I’m going to make these posts a bimonthly feature. They’ll go up every other Sunday, to fit with CIB Sunday on Twitter. CIB stands for complete-in-box, and it’s commonly used to describe video games. If a game includes the cartridge, case, instruction booklet, and everything else it originally came with, it is considered to be CIB.
In Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, King Boo once again appears and wreaks horrific havoc, shattering the Dark Moon of Evershade Valley into six pieces. This causes the ghosts residing there to go into a frenzy and become aggressive. With the valley in a state of disarray, Professor E. Gadd calls upon Luigi for help. Much to his dismay, Luigi must find the six missing Dark Moon shards and battle terrifying ghosts in the process.
I’m a huge fan of the original Luigi’s Mansion game for GameCube. It’s one of my all time favorites on any game system, and I truly never tire of playing it. I enjoyed the 3DS port of it immensely as well. This title was a significant part of my childhood; I played it for hours and hours, even coming back to replay the entire game a few different times. So, I was super excited for Dark Moon to come out! But, did the game hold up to my high expectations?
That question is a bit difficult to answer. There are positive points about Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, and some negative ones, too. Let’s start with the good aspects of this game first. One of the best parts is the addition of several new environments, including a snowy mountainside and a desert clock tower. In the first game, the only setting was a dilapidated, haunted mansion, and while it was a great environment, it didn’t leave much room for variety. However, Dark Moon allows Luigi to explore a wide range of different environments, all with varying ghosts, puzzles, and elements to overcome.
My favorite area of the game was probably the Secret Mine in the snowy mountains. Despite being overrun with angry ghosts, this environment is actually quite visually appealing, with pristine sheets of ivory snow and cozy wood cabins. It also features some fun puzzles, such as having to use the Poltergust 5000 (a special ghost vacuum and Luigi’s primary weapon) to open an oven and shoot a flaming stone at a frozen door. Another puzzle requires you to use the vacuum to shoot a Toad across an ice patch, as he’s too afraid to cross alone. This area just had a lot of originality and appeal to it, which I really enjoyed. It was something new, fresh, and exciting for the series.
In addition, Dark Moon allows you to upgrade the Poltergust 5000 as you progress and face more difficult challenges. This particular feature wasn’t present in the original game whatsoever, as the Poltergust maintained the same statistics. It’s a welcome change for the second game since it’s generally more challenging than the first and has more powerful ghosts. These upgrades make things much more convenient and easy to deal with. The capacity bars for certain tools increase, the Poltergust 5000 gains power, and ghosts become easier to defeat; all very helpful upgrades when dealing with aggressive spirits!
Another positive aspect of this game is that it maintains and embraces the spirit of the original. Luigi is still very much a reluctant hero; he’s terrified and he doesn’t want to be here, exorcising ghosts yet again, but he helps E. Gadd anyway. This is quite similar to how Luigi steps up and helps his famous, beloved brother in the first Luigi’s Mansion. Regardless of stepping forward to assist others, Luigi is very much horrified by the angry spirits around him. He jumps at the slightest sound, occasionally whimpers from fright, nervously hums when standing still for too long, and does other relatable things that make Luigi the scared, but endearing hero we all love.
Something I adore about both video games is that Luigi takes the starring role. Mario is typically the brother in the spotlight, defeating Koopa kings, rescuing princesses, and saving the Mushroom Kingdom. So, I think it’s nice to see Luigi in a more prominent role once in a while, and the Luigi’s Mansion series provides the perfect role for him. Each game puts Luigi in a situation he sorely doesn’t want to be in, but he always rises up and manages to save the day.
Alongside all the positive aspects of Dark Moon, there’s also a definite negative one. Really, my only complaint is about the system in which you explore each area. The first video game allows the player to explore the mansion and unlock new parts of it bit by bit. You start out with a set area and slowly unlock more of the mansion as you find keys and other ways to progress. This organic, progressive style of advancing the game’s story and exploration works incredibly well, giving players the opportunity to just enjoy uncovering more of the environment. Although there’s a sense of urgency in rescuing Mario, you can advance as you like and take time to soak in the charmingly eerie atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon takes a different approach with a mission-style format. The game gives you bite-sized missions in which you have to complete a specific objective to clear it and move on. Each environment has a few different missions to complete, each with varying goals and requirements. Typically, each area ends with a large-scale boss battle that leads to acquiring a new Dark Moon piece.
However, I have a few issues with this format. First, the formula becomes quite clear as you complete each area, and this can lead to the game becoming somewhat predictable. Of course, certain things change along the way. But for the most part, the game consists of completing an objective, completing another goal, defeating a boss ghost, and rinsing and repeating until the end.
Furthermore, this type of gameplay takes away the natural feeling progression in the previous game. You’re thrown into an area, you fulfill your current objective, and then you’re immediately spirited away to E. Gadd’s lair. Just as you’re getting used to a new area and exploring more of it, you’re forced right back out. This system takes away the excellent sense of immersion the original Luigi’s Mansion has. And it’s frustrating to always be ripped away from the actual gameplay; you lose your freedom within the game almost as soon as you gain it. After playing the first game, this is kind of disappointing and annoying to deal with in the second one.
That said, Dark Moon is still a very welcome addition to the Luigi’s Mansion series. Despite a flaw with its style of progression, the game is more than worth playing and experiencing for several important reasons. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is bursting with charm, there are tons of new areas to explore, you can power up to better deal with those pesky ghosts, and Luigi himself has the lead role as our favorite scaredy-cat plumber/ghost hunter. What’s not to love? If you haven’t played this game yet, you’re really missing out; enjoy some horrific fun just in time for the Halloween season!
If you’d like to check out my CIB Sunday post over Luigi’s Mansion, the game leading up to Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, you can find it at the link below!