Released: (in North America) March 24th, 2013
Developer(s): Next Level Games, Nintendo Software
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
I’ll admit that I didn’t pay much attention to this game when it came out. All that I knew about it was that it was a sequel to Luigi’s Mansion, which was a launch title for the Gamecube that I never got around to playing. I just wasn’t interested in Dark Moon at that time and I certainly wasn’t interested in paying $40 for it either. The game would not catch my eye again until the middle of September of this year when I saw that it was on sale as one of the *Nintendo Selects . . .um . . .selections. (*Note: this is when Nintendo takes their best/highest rated games and basically cuts the price in half.) Since I was browsing around the Nintendo eshop hoping to score a decent game for a good price, I went on ahead and bought it for $20. My only hope that was this game was on that list for a good reason.
Dark Moon opens up with a peaceful night in Evershade Valley with Professor E. Gadd tinkering in his lab while a couple oddly colored ghosts mess about nearby. We see a crescent shaped crystal hanging in the night sky. Everything seems fine until a giant boo wearing a crown adorned with I similarly colored crystal appears and shatters it. This somehow makes the ghosts in the lab flip out and attack the professor who makes a beeline for his bunker. From here, he gets in touch with Luigi, ghost-wrangler extraordinaire, and ‘pixelates’ him to his location because his specter hunting skills were indispensable in the last installment.
So Luigi is sent right into action. His first task is to locate the Poltergust 5000 that the professor abandoned when the ghosts attacked. I honestly don’t think the game truly begins until Luigi actually finds the glorified vacuum cleaner in the garage of the Gloomy Manor. Under the hood of a car. Still wanna know how it go there.
The Nintendo 3DS is an amazing little machine. The graphical output for this game is simply spectacular with its smooth lines and vibrant colors. From the little of it that I have seen, Dark Moon definitely looks better than the original Luigi’s Mansion. Nothing here looks blocky or pixilated.
Sound mixing in this game is also spectacular. Every drop of rain, clap of thunder, and even the sound of treasure being sucked into the Poltergust 5000 is music to the ears. There is a main theme that plays constantly and gets several different ‘remixes’ over the course of the adventure. It’s pretty catchy and fits perfectly well with the game’s atmosphere. Even Luigi himself hums along with it if you leave him idle long enough.
That brings me to the best part of the presentation: our green-clad hero. He often mirrors the player’s own thoughts and feelings. Facial expressions, vocalizations, body language and posture − you always know exactly what’s on Luigi’s mind.
You see, Dark Moon was released in 2013, The Year of Luigi. And it shows. It is apparent that so much love and care went into him for this game. His personality is fully seen. You can clearly see just how brave he truly is despite being a HUGE coward (and a bit of a nervous wreck) and that he has a heart of gold. Such a charming characterization won me over rather quickly. It’s funny, but I can’t really recall a time when Mario, Nintendo’s official mascot, was given this much of a personality.
Let me get something out of the way right off the bat: I have NO idea how Dark Moon’s gameplay stacks up against its predecessor Luigi’s Mansion. Like I’ve said before, I never got to play that game and I probably never will . . .unless the rumors floating around about the Nintendo Switch turn out to be true. Anyway, there’s no need to have played the first game to appreciate and understand how Dark Moon works. From what I can tell it’s practically the same with a few tweaks here and there. And let me get something else out of the way while I’m at it: this IS NOT a Mario game.
There is no high-speed, high-energy platforming to be found here. Since this game emphasizes exploration, puzzle solving, and catching those pesky ghosts it is an overall slower experience. Now let’s get into the meat and potatoes of how it all works.
This installment of Luigi’s Mansion takes place in several key locations throughout Evershade Valley, with these areas themselves being divided up into different missions. The last one is always defeating a boss and recovering a shard of the Dark Moon Crystal to unlock the next set of missions in the next area.
Searching every nook and cranny as you travel from location to location is a wise investment of your time. Treasure is everywhere. I’m talking about gold coins, gold bricks, gems, and straight-up stacks of cash. There’s even these golden bone thingies that you can’t find until after you’ve lined your pockets a bit and discovering exactly what these bones do is a pleasant surprise. (Hint: y’all remember that ghost dog from the previous game?)
Along with all the looting, there is the matter of busting ghosts. They come in a bunch of different colors which let you know just what subspecies of ghost you’re dealing with. I found them all to be fleshed out pretty well with their own character, behavior, tactics, defenses, and weaknesses. Despite all that, every variety of ghost is taken down in almost the exact same manner: stun ‘em then suck ‘em up with the infamous Poltergust 5000 which has to be professor E. Gadd’s most iconic invention.
Before I talk about that though, I must briefly talk about the boos. You know, the ghosts that used to chase after you if you turned your back to them. They are all over the place in Dark Moon and even sneakier than ever. They hide themselves by making certain objects invisible and can only be revealed by shining a special light on said objects. They can be extremely difficult to find. Early on in the game I decided that I wasn’t going to beat myself up if I couldn’t find them all.
Now back to the Poltergust 5000. I don’t really know how it functioned in the original Luigi’s Mansion but I can tell you all about its features and how it gets the job done in Dark Moon.
- Strobe Light – Momentarily stuns ghosts. Except for those sneaky boos.
- Dark–Light – A sort of black light that reveals objects that have been hidden by those dang boos.
- Bottomless (subspace) Bag – Pretty self explanatory. Never gets full no matter how many ghosts or how much treasure it sucks up.
Dark Moon is definitely one of the many gems to be found on the Nintendo 3DS. Because I missed out the Gamecube original I didn’t quite know what to expect. But, man, was I pleasantly surprised with just how good this game turned out to be. Playing through it was a generally awesome experience. The whole thing is like a love letter to Luigi fans and a proper way to celebrate The Year of Luigi. However, there were a still a couple that I found frustrating:
- A few of the boss fights − I got my ass handed to me a number of times.
- Luigi’s lack of speed and agility − I get it. He’s wearing a big, heavy vacuum cleaner on his back. Taking on those ghosts would be a lot easier if I was able to jump. Or at least move faster.
- Finding those sneaky boos − This is WAY harder than it needs to be. You have to find one INVISIBLE object in every last large mission area. “Nuff said!
Dark Moon is still an amazing game from beginning to end despite my few, minor grievances. In my opinion, a proper sequel should accomplish two things. First, it should foster feelings of appreciation with or without experiencing the original and then it stir up a curiosity about what its predecessor was like. Done and done. I now sincerely regret passing up on Luigi’s Mansion during the Gamecube’s life cycle. I traded that system in years ago and that game never got a digital re-release. (Man, this system really got the shaft when it came to digital marketplaces and such.) I can’t even emulate is as things stand now because the software is hard to run for no damn reason.
My only hope now is the Nvidia-powered Nintendo Switch. If the rumors I’ve heard about this new system are true, then maybe all the Gamecube titles that have been sitting in digital purgatory for the past decade will get a chance to shine again. Come on, Nintendo! This is your ONE shot at blowing Sony and Microsoft out of the water for a change!