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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Luigi's Mansion

It's the second Saturday in October, and I certainly am pumped about this week's entry. Because it is the second Saturday in October, I'll be talking about a video game. And what is unique about today's video game selection is that it is a game that I am currently playing on my Nintendo 3DS.

And it's a game that could be best played right around Halloween. After all, it is filled with spiders, rats, dark mansions, and of course, ghosts. Though, I wouldn't really consider the game to be all that scary. It is made by Nintendo after all. If anything, it's more humourous and funny. Yet, there are some parts of the game that are absolutely difficult to get through and you really need to keep a calm demeanor when attempting to get through it.

I suppose that some of you are wondering why I have decided to turn this entry green for this Friday.  There's a very good reason for it.

In the world of Nintendo gaming, the year 2013 has often been called by Nintendo executives, developers, and gamers as "The Year of Luigi".

Now everyone knows that Luigi is the green-tinted taller brother of Mario.  And, Luigi is kind of more or less the "green sheep" of the Mario family.  I mean, even Wario has had more games with him in a starring role than Luigi has...and the games in which Luigi is the star still have Mario's name on them ("Mario Is Missing", for example).  Even in games in which Luigi is a playable character, my friends would never choose him.  I mean, yeah, in Super Mario Kart, he wasn't exactly the most useful character, but in Super Mario 2, his super-loaded jumping ability was an asset for levels that had a lot of high platforms.

But up until recently, Luigi has been largely ignored.  Mario, Princess Toadstool, Toad, Yoshi, heck, even Lakitu gets more respect than Luigi!  But as I said before, 2013 has been declared "The Year of Luigi", and there are a couple of games that are celebrating this achievement by making Luigi the star of the show.

Now, one game is for the Nintendo Wii U, and it is called "Super Luigi Brothers U", which is more or less a copy of Super Mario Brothers, but with less time and more obstacles.  But, I don't have the living space to set up a Nintendo Wii U, so I haven't actually played that game yet.

But I HAVE been playing "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon", which was released a little over six months ago.  That is a game that was released for the Nintendo 3DS (which I DO have the living space available to play on), and it is certainly a game that I have found challenging, but fun.

The whole premise of the game kind of combines Super Mario Brothers with the 1984 feature film "Ghostbusters".  In the game, Luigi is forced into a series of haunted mansions armed with a souped-up vacuum cleaner called the Poltergust 5000, and with assistance from a mad doctor named Professor E. Gadd, Luigi has to capture and exorcise evil demons from the interior of the mansion in hopes of putting together the pieces of the "Dark Moon Crystal" to save his brother and to restore peace and goodwill to both the land of the living and the spirit world.

Here...I'll post a video for you, just so you can see how the game is played.  

It looks fun, doesn't it?  Well, it is fun.  It's probably one of the most well-received video games released by Nintendo over the last twelve months.  I can attest to the popularity of this game just by my experiences working at my job.  It took me almost five months to purchase this game, as copies were hard to come by.  Whenever we got a new shipment of "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon" games into the store, we would always sell out of them before I had the chance to buy one myself.  I had to resort to shopping at the competition in order to snag my copy!  

(And, yeah...I could have cheated and used a Nintendo eShop card to download the game directly onto my 3DS...but I only download games that are not available in cartridge format.  Case in point, I'm waiting very patiently for the October 24 release of "Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies" - which I'll likely be reviewing for the November discussion.)

Whatever the case though, the effort to get the game was well worth it.  I have a great game to play on my free time, and it is what I believed to be one of the most creative Nintendo games ever released.

But...was it REALLY as creative as I thought it was?  Turns out that "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon" is actually a sequel!  And, would you believe that this sequel was released well over a decade after the first one came out?

To be fair though, the original "Luigi's Mansion" was released in September 2001 on the Nintendo GameCube console...a console that I never actually owned.  Back in the early 2000s, I was all about the Sony PlayStation, and I temporarily broke off my love affair with Nintendo.  In fact, it wasn't until the Nintendo DS came out at the end of the decade that the sparks began to fly again for all things Nintendo.

Okay, yeah...I get off track a lot when things come up.  I guess you can consider me diagnosed as having written ADD.

Anyway, back to "Luigi's Mansion".  Did you know that when the game was released in September 2001 that it was intended to be a launch title for the then brand new console (the console in between the Nintendo 64 and the Nintendo Wii)?  It was an interesting choice, as all other previous consoles included a Mario game with purchase.  I still remember playing "Super Mario Brothers" and "Duck Hunt" for the NES, and absolutely getting excited over seeing "Super Mario World" included with my Super Nintendo.  But to include a Luigi game as one of the games that could be bought with the console?  It ended up being a good move by Nintendo.  Although some people might consider the Nintendo GameCube not as much of a financial success as other Nintendo consoles, the move to promote "Luigi's Mansion" along with the new console did help it become the fifth highest-selling Nintendo GameCube video game of all time.  The game managed to sell 2.5 million copies worldwide...making the game a huge success overall.

Now, the plot structure between the 2001 "Luigi's Mansion" and 2013's "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon" is more or less the same.  Luigi becomes a Ghostbuster and sucks up every spirit he can with his trusty Poltergust device.  But the games also have a lot of inner jokes and humour peppered throughout the game.

One example that I can think of right off the bat is with the communicator device that Luigi uses to contact Professor E. Gadd.  In the original 2001 game, Luigi uses a device that is called the "Game Boy Horror", which amusingly enough looks like a purple "Game Boy Color" console (the console that was released after the Nintendo Game Boy, but before the Game Boy Advance).  In the 2013 sequel, Luigi's communication device is updated accordingly.  Instead of a Game Boy Horror, his new device is a Nintendo DS shaped communicator affectionately named the Dual Scream!

(In case you didn't know, the DS in the Nintendo DS system stands for Dual Screen.  Dual Screen = Dual Scream?  Get it?  Heh...priceless.)

"Luigi's Mansion" was criticized for being too short, but the sequel is jam packed with lots of ghosts, sidequests, and a featured mode where a player can log on with three other players within the same Nintendo DS network to play in a mode known as the "ScareScraper" (which players can access after completing the first two levels).  

And, of course, there are all the classic Mario staples that are thrown into the games.  The main bad guy of the game is a ghost known as King Boo (a large form of the Boo ghosts that first began appearing in Super Mario Brothers 3).  One of the objections of the game is to collect shiny gold coins so that you could purchase upgrades for the Poltergust 5000, which will make it stronger and more durable.  As you well know, gold coins have been the currency of every single Mario game ever released.  There are paintings and jewels scattered all over the mansions that are shaped like mushrooms, flowers, and stars (the three main power-ups in a standard Mario game)...though I don't think that if you touch a star, you can become invincible and kill off all the ghosts.

Mainly because you can never really...kill...something that is already dead.  Well, unless you call a seance like that snobbish guy did in the 1988 film "Beetlejuice" when he tried to summon the spirits of Adam and Barbara Maitland who almost faded away into nothingness until Lydia called Beetlejuice and their spirits were saved.

And, yep...there I go off in a tangent again...dear me.

But you know something?  It didn't really dawn on me until after I started playing "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon", but "Luigi's Mansion" certainly had an influence on other Nintendo games.  There have been a couple of race tracks that have been styled after "Luigi's Mansion" rooms.  Course number five in "Super Mario 64" was clearly inspired by "Luigi's Mansion".  And, I'm almost guaranteed that "Luigi's Mansion" inspired several mini-games in the "Mario Party" series.

All in all, "Luigi's Mansion" is a great video game series that for once has Luigi as the hero.  And, it's been long overdue as far as I'm concerned.

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