When thinking back to being in the early 2000s, the concept of Luigi’s Mansion must have been strange. Mario games were so bright, colorful, and he always had pep in his step. After Super Mario 64, I’m sure fans were expecting something of similar nature to release on the Nintendo Gamecube. And while they did eventually get Super Mario Sunshine, Luigi got his turn first with Luigi’s Mansion.
Luigi’s Mansion was the complete opposite of everything Mario was known to be. The game had a dark atmosphere; the color scheme was grungy, and you couldn’t even jump—in a Mario game! All this is to say that Luigi’s Mansion is a special game, which is why it deserved a better remake.
A remake of Luigi’s Mansion was revealed during the March 2018 Nintendo Direct, and it was incredibly exciting until they stated that the game was coming to the 3DS. The 3DS deserves all the praise in the world, but by 2018 the handheld was definitely on its way out the door as the Switch was the thing on everyone’s minds. The 3DS had already been out for seven years, and the hardware was becoming dated. Looking back on it, the Luigi’s Mansion Remake should have been on the Switch.
This remake happened on the lesser hardware because Shigeru Miyamoto designed a working prototype of Luigi’s Mansion to test out the 3DS’ hardware capabilities. So yes, it makes sense, but the issue isn’t graphical power but the change in the tone. Due to its spooky setting and dark art style, Luigi’s Mansion feels like a horror game despite not being classified as one. When you explore the iconic mansion in the original game, the lighting of the entire game is dark. That flashlight that Luigi carried around felt necessary. In a game where ghosts could pop out of any object and travel through walls, darkness was a set-piece that held the game’s tone. The entire game is much brighter in the remake, and the flashlight feels more like eye candy than it does a tool to use against the darkness. One of the best parts of the original game was finally clearing a room and having the lights turn on. It gave a sense of comfort, which the game would then rip away from you when the power shuts off later. In the remake, it just felt like the lights were on all the time.
Another issue with the remake is that it essentially gets rid of the dust effect prevalent in the original game. If Luigi sucked up anything or touched an item on a shelf, dust would come flying off of it. It gave the entire mansion this dilapidated feel, like nobody had set foot in it for decades. In contrast, the new mansion felt squeaky clean. Perhaps the butler ghost had a sudden burst of energy over the years.
All in all, the graphics just look worse. Despite the original and the remaster being more than fifteen years apart, it looked like a downgrade. One of the most iconic scenes of the game, where Luigi’s hand is shown in detail going to open a door, is noticeably worse. The door is more blurry and lacks a lot of subtle detail that the original game had.
Luigi’s Mansion gets the core of its existence thanks to games like Resident Evil & Clock Tower (with some Ghostbusters in there), so removing the darker tones from the setting betray the atmosphere the game is trying to produce. It’s like playing Resident Evil, but you explore the house in broad daylight.
Being on the weaker hardware affects not only the graphics but also the way the game is played in general. The 3DS is a handheld system, so there is only one way to play it. This becomes an issue for anyone with above-average hand size (including myself). The Nintendo Switch, however, has multiple controller options as well as being able to be played handheld. Luigi’s Mansion was meant to be played with dual sticks, something not all 3DS’ have, and the ones that do, do it poorly. Y’know what does have dual sticks? A Gamecube controller, which was the controller used for the original game and which you can buy for the Switch.
Co-op was also added for the remake, and it’s debatable whether or not this game works well with two people, but the real issue is the framerate when playing with a friend. It takes a nosedive. Again, this game shouldn’t have been on the much weaker hardware if the developers intended it to be played with more than one player.
Luigi’s Mansion is a cult classic that started a franchise that is incredibly popular today. I’m glad that it got some sort of remake, but it could have been a lot better in the end. It shouldn’t have been put on a piece of hardware that was on its way out the door, nor on hardware that was far weaker than the other console Nintendo had out at the time. The environments lose a lot of the atmosphere the game tries to build, and enough subtle details were changed to the point where they became noticeable. A game like this isn’t meant for the hardware it was put on, especially when you add in coop and the less than stellar controls. Luigi’s Mansion deserved a better remake than what it got.