It's to be expected that as a series continues it should develop in one way or another. In some cases like God of War that evolution can be a very very good thing but in other cases like Gears 5 it can be detrimental to the series moving forward. But it's when a series remains stagnant that it starts to feel less interesting and more like a cash grab than anything else. Luigi's Mansion is a series that hasn’t had much time in the limelight and as a result, has been missing the opportunity to clearly define its personality and what it has to offer. At the launch of the GameCube Nintendo released a genuinely weird game that over the years has become loved by the Nintendo community. Now in 2019 with what should have been a marriage of what made the first two entries in the Luigi's Mansion series good the third outing misses the mark while falling into some familiar pitfalls.
Welcome welcome welcome everyone welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth Production. I'm TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series in which I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the medium as a whole. The GameCube is my favorite console of all time and the game I got on launch day was Luigi's Mansion so it inherently holds a special place in my heart. Now with the third entry in the series, I fear I may be chasing the ghost of what Luigi's Mansion started as. Let's talk about Luigi's Mansion 3.
Of all the things that made the first Luigi's Mansion game so weird, it was the gameplay that stood out the most. Luigi's Mansion was the Mario game Nintendo had to offer at the launch of the GameCube putting the same weight on it's back as Mario 64 and Super Mario World had carried before it. And the gameplay of Luigi's Mansion was different, to say the least. The act of exploring the mansion, sucking up ghosts, and unlocking new areas wasn’t at all what players had come to expect from a Mario game but its something we warmed to none the less. Where the gameplay of Mario was fast, explosive, and bombastic Luigi's Mansion was slow, explorative, and bracing which set the stage for the future of the series.
While many changes have been made to Luigi's very own spin-off series one thing that has always been constant is the core gameplay experience and the new features added to that in this third outing make for the most enjoyable Luigi's Mansion gameplay to date. Luigi's Mansion 3 features less enemy variety but more combat abilities moving the burden of variance from who you're fighting to how you're fighting. New mechanics like the plunger and Gooigi are used to complicate and add a new level of complexity to not only the puzzle-solving but the combat as well. Specifically, these two new mechanics change the combat in the game from being fairly simple and monotonous to being what can easily be described as an actual combat system. And on top of all of this Luigi now has the ability to slam Ghosts either into each other or other items around the room which is just incredibly satisfying.
Combat is excellent in Luigi's Mansion 3 and while isn't the best part of the game it is sadly the most consistent part of the game. The other major part of gameplay in any Luigi's Mansion game is the puzzle solving. Just like combat, the puzzles are at an all-time high for the series but unlike the combat, they don’t stay there. It seems as though for every gratifying gem found behind a 3 step puzzle off the beaten path there is also an offensively obtuse door or hidden pathway needing to be revealed via the dark light that is mandatory to progress. I understand hiding the optional collectibles behind those sorts of barriers with no indication to the fact that it's there. In fact, I would even encourage that behavior as it functions as a type of reward for the completionists of the world. But to have multiple points in the main storyline of the game that required me to look up how to move forward and even after seeing a solution I was still left wondering how I was ignorantly prohibitive at best and maliciously obtuse at worst.
Over the years the Luigi's Mansion series hasn’t really had much of a chance to evolve and carve out its own identity and as a result, the ideations of the audience might not be in line with Nintendo's vision for the future. For a first entry in a new series based on an existing IP the first Luigi's Mansion game had a surprising amount of personality but what really made the game so incredibly engrossing was its Metroidvania like exploration. The game was called Luigi's Mansion and it was entirely about Luigi exploring a haunted mansion on a spooky night. As the player progresses they unlock more and more parts of the mansion having to backtrack throughout all while making mental notes of significant places or doors to unlock. Of all the things the first game did right it was that exploration that it really nailed.
Dark Moon (the second game in the series) was much more straight forward and ran into some trouble when it came to escalation. Like I mentioned before it is expected that with each subsequent entry in a series there is an expectation of escalation and in an attempt to escalate the stakes and environment the developers of Dark Moon moved from a single Mansion to a series of Mansions, a haunted neighborhood if you will. E Gadd's lab functioned as a home base and level select screen dispatching Luigi out to each house for a series of straightforward levels. Audiences were less enthused by this more linear and level-based format and the game was rightfully criticized for it. But what Dark Moon did really well was humor. Dark Moon takes the comedy and character of the first game and amplifies it making what is a much more straightforward game just as if not more enjoyable than its predecessor by being genuinely funny.
Luigi's Mansion 3 sadly takes the worst of both previous games and leaves the individual elements of what made those games good on the cutting room floor. Not only does Luigi's Mansion 3 not live up to the personality and humor of Dark Moon but it somehow displays less character than the first game. Dark Moon features Luigi being hilarious in both cutscenes and gameplay through dialogue (if you can call it that) and body language. In the third game yes Luigi is funny in cutscenes but all that charm from his angst and fear in moment to moment gameplay through body language is gone. We don’t hear the fear in his voice as he calls out for Mario periodically like he did in Dark Moon only when we manually trigger it which the player is never taught how to do. And the biggest shame of the entire game is that the exploration of the first game which would be perfectly suited for a haunted hotel environment is almost entirely forgotten.
The cardinal of Luigi's Mansion 3 is the straight forward nature of the game. While the first game functioned as somewhat of a Metroidvania and the second game was slighted for not doing that same thing it would only be natural to assume and expect the third game to go back to the same exploration style of the first. But instead, the developers opted for a more straight forward level-based format similar to Dark Moon but simply disguised the level select screen as an elevator. The setting of the third game was perfect for a Luigi's Mansion experience similar to that of the first game but what we got was…well, it wasn’t that.
So yes gameplay and combat are miles ahead of the other two games and some minor tweaking in the dialogue and prompts for exploration could have brought some more personality into the mix. But ultimately the missed opportunity of a haunted hotel to explore and learn every nook and cranny of and instead of getting themed levels that the player is very rarely asked to return to just makes it impossible to rank Luigi's Mansion 3 anywhere but at the bottom of the barrel for the series.
Which Luigi's Mansion game is your favorite and why am I wrong? Let me know in the comments down below. Don’t forget to check out everything we do include our movies podcast NoRefunds the podcast that watches bad movies so you don’t have to all in one spot over at ColdNorthPro.com. I'll be back next week talking about something else entirely so until then just go play some games!