about it. So much that they talked about it for two episodes. I have a friend who has it and she's itching for me to play it.

I have it on the way through Gamefly. It had a very low availability so it took like two days to finally ship. I can't wait to play it. Maybe I'll get it tomorrow before work; if not, Monday.

Hey @Zero, are there any spotpass/streetpass features?

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 09:32
Hmm, didn't see any StreetPass / SpotPass stuff. If it's there, it's all stealth-like.

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 09:41
@Zero I checked right after I posted and there are none.

Posted by 
 on: 04/13/13, 10:17
I finished this game recently, and I have to agree with the praise you've given the game, Zero, for the most part.

I did love the humor in this game. Luigi's animations are awesome, he's such a character! And I like the conversations between Luigi and the Prof. in between missions. Good stuff.

I do wish there was less gameplay interruption with the Prof. calling Luigi too often (so it seems). Sometimes I barely even do anything before he calls Luigi again!

Zero said:
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon nails the ghostbusting controls, creating a smooth and satisfying core mechanic at the heart of the game.

Very true!

Unlike you, Zero, I didn't find the environments to be overly dark. Sure, they're dark, but I didn't run into any issues where this brought down the quality of the graphics or 3D effect. As a whole, the visuals in this game are amazing. For example, the 3D effect looking deep into this tunnel is amazing:

Miiverse post

I do like the mission structure, but yeah, it does mess up the exploration when you get kicked out of the level even when you wanted to continue exploring.

Multiplayer ScareScraper is very fun indeed!

One thing I didn't like about the game were some of the boss stages. Most of them were great and a lot of fun, but oh my, that second boss room with the stairway (Miiverse post) and that fourth boss where you ride the vehicle and throw bombs deep into the tunnel (Miiverse post) were not fun, sorry.

Something else I had trouble with in this game was using the dodge button effectively, especially when fighting the 'fat' ghosts. I would be sucking them in, they would throw a projectile at me, and even though I would pull away from them when pressing the B button, Luigi would always simply jump toward the ghost and end up getting hit. I died many times this way. I guess... the dodge move wasn't the best solution against these particular ghosts??? (Miiverse post).

Despite these issues, the game was fun. Yeah, Year of Luigi! I'm not going to bother going for 100% though.

Posted by 
 on: 01/03/14, 17:56  - Edit:  01/03/14, 18:00
This isn't really news per se, but Next Level seems to love working for Nintendo. And it sounds like they're basically an exclusive Nintendo developer, for now anyway.

"We are doing only Nintendo products now."

Have you thought about working with anybody else?

Jason Carr: We have worked with a lot of other companies before, and we're super happy with our relationship with Nintendo. There's no reason to look anywhere else. They keep giving us better and better IP to work with, and as long as we do our job and make good games for them there's no reason for us to venture out.

Because we're still a small shop. We're under 70 people. We like that size. For us, we're like, why would you want to go and talk with these other guys? What's it doing for your business? The guys in the company are just really, really proud of the company and proud of the games they work on.

Posted by 
 on: 01/09/14, 18:30
@Zero yeah, read that this morning. So glad to see NLG succeeding with Nintendo and apparently doing so with healthy work-life balance. I like the sound of Nintendo giving them "better and better IP to work with." Looking forward to whatever they do next.

Posted by 
 on: 01/09/14, 19:50
@Zero It probably doesn't hurt that the games they've developed for Nintendo have sold better than anything else they've produced.

Posted by 
 on: 01/11/14, 02:03
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