In 2017, Super Mario Odyssey was released to near-universal acclaim. Nintendo, already flourishing under its freshly-unveiled Switch console, had not one, but two Game of the Year candidates as must-buy titles for the new system, the other being The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. What they may or may not have realized was that they established a high precedent for first-party games from that point. Some have floundered, others have flourished, and a single distinction has captured what has succeeded: a fusion of old and new. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is another example of this meticulous chemistry, where Nintendo managed to review the ins and outs of making a successful sequel campaign.
From personal history, I cared little for Luigi’s sole franchise, prior to the announcement of the third game. Skipping Dark Moon altogether, my childhood memories of the original title were pleasant, though not captivating. It wasn’t until the E3 trailer for Luigi’s Mansion 3, which showcased the continually-horrifying “Gooigi” mechanic, that I became intrigued with jumping back into the series. There was a sense of something more, a dedication to capturing the original feeling of Luigi‘s Mansion while expanding upon the possibilities provided by current technology. After a busy Halloween, I finally got a chance to try it out. Spooky would be a severe understatement.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is available on the Nintendo Switch for your regional pricing.
Despite the now-growing history of shady invitations, Luigi and close friends (Mario, Peach, and three toads) are invited to a faraway hotel for a luxury stay. It doesn’t take long before things become scary, as the hotel owner turns out to be a King Boo disciple. Helping him escape from Professor E. Gadd’s portraits, she has revived the recurring threat and has taken the mantle of capturing Luigi’s loved ones via portrait. Once again, it is up to Luigi, armed with an improved Poltergust device, to save everyone from artistic imprisonment.
Not breaking from tradition, the story to Luigi’s Mansion 3 is not a hard thing to review. Simplicity is employed in nearly every narrative Nintendo provides to games—whether detrimental is up to the specific player. With as general a “big picture” story this title has, it’s more important to spruce up the more specific details to keep the motivation level. Of all (two) games from this franchise I’ve played, the third game does this magnificently. The amount of cutscenes and quirky scenarios that pop up are unprecedented, and this may be the most animated game I’ve played for the Switch. To see Luigi emote, react, and process the events transpiring in real time only helps his character blossom. Even minute details, like the way Luigi moves when faced with ghosts in the room, provides extra immersion.
Some may read the previous paragraph and become nervous. Is Luigi’s Mansion 3 pulling a Metal Gear Solid and combating control time with cutscene time? Not at all. If anything, the amount of cutscenes only better set the mood for each specific area (more on this later) and better chews the adventure. It allows for each area to receive some level of importance and impact, in ways only they can. The cutscenes are almost like an effort by the developers to entertain, not to dramatize or fill time. Content-wise, they’re mostly harmless, though some do as mentioned and play on Luigi’s timid character.
All of this wouldn’t matter at all if Luigi’s Mansion 3 didn’t deliver on the gameplay element. While flawed in hindsight, the original game had a unique approach to gameplay, unlike anything in gaming before it. Now, the formula has settled into a niche that makes it harder to improve or innovate. With this challenge, Nintendo decided to mix the old with the new, with alternative means of capture and exploration while still sticking to the basics.
What’s different this time around is the central area, with rooms contained in one location. This is different from Dark Moon, specifically, though also different from the original in the amount of visual variety. Now is where I make the bold(?) comparison that Luigi’s Mansion 3 is Luigi’s Super Mario Odyssey. This can be viewed in many facets, but the purpose of my saying this for now is in the structure of the adventure. In Odyssey, one travels around the globe and visits individual areas to collect Power Moons. Here, one travels between different floors of the hotel, all of which are much different in visual theme than the last. A fancy kitchen, a desert, a movie studio, and a pirate’s grotto are only a sample of what one will encounter in this game. While the realistic qualms with containing all this in one location are obvious, this decision makes the game better.
Some may prefer the continuously dark and spooky atmosphere the original game concocted. For me, it wasn’t until a few hours into Luigi’s Mansion 3 that my personal preferences were under review. Variety is something I cherish in video games, and Odyssey provided a large number of obstacles to settings to traverse to get to those goals. It would be easy for Nintendo to have Luigi only suck up ghosts in one location yet again. Instead, they decided to have players enjoy everything a standard adventure has to offer in setting and activities. For this, Luigi’s journey never becomes dull, whether mechanically or visually. And as (relatively) small as each area is, there’s just enough balance between bite-sized and decent-length to enhance replayability.
Among the standard procedures is the ghost-catching importance, which requires stunning and pulling ghosts in specific directions. Collecting keys, scouring for money, and boo-hunting also make a return with variable pedigree. What is most ironic to me is that these “combat” instances, which made the first game and the entire series what it is, are among my least favorite parts of the experience. Capturing ghosts, of which there is a lacking variety, often break the pace of the puzzle-solving elements and travel duration. Relieved somewhat by the ability to slam ghosts into the ground (and other ghosts), it isn’t quite enough to prevent these moments from feeling repetitive.
The aforementioned “Gooigi” is the one notable new mechanic that drastically improves the game. With an effective clone, the player is provided a whole new dimension to puzzle-solving and strategizing. Although, Gooigi’s existence is much more essential to the puzzle-solving than otherwise. Its usefulness in combat is shaky, and only essential in few instances. Nevertheless, being able to access certain areas and control two bodies at split intervals makes for creative uses of puzzle-solving. I only wish those puzzles weren’t always so vague.
Full disclaimer: A hint system is active for this game from the near-start, and one can manually shut it off via the options menu. I prefer a challenge, so I turned it off the moment I realized the option existed (around the third floor). A challenge it was, on various occasions, though mostly because the game doesn’t indicate various details of accessibility. Sometimes I find it curious how puzzle games decide to highlight possibilities that seem obvious, then ignore what would’ve been far-fetched. Different people sense different things, I suppose, though I had some grievances about some floors’ secret measures to advancement. Not an especially difficult time despite these moments, though it could add to inflating irritation.
Boss battles can occasionally fall victim to this same plagued vagueness. However, what they exude more is the spirit of variety that makes me further adore this game. No boss is defeated in quite the same way, and often take advantage of conditions provided by their specific environment. While I didn’t generally enjoy the combat, the ultimate test at the end of each stage made for a fitting conclusion and was never cause of reluctance. Combined with the numerous cutscenes assigned to them, each boss ghost is given ample time to supply distinct personality. There are even times when the spirits beat Luigi in terms of charm. Another review of Luigi’s Mansion 3 may paint the boss ghosts as too stereotypical, but I thought it was fine.
I spent a little time before speaking upon the amount of animation present. This isn’t just an indication of its creativity, but also its quality. Very rarely while playing did I sense Luigi’s Mansion 3 actively decreasing frame count. And while the pixel quality is a tad weaker than it could be, the general bounciness and color rarely deterred from what was occurring. Even as I tore down room after room, searching for goodies and ghouls, it didn’t churn a bit. Quality control is amazing here, and it runs as well as the poltergust at full power.
Graphics & Audio
Almost everything I’ve said thus far about the cutscenes and the animated vibrancy of the game could almost speak for itself. What’s more to say about how alive Luigi feels as he screams and cowers with every spooky occurrence? Immersion is a powerful tool in storytelling, and the way Nintendo managed to bring the setting to life is overly impressive. I saw someone remark prior to this review that Luigi’s Mansion 3 was the best-looking game on the Switch. Incredulous, it made me anticipate playing it all the more, and now, I kind of concur! It’s hard to commit to saying it’s the best, but it’s absolutely splendorous in its presentation. The variety, the detail, and the commitment to themes in each stage and ghost is something to appreciate.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a very sound-oriented product. The importance of setting the tone requires a larger assortment of scores, especially with the Odyssey-like approach to settings. Earlier, I applauded the game for encouraging variety over continuity with its visual presentation. Unfortunately, I’m the opposite when it comes to its auditory decisions. There’s something more triumphant and memorable about the original title’s score, which was just a remixed version of the title theme in different parts of the mansion. Imposing, iconic, mood-setting; it brought a different kind of Nintendo game to life. Here, it feels more akin to establishing every room minimally, instead of the game as a whole. It may help if the themes were catchier than they are, though the focus on ambience is an understandable justification. Overall, it feels like a missed opportunity. As of writing this, I can’t even recall anything outside the whirring of the poltergust and the catching tune.