Halloween isn’t really about being scared. Not anymore least; it’s a time to embrace what we normally find scary, to mock the terrifying, to shine a light under the bed and realise it wasn’t a monster but merely your cat, and then have a good old laugh about it. That sense of relief you get once you’ve faced your fears and realised that it wasn’t so bad after all is perhaps one of the most gratifying feelings there is, and Halloween is definitely a time to celebrate that.
However, some of our deepest and darkest fears, aren’t ever faced by us directly, we end up leaving them to characters in films, books or games. Games in particular perhaps give us the best opportunity to experience the sense of being truly terrified without actually being there in the moment. But as I mentioned, Halloween is also about mocking the terrifying, not just experiencing it. So, the game series I’m going to talk about today, despite featuring haunted houses and ghastly ghosts, is particularly charismatic and inviting.
Both the original Luigi’s Mansion on GameCube and Luigi’s Mansion 2 for the 3DS were very unique games from Nintendo. Not only did they star the secondary plumber as opposed to Mario, but also the traditional platforming elements of the series were scrapped, in favour of a radically different concept. In both games, Mario gets kidnapped by the evil King Boo. Without his portly brother to save the day, it’s the job of Luigi to face his fears, venture into various creepy mansions and search for Mario. These games were by no means of the horror genre though; in the first game witnessing Luigi venturing into the dark whilst nervously humming along with the game’s soundtrack will more than likely bring a smile to the players face and in the second game the slapstick antics of the various ghosts are at times laugh out loud hilarious.
Without his portly brother to save the day, it’s the job of Luigi to face his fears, venture into various creepy mansions and search for Mario.
Having more in common with Ghostbusters than Super Mario, the original Luigi’s Mansion, which released in 2001, was unlike any game Nintendo had made before. Swapping out the cheery fields of the mushroom kingdom for a creepy old mansion, was certainly a ballsy move, and one at times which creates some relatively terrifying moments. However, the premise, dark as it may be, was a strong one. The mansion which Luigi ventures into is filled to the brim with ghosts, all looking to stop the green wonder from getting to King Boo and saving his brother. Thanks to the eccentric Professor E. Gadd however, Luigi doesn’t have to go alone and is fitted out with the latest in ghost hunting tech. As you search the mansion for Mario, you clear each room of ghosts with use of your trusty torch and a spirit sucking Poltergust 3000. Shining your light to stun enemies and then sucking them up as you go. Luigi can also eject fire, ice and water from the Poltergust 3000 which goes on to play a role in the various room based puzzles around the mansion.
Luigi’s Mansion undoubtedly was an innovative and original title, but innovation and originality is difficult to pull off the first time around, especially when it only lasts 8-9 hours. The original then, is commonly perceived as the dark horse of the Super Mario series. It marked the first time that a Nintendo console had launched without a main series Mario game and for many it was a difficult concept to get behind. In comparison to games such as Super Mario 64 or Super Mario World; Luigi’s Mansion was just too far a departure from the platforming roots of the series. Despite the amazing soundtrack and truly charming setting, for many it was far too short and jarring a game. In being a launch title, many viewed it as more glorified tech demo than an actual game.
From Dark Sheep to Dark Moon however, the story is radically different. Whereas, the at best misunderstood original released to average reviews and ushered in one of Nintendo’s least successful home consoles to date, Luigi’s Mansion 2, which was released in 2013, is one of the best games currently on its platform and is the game that the original Luigi’s Mansion should have been. It’s not even that the first one was a bad game; just the second game is a lot better. It’s as if Nintendo took all the complaints about the original, waited 12 years and then fixed them in the sequel.
The issue of longevity and lack of replay value alone for instance was addressed via the inclusion of five themed mansions, as opposed to the singular mansion of the original, and addition of a 3 star ranking systems for the different levels in the game, similar to such mobile games as Angry Birds. The whole experienced was somehow streamlined, expanded and refined all at the same time it would seem. Taken on face value alone, the game would appear nearly identical to its earlier entry; Mario is kidnapped by King Boo and it is up to Luigi, once again aided by Professor E. Gadd to save the day.
However, the story now, whilst still not beyond simplistic, was a developed somewhat. In this game, not only do you need to rescue Mario, but also the Dark Moon has shattered and Luigi needs to find the five Dark Moon pieces. Technically speaking, the sequel was a major improvement as well. Not only did the presentation drastically improve with the more powerful hardware, but the controls were notably simplified and in true Mario fashion; the game was split into levels. Also the mechanics of the original game were expanded upon exponentially. Using the torch alone was no longer sufficient to stun the ghosts in the game; players now needed to activate the Strobulb, which was similar to a camera’s flash, to stun ghosts.
The upgraded Poltergust 5000 now also could also be used to glide around or catch currents from air vents and allow Luigi to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Luigi was also now able to jump while capturing a ghost to dodge incoming projectiles and the torch also had another feature called the Dark-Light Device, which shined a rainbow coloured light to find otherwise invisible objects. This last feature in particular highlighted arguably the main focus of the game; exploration. The game’s attention to detail to was commendable; its five mansions were just teaming with secrets to uncover and treasures to find, and as opposed to the original which felt very linear, discoveries made by the player through exploration in Luigi’s Mansion 2 felt legitimately earned and not spoon-fed.
As for Luigi’s Mansion 3, the game is not currently in development (so far as we know). Also given that there was a twelve year hiatus between the two titles in the series, we may well not see a third entry, for a very long time. But that won’t stop me from speculating. So far the series has taken us to mansions based off of the traditional haunted house, an overgrown botanical garden and an abandoned clockworks factory just to name a few. The possibilities are literally endless, but I would personally love to see a mansion based off a creepy and run down theme park.
The neon lights, creepy carnival music and potential for the different types of enemy you could have in this setting, would definitely make it a highlight if we ever do see a Luigi’s Mansion 3. Another great idea for a setting would be to shrink Luigi down and have him explore a now giant kid’s bedroom, similar to the track, Ribbon Road, from Mario Kart 8. Also, other locations in the Mario series would be great ideas for mansions I feel; maybe an abandoned Bowser’s Castle or perhaps the comet observatory from Super Mario Galaxy when all the power is off? As I mentioned the possibilities really are endless.
Also, with a third Luigi’s Mansion game, I feel Nintendo really have the potential to kill two birds with one stone as it were. Not only could they give us another worthwhile and much needed entry into the series, but they could also make use of a character that has been heavily under utilised since his debut in the original Mario Tennis game on the Nintendo 64, I’m talking of course about Waluigi. Whereas Mario’s evil counterpart, Wario, made his debut in a main series game, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, and now has a relatively successful game series on his own, Waluigi appeared in a spin-off game, and spin-off games such as Mario Kart and Mario Golf, is where he predominantly has stayed.
Having Waluigi either team up with King Boo in the next Luigi’s Mansion or appear as a side villain, similar to how Bowser Jr appears in the main series Mario games, could be a great way to slot Luigi’s evil counterpart into the series. Or, thinking really out of the box; a neat idea would be having Waluigi team up with Luigi for the next game after King Boo has kidnapped both Mario and Wario. In having a whole new character to play with, this could really expand the potential for the mechanics in the series. There could be specific areas which only one character could access, some puzzles which require the two to work together and also there is massive comedic potential of having two such radically different characters as Luigi and Waluigi working together, or at least attempting to.
Thinking really out of the box; a neat idea would be having Waluigi team up with Luigi for the next game after King Boo has kidnapped both Mario and Wario.
Unfortunately however, I don’t think Nintendo will really be that adventurous with the series in the next entry. They definitely hit the nail on the head with Luigi’s Mansion 2, and ultimately I feel that the next game in the series, beyond having some creative and unique ideas for mansions, will be more or less the same thing. At the very least, the series will continue to epitomise the idea behind Halloween; spooky but fun.