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Luigi's Mansion - how Mario's brother rewrote the rulebook on GameCube

John Vekinis remembers the GameCube launch game

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.

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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.

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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!


6 comments so far...
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  1. alexjones94 Saturday 23rd Mar 2013 at 10:45

    I was quite young when Luigi's Mansion was first released, so puzzling how to defeat the portrait ghosts was a real challenge for my brother and I. I remember the two of us sat around the television completely stumped, until one of us would have a EUREKA moment and we'd suck the ghost away. It probably took us far longer than most, but it was all the more fun for it. I'm a bit wary of ever returning to it, because I suspect those once taxing puzzles probably seem a bit easy now I've got a bit more gaming experience under my belt.

  2. LavaTwilight Saturday 23rd Mar 2013 at 11:01

    I bought this game with the Gamecube but weirdly enough it was just one of those games I never got round to playing, much to my rue and lamentation. I've made sure I've got number 2 pre-ordered and I'm intent on playing this one to the end :D Hopefully we'll get the first remade for 3DS eshop or at least the WiiU eshop and I'll make it a mission to buy that too!

  3. K-tet Saturday 23rd Mar 2013 at 13:19

    Friday the 28th of March...? Umm, the 28th of March is a Thursday. No games will be released on Good Friday (which is the 29th).

    That aside, the original Luigi's Mansion was going to be the first 3D game of its kind on the Cube, but R&D costs into designing a small 3D screen that clipped onto the back of the Cube didn't make it financially feasible so Nintendo canned the idea. This is also why older Cube's had two visual input ports on the rear of the system (which were dropped in newer models). Luigi's Mansion 2 feels like a very natural transition with this in mind, and it would be nice to see the first LM get re-released in the way it was originally intended. If it ends up as a digital download only via the eShop, then that works too.

    Still, while I'm not overly enthused, it's nice to go back through memory lane. I did pick this up for my Cube back in the day, and it got a lot of playtime. It's a very good game, and something that's also different. It was better than Sunshine, that's for sure.

  4. fluggy2003 Saturday 23rd Mar 2013 at 13:46

    Wow! Loved Luigi's mansion. Graphics still look great with stunning lighting and particle effects. 3 games I was most looking forward to this year were god of war ascension, dead space 3 and Luigi's mansion 2. The first 2 are distinctly average with tacked on, unnecessary multi player. Luigi's mansion 2 on the other hand looks incredible and if the reviews are to be believed it seems like a contender for game of the year. Trust Ninty to deliver... Especially when many predicted this would be their year of demise! Can't wait to play LM2 with niece!!

  5. vix_chan Saturday 23rd Mar 2013 at 16:56

    I love the original, still play it from time to time now.
    Infact, tonight it going to be Luigis Mansion night!
    Goal it to complete it befor midnight!

    Also, i think dispite owning the original, i would concider buying the original on 3DS (retail or eShop) just because i would want to see it in 3D. and i loved the whole capturing portrate ghosts!

  6. haaroon fama123 Tuesday 26th Mar 2013 at 17:34

    i finished it and it was aaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwssssooooooommmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeein the bowser suite it is realy king boo :mrgreen:

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