U.S. Release Date: November 18, 2001
The GameCube Archives Score: 7.8/10
I've never been the type of person to buy three or four games in a month. That's because a. I've never really been the kind of person to have enough money to buy three or four games a month, and b. I am so OCD, I have to milk a game dry before I get to another's udders.
In regard to a., video games used to cost about $70, and my childhood allowance was $3 a week. This meant it took me six months to save up for one...and you can bet, when I bought Ducktales for NES, I played Ducktales for NES until I could beat it blindfolded with my ears plugged.
As for b., let's just say A Link to the Past never left my SNES until I had every heart, and Chrono Trigger until all my characters were sitting at level double-star (these are two affectations I've lost with time...I finally hit middle-class paydirt, and the ridiculous amount of time a modern game takes to complete has destroyed my desire to 100% every game I play).
The GameCube launched on November 18. 2001. I was so broke at the time, I wasn't even paying attention to release dates. On 11/17/01, on the way to see Monsters, Inc. with some friends, I saw a line outside the local Walmart. I hopped out of the car to ask this mass of strangers what they were doing.
"Dude, the GameCube is coming out at midnight!" they answered.
|I'll just start posting pictures of the game now, so I can pretend like I have actually started reviewing it.|
I thought hard for where I could get some quick cash. It was 7 pm, so I needed this cash to be really quick. Suddenly, while looking at the name of the store I stood before, and remembering I once worked there (not the same location) in high school, an idea formed in my mind: Walmart gives its employees company stock. In high school, I worked at Walmart. I never pulled out my stock. Walmart owes me some money.
I found an old information card in my wallet, and called, asking that all of my stock money be immediately transferred to my meagre bank account. There was just enough money now to cover a GameCube, one game, and sales tax. I chose Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader for my game, and I picked a black GameCube. What a great night.
The GameCube launched with 12 games, and up until a few months ago, the only two of the twelve I'd played were Rogue Leader (hey, I should review you, too, Rogue Leader) and Monkey Ball. Of course, on that late 2001 night, I also saw Luigi's Mansion next to the other launch games, but it looked very kiddie, and reviews were lukewarm. I gave it a hard pass.
However, over the years, people seem to remember Luigi's Mansion fondly. It's even become a franchise, if you consider two games over 17 years a franchise. As I dive deeper into and come back to GameCube's library, Luigi's Mansion seems like a great place to visit.
|Except for this room...this room looks pretty scary.|
The story utilizing this atmosphere is classic Nintendo simplicity. Luigi gets a letter in the mail congratulating him on his new mansion. He visits and realizes that the mansion is severely haunted, and that his brother, and general Nintendo protagonist, Mario, has been kidnapped. Luigi is given a ghost-sucking vacuum from the local spectral scientist, and tasked with eradicating the ghosts, and rescuing Mario.
|All while being extremely terrified.|
Whatever the cause, Luigi's limited abilities are initially a bit frustrating. However, after the player finally comes to terms with the fact that Luigi can neither run, nor jump, the control scheme (which has two optional layouts) becomes intuitive. Luigi can walk in any direction in a top-down perspective, shake or pick up certain objects he finds, and vacuum. He's also got a flashlight for freezing ghosts in their tracks, and a camera humorously titled the "Game Boy Horror," which allows the player to look around 360 degrees, zoom in on objects, and perhaps detect one of the myriad ghosts' weaknesses. While the mechanic for vacuuming ghosts is simple, a bit of directional joystick toggling, the method for actually ensnaring them in the Poltergust's pull is a bit more complex...yes, classic Nintendo.
Often, the ghosts are between spectral and human planes, and the player's got to solve some type of room-based puzzle (i.e. lighting candles) or deduce the respective ghost's weakness (i.e., sucking up the food they were eating) in order to trap them in the Poltergust's flow. You can also earn some additional Poltergust powers, allowing you to shoot fire, ice, and water from it.
This being Nintendo, once a ghost is removed from his treasured room, the lights come on (satisfyingly revealing the rooms' intricate details), and an additional challenge is issued. Once the lights come on, the player earns the ability to catch that room's Boo. Boos are the classic round white Nintendo ghost, contrasting with the game's highly detailed original ghosts. These Boos must be collected to proceed further into the house, which has many rooms and multiple floors, each guarded by a unique boss, defeated in unique battles.
|Not so bad in the light.|
For one, the game feels ramshackle at times...the rooms, while incredibly satisfying to gain access to and reveal, aren't laid out in the most intuitive way. While the player is given a map, the backtracking between floors becomes tiresome. This rears itself ugliest after a game is saved, and the GameCube turned off...because no matter where the player saves, they always afterward start in the mansion's lobby. The gameplay itself also lacks that certain Nintendo polish--there are many portions of Luigi's Mansion where it is impossible to not get hit, and Luigi's power meter is depleted through no fault of the player (he can collect scattered hearts to refill it). The way ghost bombs and other harmful objects bounce toward Luigi while he is being wraithfully tormented, coupled with Luigi's ungainly movements to escape damage, feel uncharacteristically sloppy for Nintendo.
|But not as sloppy as this ghost granny's knitting.|
Really, Luigi's Mansion, like nearly all of Nintendo's first party efforts for the GameCube, is an oddball. While this may not have always resulted in immediately satisfying gaming experiences, these games have stood the test of time--a classic doesn't have to be perfect, or even great. It just has to be fun.