Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD Review

Luigi’s Mansion was one of the first console games I ever owned, and funny enough I got it before I even got my GameCube. That awaited me when I came home from Dad Christmas to Mom Christmas. Guess that’s just the magic of staggered Family Christmases, just one of the many pros/cons of growing up being a divorce kid. I have a decent amount of nostalgia for it, but Luigi’s Mansion 2 was always the more interesting game to me in a lot of ways. Honestly, I prefer the original game in a handful of ways, but this latest Nintendo Switch release of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (now titled Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD) has won me over far more than I ever expected.

It was hard to tell on the Nintendo 3DS’ 240p screen, but Luigi’s Mansion 2 has held up graphically rather well. The remaster sits in an interesting spot of having enough touched up to match Nintendo’s new visual pedigree, while still looking and feeling like a 3DS game for those with a keen eye. If you never played games in that era, there’s a chance this might not even look like the relic it is. The resolution has been brought up to be native (basing this on nothing more than my eyes, but it looks really crisp docked and undocked), textures look fantastic, lighting has been modernized, and the models received some touch-ups. This is still the game it always was, but presented better than you remember it. Every visual improvement brings up the experience, which uses the expressive visuals and animation to deliver a charming and fun ghost-hunting adventure. We don’t have a weird situation where they improved so much that it looks better than Luigi’s Mansion 3, and I’m glad they put enough effort into preserving the game’s identity as a 3DS game.

Luigi's Mansion 2 HD Review Screenshot 1Luigi's Mansion 2 HD Review Screenshot 1

That is a bit of a double-edged sword though, as that exact identity seeps into the game design itself. This was made in the era where portable gaming was designed to be enjoyed in small bursts, as Luigi’s Mansion 2 drops the freely explorable mansion for a series of mansions where exploration is broken into linear missions. You can expect about 5 missions per mansion, with each taking anywhere between 10-20 minutes to complete. This is probably the weakest aspect of the game for me, but I can’t deny that it absolutely worked for my lifestyle now where it’s hard to take a couple hours to focus on a single game. In those sessions where I had that kind of time though, I’d often get frustrated at how sudden the game would break immersion either for E. Gadd to call you up and explain what was happening or for him to teleport you away. 

The benefit to this kind of structure though is the ability for the designers to curate your experience to have plenty of unique ghost encounters and maximize the space. Getting a chance to replay these chunks of the game and not having to restart your playthrough to see specific moments again or fight bosses you might like is genuinely a good thing. I can’t see myself wanting to replay any of the bosses, which are largely just inoffensive, but the option is great to have. 

Luigi's Mansion 2 HD Review Screenshot 2Luigi's Mansion 2 HD Review Screenshot 2

The mission structure ultimately reframes the survival horror gameplay progression Luigi’s Mansion takes inspiration from into something more arcadey, and for this particular entry I think it works well enough. It lays the backtracking of it bare, however, sometimes making you replay rooms of the mansion to trigger separate progression flags than before. It’s a clever way to get the most of the assets they have, but does make certain mansions overstay their welcome. I think the idea of having several small mansions split up like this is great for variety, and at the end of the day progressing through them functions similarly to the original Luigi’s Mansion or the series’ third game.

The puzzles are where Luigi’s Mansion 2 truly shines, utilizing a relatively small handful of gadgets to maximum effect. You have your strobe light, a dark light, and your trusty Poltergust 5000 vacuum to suck up ghosts. Almost every single object can be messed with in some fashion, and all of them will at least react to the vacuum in some way. Every mansion has its own gimmick, with the vacuum having different main uses. Sometimes you’ll need to get light cobweb bundles on fire to clear out a spider-infested room, or pick up a bucket with the Poltergust and fill it with water to water plants. There’s a lot of variety here, and exploring off the beaten path will reward players with more puzzles and treasures. Almost every mission has a hidden Boo to find, and it gives each mission a lot of replayability as you track down every last secret.

Luigi's Mansion 2 HD Review Screenshot 3Luigi's Mansion 2 HD Review Screenshot 3

The controls feel much more responsive than before, letting you move the direction Luigi is aiming independently from the direction he is walking. The ability to turn your strobe light as you charge saves a lot of time and annoyances that propped up with the original 3DS version thanks to the single C Stick. You’ll be fighting a lot of ghosts in this game, often in large waves, and once I got used to the way Luigi controlled now, I had a great time. Luigi’s Mansion 2 is probably the simplest game in the series, but the three tools in your arsenal feel fleshed out and well utilized constantly. Catching ghosts is fun, and the challenge is ramped up in a satisfying way as you make your way through more mansions. 

Performance is also another thing spruced up and makes the game feel more responsive. It still targets 30 frames per second, but I don’t think I noticed it dipping below that target a single time. The original game had frame rate dips that I wouldn’t say made it unplayable, but comparing the two versions via videos online shows that there has been a lot done to optimize it. Cutscenes in particular looked like they’d drop in framerate to keep up their visual fidelity, and that’s no longer an issue. The play feels good, even if I wish they could have managed to pull off 60 frames per second. 

Luigi's Mansion 2 HD Review Screenshot 4Luigi's Mansion 2 HD Review Screenshot 4

Finally, I think they’ve done a good job making the interface work on a single screen. The important parts of the bottom screen – the map – is now visible in the top right corner as a mini-map (toggleable in the menu). They’ve gone the extra mile to make the full map screen mimic E. Gadd’s Dual Scream bottom screen, accurately matching the original Nintendo DS. All of the HUD elements look great, making Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD feel at home on the Switch.

I’m not exactly sure why Luigi’s Mansion 2 was chosen for an HD remaster over the original, but after all is said and done I’m glad this game got another chance at life. Outside of the mission structure (which I even grew to like at the end), I never felt this carried over any of the negative connotations with it being a 3DS conversion. The gameplay feels fresh, and the controls rarely gave me any issues. Having a second thumbstick goes a long way in making this feel leagues better to play than the original. They haven’t really added anything substantial, so people who have played the original won’t be met with any new surprises. I had fun revisiting this charming ghost adventure, but I can’t say it’ll be worth it for every player given the steep cost. It does have me wanting to dust off my 3DS for the remake of the original and redownload Luigi’s Mansion 3. I’m back in a Luigi’s Mansion mood, and hope we get to see a fourth game on Nintendo’s next console.

Version Tested: Nintendo SwitchReview copy provided by Nintendo

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