It's Luigi week on ONM. As we build up to the release of Luigi's Mansion 2 on Friday 28 March, we'll be celebrating the life of the other Mario brother in a series of special features. Yesterday we looked at the ups and downs of Luigi with our profile of a plumber and today John Vekinis goes back to the beginning to celebrate the moment when Luigi truly stepped out of his brother's shadow in the original Luigi's Msnion.
The very first time you clapped your eyes on a Luigi's Mansion screenshot, you may have been forgiven for expecting another standard 3D adventure from a Mario brother. If Mario had welcomed the world to the glory of N64 by exploring Peach's Castle, Luigi seemed to be doing the same for GameCube. Only his home was far darker. Still, it appeared to be Nintendo's way of showing off how Gamecube's graphics were a step up from N64. It worked.
However, when you opened the door to Luigi's Mansion, everything wasn't quite as it seemed. It turned out to be an incredibly interesting game, one that refused to be stuck in Mario 64's shadow. Mario was missing but thankfully Luigi's breakthrough moment didn't bring back memories of Mario Is Missing, Luigi's first moment in the spotlight.
From the get-go, Luigi's Mansion resembles a fairground haunted house; the whole game is set in a haunted mansion and there are mirrors everywhere. The real success of the game doesn't come from its labyrinthian mansion design or confounding mirrors though but rather how it manages to flip gaming conventions on its head. It looks a bit like a platformer but the first time you press the A button, Luigi doesn't jump or pull off an attack or jump like in any normal game. Instead, he simply calls out for his brother, setting you up for something a little bit different.
This was a game that took risks. The fact that Luigi was launching a console rather than Mario was a big risk in itself but this is a game that eschews fast-paced gameplay in favour of a more slow-burning and creepy experience as Luigi trots around the mansion.
The game was all about atmosphere. You had the mirrors and groundbreaking (at the time) lighting, an although its charm prevents it from being truly scary, the creepy organ music lent it a spooky vibe. Admittedly, it would be pretty hard to make a scary game when the protagonist is a green, vacuum cleaner wielding, mustachioed plumber.
Luigi's Mansion also had an outstanding sense of humour: little things like hiding an exploding ghost mouse in a block of cheese which releases money and using a "Gameboy Horror" as a mapping device were nice touches which prevented the game from taking itself seriously.
What made Luigi's Mansion really excel was its bursts of speed. The normally slow-burning game would dish out frantic bursts of speed when you were sucking in ghosts, keeping you on your toes. This spike in excitement made this game a classic in my eyes. It never got dull and from start to finish Luigi's Mansion was an up and down rollercoaster which had an unpredictability I had never seen in a game before...
It was just a shame that the finish came too soon as this was a short game, even if it did tempt you back in to get a higher rating.
So I for one will be waiting for Luigi's Mansion 2, even if it's just to relive one of Nintendo's most quirky and out-there games they've ever released.
Do you have fond memories of Luigi's Mansion? Share them below!