Luigi’s Mansion 3 is, by all means, a gaming epic; one that, true to the nature of its protagonist, is built with unexpected tools like a vacuum cleaner, a doppelganger made of jelly, and tons of charmingly funny horror
To say that the original Luigi’s Mansion was somewhat anti-climatic would be a major understatement. And it is easy to see why. As Nintendo was getting ready to release their fourth home console, the GameCube, fans of the company as well as those that followed the industry had gotten used to the notion that, with every new hardware that Nintendo would release into the market, there would be a killer software to boost its sales, showcase its potential, and generate waves of positive feedback. It had happened when the NES hit the United States alongside Super Mario Bros.; it had been the case when the SNES exploded out of the gate beside Super Mario World; and it had struck again when the Nintendo 64 introduced the glory of Super Mario 64. In all of the cases up to that point, then, Mario had been there to usher players into the new console not just with a widely popular face, but with an earth-shattering masterpiece to boot.
The GameCube, though sporting a very good launch lineup, did not follow that unwritten rule, leaving only Luigi – the eternally overlooked second fiddle – to welcome gamers into their new entertainment platform with an adventure that was a far cry from the usually epic heights achieved by his brother. Supported by a powerful console, Nintendo bet neither on expansive environments nor on costly production values; what they built, instead, was a tight, short, and humble quest that had the plumber in green overalls be lured into a ghost-ridden mansion and forced into getting rid of the poltergeists with a glorified vacuum cleaner. To those that felt like that entry course was not enough, the fact Luigi was actually trying to rescue a kidnapped Mario certainly must have felt like some sort of mean mocking.
Yet, as time passed and general disappointment eroded, Luigi’s Mansion started being seen for what it truly was: a charming, quirky, and original slice of Nintendo goodness. Outside of the context of being the always expected big launch game, the title began to gain appreciation for its humor and refreshing gameplay; after all, not many adventures out there feature a cartoonish character venturing inside a haunted house with nothing but a vacuum cleaner and a flashlight, and when that setup is combined with a fellow who is as easily scared as Luigi is, the result is delightful physical comedy. Fondness for the title grew so big that Nintendo caved in and resurrected the franchise with 2013’s Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Released for the 3DS with the appropriate expansions in concept, size, gameplay, and production, it proved to be such a considerable hit that a future installment was pretty much a given.
And indeed, Luigi’s Mansion 3 arrives for the Nintendo Switch to prove that the series is doing just fine. More than that, however, the game slowly and convincingly builds a case in favor of the franchise to which it belongs, arguing that rather than ranking among the brands that are part of Nintendo’s secondary echelon of products, it should by all means be given a pass to the room where the company’s superstars hang out. Because if Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon had already placed itself in the running for the award of best 3DS effort, this third haunted tour is equally bound to be frequently cited when discussions regarding the finest Switch games arise.
From the get go, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is quick to present its qualifications in that matter. As proof that he has learned absolutely nothing about the dangers of unexpected invitations to unknown properties that promise wonders in comfort and treatment, the opening scene shows how Luigi, following the suggestion of a letter, has gathered his closest friends – Mario, Peach, and a trio of Toads – to go on a road trip to a fancy new establishment whose name carries nothing but bad omens: the Last Resort Hotel. And right then, gamers are likely to notice one particular quality that indicates Nintendo went all out on the production of the game: its ridiculously good visuals.
Cutscenes, environments, animations, textures, character models, and physics display a level of polish that comfortably stands side by side with best moments of Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, with the caveat that while the visual splendor of those games was grand in scope and spread over large areas, that of Luigi’s Mansion 3 is usually denser: its often enclosed scenarios pack absurd details tightly aggregated on such meticulously constructed spaces that even the elevator doors have variations on their carvings according to the floor they are on.
It is, undoubtedly, a technical and creative wonder. However, more important than that, is the fact all of that luster has practical effects, for while the millimetric art of the environments works towards making the dark halls of the building as immersive as possible, the cinematic animations turn watching Luigi go through various horror-inducing situations into an utter delight, for he will charmingly scream, get stuck, fall, tremble, flail, and sometimes even sneeze as players interact with the environment or as the environment simply reacts to them.
And in Luigi’s Mansion 3, horror is quick to strike, because soon after arriving at the Last Resort Hotel, the green dude discovers it was all a ruse. He wakes up during the first night to the sound of Princess Peach’s scream, which emanates from a nearby room. Upon getting there, after walking down the hallway in a completely terrified manner, he finds out that the hotel’s owner is in cahoots with his ghostly rival, King Boo, and that the invitation was nothing but an excuse to trap him and his friends inside magical portraits. As the sole member of the party that has not been caught, Luigi equips his Poltergust – which is strangely inside the trunk of a car in the garage – and gets ready to do some ghost-busting.
From that point onwards, Luigi’s Mansion 3 reveals itself to be a quest that stands right between its two prequels in terms of structure; that is to say, it balances the unified large mansion of the original with the mission-based heart of Dark Moon, which involved a handful of houses and goals that had to be cleared in a specific order. The game achieves that thanks to how it has players exploring the Last Resort Hotel piece by piece. In total, the building has a whopping seventeen floors; however, given pretty much all of them can only be accessed through the elevator – a feature that has got to be a major security oversight – developer Next Level Games locks them by making the control panel of the device be devoid of its buttons: the ghosts have taken them, so Luigi has to hunt the spirits and recover the stolen objects in order to reach new floors.
Therefore, even though the hotel works like a thoroughly connected and very large mansion, the individual floors are – effectively – standalone missions that have Luigi going through multiple rooms, solving puzzles, and capturing ghosts until he reaches the local boss, who is invariably the one that has the button that leads to the next floor. It is a format that works on many levels. For starters, it clicks because each floor, although much smaller than the house of the first Luigi’s Mansion, still has plenty of room for exploration and discovery, leaving it up to players to find out where to go and what to do as to advance. More flagrantly, though, it succeeds because it gives every floor the freedom to do its own thing, and there are two ways in which the game takes advantage of that.
Firstly, it does so thematically, because Luigi’s Mansion 3 runs absolutely wild with how it decorates the Last Resort Hotel. Most floors happen to cover the facilities one would expect out of a high-caliber establishment of the kind: there are different types of suites, a gym, a music hall, a dance club, a restaurant, and a couple of basements. Yet, not only does the the game take some liberties with how those areas can be setup, as one of the floors that have suites – for example – is actually one lush and vertical garden with plenty of rooms, roots, flowers, and grass; but it also at times goes crazy with the notion of what a hotel can contain, since it includes an immersive medieval experience that has gone so realistic that it has actually transformed into a full-fledged castle and other unexpected oddities that are likely to cause some awe.
Secondly, every floor is a surprise simply because the gameplay each one of them holds carries a nice degree of originality to it. The garden suites, for instance, feature puzzles involving saws, mushrooms, and vines; meanwhile, one of the basements puts Luigi aboard a floating duck to go through some water-based sections. In fact, it feels as if all seventeen floors are individually built pieces that are part of a competition to see which one will come out on top in terms of sheer entertainment, as Luigi’s Mansion 3 puts some serious effort into frequently outdoing itself. And although it is undeniable some are better than others, gamers will be inevitably overwhelmed by the joy of tackling a quest that tries very hard – and usually succeeds – to generate pure amusement whenever the elevator stops by a new area.
The path to that degree of gameplay quality is paved through various means. As a starting point, Luigi’s Mansion 3 does some slight expansion on the franchise’s combat. Generally, ghosts are still caught in pretty much the same way as they have always been, which means Luigi has to flash his light at them and use their temporary moment of confusion to latch onto them with the vacuum cleaner. At that point, players must tilt the control stick in the direction that is opposite to where they are going in order to slowly suck their energy; and after some time, in a feature that is new to Luigi’s Mansion 3, a gauge will fill up to indicate that gamers can press the A button to slam the ghosts on the floor repeatedly, an action that causes major damage, can hit other nearby foes, and adds a bit of physical value to the conflicts.
Even if that addition is interesting, what truly makes the combats of Luigi’s Mansion 3 stand out is the variety of ghosts found in the game. The standard enemies are a nice set of creatures that have different behaviors, including burly red ghosts that rush towards the hero and yellow ghosts that like to hide in objects around the rooms; additionally, given they are deployed in distinct combinations and appear sporting many objects like sunglasses and brooms, an extra flavor of challenge is added to the recipe. The star of the show in that regard, however, are the boss ghosts; Luigi’s Mansion 3 has nearly twenty of those guys, and the battles against them are as fun as they are inventive, for the game succeeds in packing in everything from relatively simple combats to duels of an outstandingly epic scale, and in both cases, they require smart strategies to be defeated.
The area in which Luigi’s Mansion 3 presents the biggest level of evolution, though, has got to be its puzzle-solving component. To interact with the environment that surrounds him, Luigi still has his basic tools: a vacuum cleaner that can suck objects or blow air; and a flashlight that is able to either release a standard light or an ultraviolet beam that reveals invisible assets. To complement those, this time around, the updated Poltergust he comes across has a few added functions: a gust of air that keeps enemies back while briefly sending him up to the air; a suction cup that can be shot at objects and allows Luigi to latch onto them in order to flip them over; and the ability to summon a friendly doppelganger made of jelly, the charming Gooigi.
In spite of how, it goes without saying, all of those great additions contribute to the thicker puzzle-solving fabric that envelops the entirety of the quest and that is present in nearly every one of its many dozens of rooms, Gooigi is certainly the most vital piece of the package. When he comes to life, gamers can either switch between controlling him and the main character or have a second player jump in for some cooperative gaming, and that partnership unlocks some pretty fantastic possibilities.
Due to his unique constitution, Gooigi can access places Luigi cannot enter, as he goes through drains or grates with ridiculous ease; as such, numerous are the moments in Luigi’s Mansion 3 when that cooperation is essential to move on, and it is mainly out of that synergy that the effort expands a gameplay that – in the original game – only had the legs to stand for about six hours into a pile of surprises and new situations that never feels exhausted for the twenty hours it ought to last.
Although being significant and working as proof that the franchise has grown considerably in scope since its inception, all of that time will likely not be sufficient for one to fully explore everything that Luigi’s Mansion 3 offers. Each of its seventeen floors has six hidden gems waiting to be found, which amounts to a whopping total of 102 optional collectibles; and players will be very happy to find out that, in that case, high quantity does not affect quality, for all of them are neatly tucked away behind puzzles and exploration conundrums that will only be visible to those who are paying attention.
Moreover, and following on the footsteps of its predecessors, each floor also holds a Boo, which ought to be alluring catches for anyone who feels like spending some extra time in the Last Resort Hotel; a group of people that will likely be very vast considering how utterly captivating the setting is.
Finally, and taking advantage of its highly interactive environment, as there is almost no object that cannot be affected by Luigi and his tools, the Last Resort Hotel is packed to the brim with gold and cash, which are hiding in – literally – almost every corner. Overall, that treasure has two purposes: the total that is accumulated affects a rank players get when the adventure comes to a close and the loot can be spent to buy items, including helpful markers that display the rooms where gems and Boos are found. Despite those uses, however, sometimes it feels like Luigi’s Mansion 3 has just too much cash available, because not only does its exaggerated omnipresence cause the finding of money to be as commonplace as walking, but the gathering of all coins, gold bars, and bills that are lying around the place can become a chore to those who are looking to maximize their rank.
As a complement to that impressive single-player experience, Luigi’s Mansion 3 also boasts a solid multiplayer mode that both borrows from Dark Moon while bringing new ideas to the table. Out of its predecessor, the game takes the ScareScraper, a randomly generated multi-floored building that supports between one and eight players and that has them cooperating to kill all ghosts on a floor, whilst solving simple puzzles along the way, before advancing. Meanwhile, the ScreamPark – a totally new feature – leans towards the competitive, placing two opposing teams in arenas to see which side will capture more ghosts, grab more coins, or use cannonballs to hit the biggest amount of targets. Even if by no means as fun as the best multiplayer options available on the Switch, those modes are a well-produced and welcome diversion that can be fun for a good amount of time.
All in all, there are minor points in which Luigi’s Mansion 3 could have been improved: its aiming controls, especially when trying to shoot suction cups or bombs at precise spots, can be a bit clumsy; two specific portions of the quest that involve backtracking, though including some nice mechanics, could have been better handled; the presence of cash, if diminished, could have made the finding of treasure more rewarding; and the lack of a more difficult setting may be a let down to some, as the game is barely threatening with the exception of a few bosses. Still, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is nothing short of completely brilliant, for in spite of how its development was handled by Next Level Games, which once more does a fantastic job with the series, the title carries the Nintendo stamp not just in charm, originality, and creativity, but also in high production values.
As it stands, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is bound to go down as turning point, for it feels like the precise moment when a franchise that was once seen as a secondary property showed it had the absolute right to exist alongside the biggest brands of the company responsible for its creation. In all regards, it leaves absolutely nothing to be desired when compared to its most popular and critically acclaimed peers. It has music and, especially, visuals that confirm it was a project in which a lot of money was invested; it has a scope that, locked within the confines of a hotel, is able to evoke values of grandeur that are usually reserved to adventures that are much more expansive; and it fills up its considerable size with quality gameplay that continuously surprises through the entirety of its length. It is, by all means, a gaming epic; one that, true to the nature of its protagonist, is built with unexpected tools like a vacuum cleaner, a doppelganger made of jelly, and tons of charmingly funny horror.