So, I finally got around to 100% completing Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Be warned that I will be making reference to the original Luigi’s Mansion game as I’ve also played it before. To kick off this review, allow me to share my thoughts on it.
Luigi’s Mansion was released on the Gamecube back in 2001. At the time, I didn’t own the system, so I had to rely on renting it. And while I thought it was a cool, fresh idea to have Luigi star, I couldn’t get into the game itself. Call it lack of skill or interest, but it was a rental I didn’t focus on much. Fast forward to early this year, and I find the game for $15 at my local pawn shop. Knowing that the sequel was on its way and looking really fun, I decided to pick up the original and give it a second chance.
Needless to say, it was the best decision I’d made in a while. The exploration, atmosphere and characters were all great, and even though it was relatively short and combat could be wonky at times, the game was very enjoyable. So, now we come to the sequel, and I feel it was a worthy successor after all these years. But let’s get into the nitty gritty first, shall we?
The story of LM: DM is fairly simple, Professor E. Gadd, a scientist who studies ghosts, is hanging out with some friendly ghosts in Evershade Valley. These ghosts are kept friendly by the mystical force of the Dark Moon, which is literally a crescent moon. One night, the (blatantly obvious) King Boo breaks the moon and scatters its pieces around the valley. This turns all the ghosts into mischievous troublemakers, forcing E. Gadd to recruit Luigi and use his trusty vacuum to capture them all.
The story has some great, funny dialogue and moves along at a good pace. It also references events from the original game, but this is not the kind of game where it’s completely necessary to have played the first. Luigi gets a little more dialogue bits in this one, and E. Gadd is quite frankly more of a jerk but in his own way.
The graphics in this game are gorgeous. In some respects, they’re as cartoony and not quite as cartoony as the original game. Everything looks very smooth and polished, and for the most part the spooky atmosphere is kept intact, be it by a clash of lightning or creepy shadows. I didn’t spend much time with the 3D, as I find it difficult to keep the 3DS steady when playing games like this. But I can say that the depth I saw from it looked great. Rooms seem to expand out and hallways looked like they stretched on forever. The five mansions themselves were all unique and looked great, making it difficult to choose a favorite based on visuals alone.
But what I really loved was the facial expressions this time around. The original LM had fun, silly, stretchy expressions on Luigi which worked well with the style. Here, you see him react accordingly to each situation, be it by trembling when scared or shivering when cold. He also partakes in slapstick humor here and there, giving the game a lot more personality to me. The ghosts themselves also get this, and their expressions work well with their complete lack of dialogue. While I missed the uniqueness of the humanoid portrait ghosts from the first game, the cartoony ghosts in this fit in with the mansions and made for more humor.
The music and sound effects were upgraded big time for the sequel. The original game’s theme song still plays, making for good nostalgia, and the new music is eerie and appropriate for each mansion. Luigi also gets new voiceover bits to liven up the game amidst the noisy screeches, roars and barks of the ghosts. I honestly have nothing else to say – the audio in this game was great.
Once again, we come to the big one and there’s a lot to cover. As in the original game, you use a flashlight to stun ghosts and a vacuum to capture them. The controls took me some getting used to to do this, but it’s pretty easy to pick up on with a few tries. The newest features in this version are the Darklight and Gyroscope controls. The Darklight allows you to uncover hidden objects and capture sneaky Boos. The Gyroscope controls are primarily used for two things: Balancing on wooden beams and optional use for pointing the flashlight/vacuum in different directions. I barely used it for the latter, but you’re forced to use it for balancing a couple times. This can be very annoying, but for the most part all you have to do is set the system down flat and push the control stick forever to make it across.
Unlike the first LM, where you collected keys to access rooms in one mansion, LM: DM has you exploring five mansions in total. However, each one is set up in a mission-based format, usually five missions and a boss per mansion. You complete various tasks within each one, such as chasing down a Polterpup to retrieve a key or escorting a Toad to safety. During these missions, you can also find a gold dog bone which acts as a continue if you lose all your health. At the end of each mission, you’re given a rank based on how much time it took you, how much damage you took and how much money you collected. The ranks are gold, silver and bronze respectively. Once you’ve completed the missions, you go on to battle a boss ghost to retrieve a piece of the Dark Moon.
There are tons of collectibles in this game compared to the first. Money is the most important, as it goes toward your mission rank and also allows you to unlock upgrades for your vacuum and Darklight. To aid in this, they’ve brought back Speedy Spirits (which will disappear if not caught) in the form of Gold Ghosts, which can be ghosts or ghost animals. Gems also return in this game, though there are several in each mansion and all hidden in various spots for you to find. Some involve solving puzzles as well, and others can only be found in specific missions. And as mentioned before, you can also capture Boos in this game. There are 32 in total, typically one in each mission. Collecting all the Boos in one mansion unlocks an additional mission where you try to capture a certain number of ghosts as fast as possible.
And finally, when you complete the majority of the first mansion, you unlock the ScareScraper, aka multiplayer mode. This allows you to play with up to four people locally or online. You can hunt ghosts together, try to find the exit to a floor of the tower, or capture Polterpups. You can also face new versions of ghosts you’ve fought in single player. I still haven’t spent much time in this mode, but be warned that it can sometimes glitch out depending on your connection or others. It’s my least favorite thing in the game, but it works well enough if you have a good group together and steady connections.
Overall, I really enjoyed the gameplay in this one. It’s a step up from the original in terms of controls to me, and I found myself not dying until the very last mansion. That being said, those coming in from the original will be in for a different challenge. The difficulty unfortunately ramps up pretty quickly by the end and it can be frustrating, especially during the Gyro segments. At times, I did wish there was a checkpoint or save system like the original during longer missions. Also, the game as a whole does offer lots of exploration like the original, but it’s a lot more action-packed as well. It’s the kind of game you could rush through, but it’s better to get accustomed to the controls and take some time with it.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is by no means a perfect game, but I consider it an awesome sequel to the original. You have more streamlined controls, more collectibles, more gameplay (this thing can take upwards of 10-15 hours or more to beat), more humor, etc. Even if you’ve never played the first game, I highly recommend giving the sequel a try. My rating for Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a solid 9.5/10.