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Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
by SquareMEal
Reviewed on Wed, 09/21/2016 - 00:44am
SquareMEal Total Reviews: 5
Reviewer Rating
A fun return to an overlooked franchise.
It's rare that Nintendo will look at one of their franchises and decide to make a spin off specifically around a side character. Even rarer is that the spin off would ever get a sequel, but that's exactly what we got with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. Dark Moon is a direct sequel to the 2001 Gamecube launch title, Luigi's Mansion. When Luigi's Mansion first launched, it was received warmly. It was a chance for an overshadowed side character to finally get some personality and some room to stretch their legs and the game play itself was fairly new for Nintendo to try. Luigi's goal was to use a special vacuum to suck up the ghosts and otherworldly spirits that infested his newly won mansion. The setup was simple and chasing certain ghosts were a chore, but the charm of Luigi's cowardice, the interesting design of the ghosts, and the interactivity with the mansion with some light puzzle solving helped make the game a memorable experience that, for over a decade, was left without an official followup.
Dark Moon was developed by Next Level Games, who previously worked on some Mario sports titles, Punch-Out!! (Wii), and more recently, Metroid-Prime: Federation Force. There wasn't a whole lot of room left for a followup to Luigi's Mansion, so I suppose I shouldn't be too harsh that the premise of Dark Moon is rather silly. Professor E. Gadd (returning from the first game) had set up a lab in a new area with multiple haunted building nearby. The ghosts in this area were actually non violent and it seemed like a good area for him to perform his paranormal research, but then something shattered and corrupted the titular dark moon that normally pacified the ghosts of the area. With all the ghosts now turning hostile, E. Gadd pulls Luigi from his home through a Tron-like fashion (he literally digitizes Luigi through a television screen) and sends him to the five different "mansions" to clear them out and recover the dark moon fragments. It's a bit more of a stretch than Luigi winning a mansion in a contest he never entered, which was the setup in the first game, and it does immediately start pushing the suspension of disbelief.
Right away, though, we can see where the game is trying to expand from where the original felt limited. Instead of one large mansion that you'll backtrack through multiple times in order to find all the collectibles and capture every ghost, we are given five smaller mansions that are broken up by specific missions. Each stage certainly feels uniquely themed and has a special layout that kind of makes sense, unless you stop to question how all these buildings are so close to each other yet have such contrasting environments. Instead of just being thrust into a stage and slowly working your way through it, the game makes you revisit each stage multiple times to complete missions. Maybe you need to rescue a Toad assistant, or to turn on power to the building, or collect X number of doohickeys to open a locked door. The missions are admittedly a bit trite and many are repeated for each stage in a far too formulaic manner. They did bring a new power-up this time around. In addition to a flashlight and the push/pull mechanic of the vacuum, there is now a dark-light that can be used to try and find hidden doors, furniture, and ghosts. It's an interesting mechanic that I'm glad was added as it made exploring more interesting.
Because of the mission based structure, you are often locked out of areas or away from special collectibles unless you are in the right mission, making replaying areas to find missed gems or Boos troublesome. They also rate you at the end of a mission based on time, number of ghosts captured, health lost, and gold found, giving you a one to three star rating. Each level has its own specific criteria for what gets the highest rating but the game sadly doesn't tell you what needs to be improved for a better rating. It's arguable that most of the unlockable content isn't even worth going for. Getting each gem in a stage unlocks a special Luigi statue that you can stare at once and quickly forget about. Gold will get you upgrades to your tools, but as gold is plentiful, you can easily have the tools maxed out by the halfway mark. Boos arguably have the most purpose to find as getting all the Boos in a stage will unlock a bonus mission that challenges you to clear out specific rooms full of ghosts as quickly as possible. That said, a mission based design makes sense for a portable game, as players may be doing shorter, less frequent play sessions.
Another challenge is controlling the game. When using any of your tools, Luigi basically locks into whatever direction he was facing, making turning to respond to new threats rather difficult, especially given how often you will be surrounded by ghosts. Don't even get me started on the forced in gyroscope mechanic. Though pretty negligent when using a tool, as it can slightly aim your device as you move the 3DS, it becomes a huge bother when trying to cross narrow walkways as even the slightest movement will quickly throw you over the edge. There's also an added multiplayer mode where up to four friends can work together to try and get through several floors of a mansion while also competing to see who gets the most gold/ghosts. It's rather forgettable as the floors are randomly generated cookie cutter layouts with little personality and no real end goal.
This review probably comes across as disliking Dark Moon and that isn't really the case. Though the game is certainly flawed, they added in new game mechanics and tried to build a better relationship between Luigi and E. Gadd. It's also a great looking game that never had any performance issues save for the final cutscene. That's why it's such a shame that the unique ghosts prominent in the first game are completely absent from this sequel and how the limitations of a handheld device made the game harder than necessary. The game is now part of the "Nintendo Selects" program so it's available for only $20. At that price, I'd certainly recommend it to anyone interested, just don't expect it to blow the original out of the water.
Positive points
Negative points
  • Great looking for a 3DS title, Stages are all unique, New and fun mechanics added, Rewards players that explore and collect everything,
  • Controls are sometimes stifling especially when using the gyroscope, Arguable no unique ghosts/personality, Multiplayer is pointless and tacked on, The boss of the Secret Mine stage is as fun as a trip to the dentist,
Not Rated
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About this Item
Publisher: Nintendo
Item Link:   Go there
Genre: Action-adventure
Release Date: March 2013
0 Community Ratings