2013. Year of Luigi. What better game to start off 2013 than with the long awaited return of Luigi's Mansion; with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, not only are we treated with a sequel of this long missed game, but we are treated with one fantastic sequel. Containing both charm and unique gameplay, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon also fixes the two main troublemakers of it's predecessor: repetition and short longevity.
--- Presentation ---
Back then, Luigi's Mansion really pulled of some outstanding visuals that pushed the console to some limits, even with some not so pretty textures across the mansion's interior and exterior. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon goes even a step farther with the 3DS and offers the downright best visuals seen on the 3DS so far. Not only are textures immensely sharp, but the surrounding are all incredibly detailed and well polished, with great color contrast and nice visual effects. Combine this with one of the best 3D effects of any 3DS game, and you have a glorious looking video game. Rare occasions induce slight frame rate drops, but that's hardly a noticeable complain to be had with the game. The only noticeable issue regarding the visuals are the visual glitches like flying little objects or money disappearing through walls or other objects. Here the developers were a little sloppy.
The story is as simple as expected. Among an area called Evershade Valley, where the well known Professor E.Gadd studied ghosts for quite a while, the dark moon that keeps all ghosts normal has been shattered by no other than King Boo personally, and so E.Gadd asks for help from his old buddy Luigi to travel through the mansions and find out what is causing all the trouble and extinguish the dangerous resource.
In this case, even more important than the incredible visuals is the returning humor and charm of the original Luigi's Mansion. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon offers many, many different cutscenes, each full with humor and/or personality. The game's story, while not complex at all, is enjoyable throughout the whole adventure thanks too the many different cutscenes that mark interesting events, creating a narrative that is extremely simple, yet very well told.
The game doesn't lose any of it's charm and humor outside of the cutscenes, though, with wonderful ghosts to battle that contain fantastic personality, multiple mansions that are wonderfully designed, both gameplay wise and graphically, and of course, with Luigi as well, being afraid about pretty much everything he encounters. Farther adding to the game is the music, which contains some really good tunes. And while the main theme of each mansion is the same melody, each mansion gets their own one or two remixes of that melody, keeping things fresh.
--- Gameplay ---
Of course, the most important aspect here is still the gameplay. And without a second control stick, Luigi controls a little different in Dark Moon than in the original. That's not to assume it controls worse. With an upgraded poltergust, the poltergust 5000, Luigi makes his way through the haunted mansions, busting all kind of ghosts, however this time Luigi will have to stun the ghosts with a flash beam coming from a new attachment to Luigi's torch; the strobulb, which is found at the beginning of the game. This can be charged with the A button, and the longer you charge, the bigger the range of the flash is. However, when using this, just like when Luigi tries to vacuum up ghosts, he won't be able to turn directions effectively, and instead is locked on to one strict direction. Despite the little time to get used to this, these controls work fantastically, and definitely more precise than the controls of the game's predecessor. Therefore, fighting ghosts is even more fun than it ever was, thanks to precise controls as well as a variety of different ghosts that each have their own attack patterns, as well as specific kind of ghosts that use multiple different techniques to fight Luigi.
And for those who are wondering, the strobulb isn't the only equipment you will face in the game. Another one is the Dark light, which reveals invisible objects when pointed on these objects. This makes for a lot more hidden collectibles as well as some nice puzzles.
And speaking of which, Dark Moon features some nice and clever, yet little demanding puzzles that are nevertheless fun to solve and master. And that's by far not all; thanks too many new and clever ideas, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon will feature a lot of variety within good 15 hours of gameplay. And that's not counting the time you will spend with the game afterwards, trying to find all secrets and mastering extra levels. One mission for example will have you hunting down a mighty ghost, while another one will have you trying to rescue a Toad who got lost in the mansion. Every mission is fun and creative in it's own way, to make sure the game never turns boring, and each mansion offers up design that can be best described as masterfully.
And before going on, I must mention that yes, unlike the original, Dark Moon's mansion visits are divided into missions. Between these missions, Luigi always finds himself within the bunker of Professor E.Gadd, who will then send you on multiple missions in each mansion. And while it adds a bit more of a narrative, some might find it a bit dumb that you can't just explore the mansions on your own. This comes especially to notice since E.Gadd is a lot on your back throughout each mission. Luckily though, there are a few missions that make up a little for this.
If there is anything that boggles down Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon significantly, than it has to be the lack of check points or availability to save the game within missions. You see, a lot of missions take easily around 30 minutes, some a little fewer minutes, and some even more, a couple even about 50 minutes. And without a save system, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon isn't very portable suited. Also, if you die in a mission, you will have to repeat the whole mission again, which can make for some unnecessary long stretches, since Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is the most fun when discovering the interior and exterior of the mansions for the first time. On the bright side though, it's quite hard to die in Dark Moon. The game isn't the most challenging game, and you are treated with many hearts that heal Luigi, as well as a dog bone for each level, that revives the player if he dies once, so he can continue on from where he had died.
Okay, so we're almost done here, but there are two more aspects that shouldn't be left out; one of them being the boss battles. At the end of each mansion, you will encounter one boss, and there is a total of eight or seven bosses in the game. I have never seen a game before with such variety between bosses; it's quite clear what the developers went for: they wanted to create all kind of different boss battles, from a puzzle based boss to a “mash it up” boss and finally to an “avoid attacks and then counter” boss. Sadly, this also makes up for some inconsistency.
I was treated with an immensely creative puzzle based boss at the end of the first mansion, but got nothing more than a simple and plain boss that had me simply avoiding it's easy to avoid attacks and then attack back once it's weak point is revealed at the end of the second mansion. Also, the most unique boss of the game, the one at the end of the fourth mansion, features a great concept, which sadly wasn't executed very well. Not only does it get boring quite easily, but it can also become quite frustrating thanks to a glitch that doesn't let the game register some of your hits against the boss correctly. Which is a shame since the boss design and concept are quite fabulous. Despite some issues though, the boss battles that remain good are in the majority, and these feature challenging, fun and epic battles, especially the first and last two bosses.
And at last, the totally fresh multiplayer component must also be mentioned briefly. Called the scarescraper, this mode, that can be played with up to 3 other people both locally as well as online, let's you team up or compete in a set of different rooms to bust ghosts, catch dog ghosts or race against each other. Each flat of the scarescraper contains a new set of rooms, and the leader of the group may choose between the different options of how many flats should be played or what kind of mode should be played. It's a fun extra, though also a little bare bones in the end.
--- Verdict ---
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon isn't only a gift to the many fans of Luigi's Mansion who were starving for a sequel, but also to any 3DS owner who is ready for an exciting, gripping, charming, entertaining and enjoyable adventure that is unlike any other. The game features wonderful visuals, incredibly well designed mansions, fun and entertaining ghost busting as well as an immense load on personality. It's a strong recommendation for any 3DS owner and an absolute dream for the fans of the original Luigi's Mansion, even if they have to deal with some crucial changes that can be seen as both good and bad.
Review Score: 8/10