The Gamecube is an odd console when measured against the other consoles in Nintendo's history. For one, it was the first of their systems to launch without a Mario platformer, a move which some claim was ill-advised, given the competitive state of the market at the time, when the 'Cube seriously needed early adopters. But the Gamecube launch was not completely absent of Big N's star franchise; we got another thing that was very odd and certainly different. A survival horror game featuring Mario's little brother. It was ultimately overshadowed by other launch titles such as Wave Race: Blue Storm and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 2, and was criticized for not being a "true" Mario franchise title. So, were the ignorant hordes right on that claim, or, like Luigi himself, can Luigi's mansion stand on its own? If you couldn't already tell from the previous sentence, the answer is the latter.
In Luigi's Mansion, you obviously play as Luigi, who has to work his way through said mansion, sucking up ghosts in his Poltergust 3000 vacuum. You go through 23 different boss ghosts in the house, along with 50 mini-boss Boos. The combat system is really something unique and fun; to capture a ghost, you must quickly shine it with a flashlight, then suck it up with the Poltergust, holding the control stick in the opposite direction, until the ghost's HP reaches 0. Boss ghosts, however, take a little more cunning; they will usually disappear when you look in their direction, so you must figure out their unique weakness before you have a chance at fighting them. It is a very interesting gameplay mechanic that integrates puzzle gameplay into action gameplay. It never gets old, especially when Luigi acquires fire, ice, and water power-ups later in the game, adding other layers of strategy to the process. It is always satisfying when you defeat a boss, especially some of the later ones. As I said before, there also mini-bosses in the form of Boos, that, while not as difficult to catch as boss ghosts, escape if not caught on the first try. The gameplay is overall just very fun; I would say that this is the closest we will ever get to a good Ghostbusters game, but since a new one was released a while back, I can't say that anymore.
In Luigi's Mansion, Luigi is sent a letter saying he has won his own mansion, despite never entering any contest in the first place. Mario gets the letter before Luigi, and finds it suspicious, so he goes to investigate. Luigi is worried when Mario does not return for a while, and finds the letter himself, and also goes to look. Upon arrival, he finds that the mansion is haunted. Inside, he is attacked by some ghosts, and is saved by Professor E. Gadd, who fights off the ghosts using a special vacuum he invented called the Poltergust 3000. They both run back to Gadd's house afterward, where he tells Luigi not only that the mansion only appeared a few days ago, but that Mario is trapped inside. Thus, Luigi volunteers to use the Polturgust to rid the mansion of ghosts, and save his brother. See? The game has a story! But, that's about it; not that it matters in an action game. It does have that distinctive Nintendo charm, which is evident throughout the entire game. The story in Luigi's Mansion is not anything special, but like I have said for all action games, it doesn't need to be. Simplicity is key.
I have good news and bad news here. The bad news is that there really isn't much music in Luigi's Mansion. It is mostly just silence and sound effects. The good news is that when there IS music, it is very well-done, and sets the eerie, yet comical mood quite well. It is certainly creepy, but not in a Resident Evil sort of way; it is certainly a more lighthearted horror game, so the music must reflect that. If only there were a bit more music, though. Maybe I'm missing something, and horror games don't need a lot of music, but I think I'm on the mark. The sound effects, however, are very well-done, and take advantage of the Gamecube's audio capabilities. The fidelity is great, and it really helps immerse you in the game. I know I've said this before, but since the 'Cube was the first Nintendo game console to use discs, audio quality took a huge leap from cartridge audio quality. That's not to say that cartridge audio is bad; quite the opposite, because we all know that it is isn't the quality of the audio file, but the artistic quality of it that matters. Luigi's Mansion succeeds on this front, but like I said, I just wish that there were more songs.
As one of the launch titles for the Gamecube, Luigi's Mansions had a lot of expectations to meet to show off the potential of the new system, and justify a purchase to potential buyers. Fortunately, Luigi's Mansion looks great. It is an effective tech demo for the 'Cube, showcasing multiple physics, lighting, and smoothing features that makes this game one impressive piece of software. Obviously, one of the most prominent graphical effects in the game is lighting, and the game comes up with some creative methods of using lights in dark places that makes environments feel more natural. Luigi's flashlight is another demonstration of the effect, and it can be used anywhere. Another obvious effect is transparency, for the ghosts. It isn't anything special; the Playstation made a big deal about 3D transparency effects when up against the Saturn, but the effect is greatly improved in this game. Physics also come into play a little bit. You can vacuum up things like sheets from different angles, which is so cool-looking that it seems almost out of place in a Gamecube game. Yes, Luigi's Mansion indeed turned a few heads at launch, if for no other reason than for its graphical prowess.
If you beat Luigi's Mansion once, you can unlock the "Another Mansion" mode, where some minor changes are made to the mansion and boss battles, so it is not a true second quest mode, a la Zelda, but it is still some incentive to play through again. Also, upon completion, you are given a grade, determined by the amount of money you collected while playing. If you get the highest grade, then Luigi gets the real mansion that he was promised! No more living with Mario! One more thing is that you get different award levels depending on how efficiently you capture ghosts; so if you're a completionist, you will want to get the gold award with every boss. Other than that scoring system, there isn't much else to do after completing the game. The game currently goes for $15 at Gamestop; not bad for a 1st-party Gamecube game. I would try and find it cheaper if you're only slightly interested, but otherwise, go for it.
Luigi's Mansion was a good example of taking one of their existing franchises, and doing something very different with it. Nintendo has always had that sort of bravery with their series. It doesn't always show, but when it does, the result is usually surprisingly good. Metroid: Other M is a fine example. People always accuse The Big N for resting on its laurels, but I think that they are quite open to new ideas. In short, leave them be; they know what they are doing. If you are looking for something different to add to your Halloween survival horror game lineup, give Luigi's Mansion a shot. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
This is Lisalover1, knowing who to call when there's something strange in the neighborhood.