Hands-on with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for Nintendo 3DS

The newly rechristened Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the Nintendo 3DS is our last hands-on offering on our tour of Nintendo of Canada’s post-E3 event, but it’s certainly not the least of what we’ve seen. In fact, I would even have to go so far as to say that this may just be the game I’m most looking forward to of those shown, on the Nintendo 3DS if nothing else.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is the sequel to the 2001 GameCube launch title, Luigi’s Mansion. There, the more timid Mario brother found himself tasked by an eccentric old professor with clearing ghosts from a mansion Luigi had won in a contest he never even entered, as well as rescuing his more famous older brother in the process. With that, hijinks ensued.

Little is known about the plot of this new installment except for the need to collect pieces of the titular “Dark Moon,” but it seems that the old professor, Elvin Gadd, figures that Luigi has enough experience in the ghost-busting business (not even including his run-in with Ernie Hudson) to be called back in to clear the ghosts out of another mansion.

Did I say “mansion?” Make that “mansions,” plural. In Dark Moon, Luigi has at least three such establishments to look forward to clearing out with Gadd’s new Poltergust 5000 (an upgrade from the 3000 seen in the first game).

The three mansions available in the demo version spanned three different, distinct themes. The first offering was the classic Ghostly Manor, full of items and decorations which evoke the old and the expensive… much like the mansion in the first game. The second is the Old Clockworks, which looks like some sort of clock factory, and the third is the Secret Lab, a cold, snowy mansion where some of Gadd’s contemporaries had once set up shop.

Much to my regret, however, I was only able to explore the first mansion, the Ghostly Manor. So many games and so many people leaves so little time. Thankfully, I got a pretty good feel for the game from the one mansion I did play, even if I didn’t get to witness the full breadth of variety the demo hints that the final game will possess.

To get from one mansion to the next, as well as back to E. Gadd’s lab, Luigi is “depixelated” and transported back and forth, presumably as data. When he arrives at the Ghostly Manor, his first order of business is to get inside. You’ll soon find that the door is locked; however, a mouse appears holding the key. Luigi sees it and gets spooked before giving chase through the manor’s front yard.

Before entering, you have a chance to peek inside one of the manor’s windows, where you’ll see some ghosts messing around in the garage. This part uses the Nintendo 3DS gyroscope and motion sensors to allow you to move the system to get a better look inside the house.

Once inside, Luigi has to find the Poltergust, which Gadd left inside the garage. Once you find that, exploration of the house can truly begin in earnest, as you are capable of interacting with far more items in the house, from blowing ceiling fans and candles out to pulling down curtains, rolling up rugs, and more.

Of course, not everything is good to interact with. One such example is the hall full of knights’ armor which swing their weapons down at you as you pass. You can either move outside of their range, which takes more time, or hot-foot it through with the run button, blades narrowly missing you as you pass.

Then comes the matter of the mischievous ghosts inhabiting the place. Sometimes you’ll have to defeat them in order to progress, while one particular set seem keen on causing trouble for Luigi and Gadd, hiding away a component of the Poltergust where they think it will never be found.

This time out, it takes more than simply hitting them with the flashlight to stun ghosts for capture. The piece you retrieve from the ghosts is a new strobe attachment which emits a bright blast of light, allowing you to not only stun ghosts, but do other things like trigger certain sensors. With the ghosts off-balance, you can then begin to suck them into the Poltergust, and as they weaken from the struggle, you’ll be given a prompt to press a button to finish the job.

All along the way, the developers at Next Level Games have managed to keep a good sense of humor running throughout. Fans of the first game might remember the “Game Boy Horror,” a repurposed Game Boy Color used for communicating with E. Gadd. This time out, Luigi receives another piece of outdated tech– a Nintendo DS. And we don’t mean the Nintendo DS Lite or DSi, but the original model from back in 2004. Topping it off is the ringtone used whenever the professor calls you– a very upbeat, almost techno version of the series’ theme song.

Another good example comes while exploring the house. As Luigi happens into a washroom, checking the toilet causes him to lift the lid and take a peek inside. And while he’s looking, the lid falls right on his head, causing him to yell out. Dejected, he takes a moment to sit on the seat which assaulted him, triggering a secret passageway in the wall which throws him headfirst into the sink of a hidden washroom.

After shaking his head dry, Luigi looks around and uses the Poltergust to pull down a bath curtain, revealing one of the trouble-making ghosts showering. Cue screaming from both as the ghost runs headfirst into the mirror before fleeing through another wall. Luigi gives chase, and has a short mini-boss battle against the duo, and then fights a few more in the next room before the lights come back on and he’s summoned back to the lab by the professor.

As it stands, Next Level Games is doing justice to the original game with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. And of the three Nintendo 3DS games I played at Nintendo of Canada’s event. While all three were very good, it was more thoroughly enjoyable than Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, and fresher than New Super Mario Bros. 2, given that Luigi’s Mansion isn’t the series with four releases in a six-year span (not that I’m complaining after the wait following Super Mario World, mind).

The game is scheduled for a release for $39.99 this “holiday season.” When asked what that entails, Nintendo of Canada’s Matt Ryan kindly confirmed that the month of October does fall within that time frame for their release schedule, so it’s possible that I may get my wish to play this game for Halloween later this year. Fingers are crossed!

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.