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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (399)

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Mass Effect 3 3.5/5
Mass Effect 2 3.5/5
Mass Effect 2.5/5
Knightin'+ 3.5/5
Indivisible 3/5
Final Fantasy XIV Onlin... 2/5
A Total War Saga: Troy 3/5
Stardew Valley 3/5
Soulcalibur VI 4.5/5
Owlboy 3/5
Battletech 3/5
Bloodstained: Ritual of... 3/5
The Legend of Zelda: A ... 4/5
Hob 3/5
Assassin's Creed Odyssey 4.5/5
Ittle Dew 2 4.5/5
Luigi's Mansion 3 4/5
Xuan-Yuan Sword: The Ga... 3/5
Star Trek: Bridge Crew 3.5/5
King's Quest: The Compl... 3/5
Strange Brigade 4/5
Metro Exodus 3.5/5
Evoland Legendary Editi... 4.5/5
Evoland 2 4.5/5
Burokku Girls 2/5

Next 25

Luigi's Mansion 3   Nintendo Switch 

Hotel Luigi-O    4/5 stars

Way back in 2001, Nintendo launched a new ‘Mario’ spin-off series starring the green-clad younger brother of the duo, Luigi. In this new series, ‘Luigi’s Mansion,’ not only did Nintendo produce a new IP by expanding on their existing IP, but they began exploring uncharted genre territory – for Nintendo, that is – by creating a Survival Horror game that was light enough on both the Survival and the Horror to make it accessible to a young audience (or, indeed, an audience with a yellow streak as wide as Luigi’s).

Nintendo would go on to neglect this new IP, leaving it fallow and untouched for a whopping 12 years, before their marketing gimmick of “The Year of Luigi” coincided with a new game in the spin-off series hitting the embattled and struggling 3DS in 2013, all while the equally-struggling-and-embattled WiiU was allowed to wither away.

However, as Nintendo flailed about in the midst of their nadir of relevance, the painstakingly-traditional, stereotypically-Japanese game maker did something one would expect from any old crummy “AAA” Western game publisher: They farmed out the ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ sequel to a Canadian Indie company, called Next Level Games, and let the little guy take the blame for any potential failure, while the executive heads back home in Japan would take the credit for any success.

Next Level apparently did well enough with the unhappy handheld-bound sequel that Nintendo contracted their services exclusively as of 2014. Thus when it came time to blow the dust of ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ again in order to release some new first-party games on the Nintendo Switch, Next Level was, once again at the helm, filling the credits roll for “Luigi’s Mansion 3” (“LM3”) with so many European names that it feels unnatural to see them attached to a Nintendo product.

I was always a fan of the original “Luigi’s Mansion,” and found it to be a rather enjoyable, if not horrifically short, romp that excelled at showing off the Gamecube’s then-cutting-edge capabilities. Not being a fan of miniscule screens nor the 3D gimmick, I never deigned to buy, borrow, or otherwise finagle a 3DS system, so I was quite pleased to finally have another opportunity to experience this series with the Switch sequel.

“LM3” looks and sounds about like one would expect from a Switch game. Next Level, in spite of the reputation of Western developers for corner-cutting, really nailed the attention to detail Nintendo first-party games are renowned for. The game is full of lavish cutscenes which blend seamlessly with gameplay, though, unfortunately, both feature some small amount of aliasing artifacts (i.e., jaggies) and stylistic blur that I would rather see turned off.

Character designs are detailed in the extreme, down to the individual threads in Luigi’s shirt, while the ghosts who populate the game range from generic and bland for the run-of-the-mill ghosts to obscenely charming for the boss ghosts.

Soundwise, “LM3” is something of a step down from the first game. While the ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ theme is present, it’s largely used as a gimmick, whereas the actual background music that accompanies gameplay may as well not even exist for how blandly innocuous it is.

Technically, “LM3” is quite solid, as one should expect from both a console game and a Nintendo-published game. I never experienced any crashy or glitchy behavior to any significant extent. The game compulsively auto-saves as well, ensuring that if anything does go wrong the player won’t have to replay a bunch of rooms they’ve already cleared. Other than the fact that the game’s load times could be better (as is the case with all Switch games), the worst technical quirk I ran into was a silly bit of animation corruption: Luigi opens his mouth and blinks whenever the player changes his facing from side-to-side. I found his expression hilariously idiotic, so I took great joy in flicking the right stick back and forth while riding in the load-screen-hiding elevator between stages, which made Luigi’s lips and eyelids freak out like he was having an attack of Tardive Dyskinesia.

Our tale begins with Luigi, perpetual second-best brother in the Super Mario Brothers team of mushroom monarch liberators, winning an all-expenses-paid vacation to The Last Resort, a massive luxury hotel located in a remote mountainous region of the Mushroom Kingdom. Not only is Luigi himself invited to stay, but so are his brother Mario, Princess Peach, and a royal escort of three generic Toads, all of whom pile into Peach’s RV (Who knew she even had one?) and take off for a relaxing break from daring-do and perpetual Bowser-thwarting.

Upon arriving at the hotel, Luigi and his Plus Five receive a lavish welcome from Helen Gravely, the hotel owner, and her staff, and are escorted to their rooms on the 5th floor. Tired from their long RV journey, the crew hits the sack, intent on exploring the hotel’s robust array of activities in the morning. However, no sooner does he hit the hay, but Luigi is awakened by the crackle of lightning and unearthly screams, as he sees the hotel’s cheerful façade fade away into a grim and decaying mockery.

“Bravely” heading out to check on his brother and other traveling companions, Luigi finds them mysteriously gone. He runs into the hotel owner in the hallway and learns, not only is she actually a ghost, but she’s the biggest King Boo fangirl in the history of King Boo fangirls, and has also sprung Luigi’s long-time menace from imprisonment in Dr. E. Gadd’s ghost collection.

Of course, King Boo is up to his old tricks again, and wants to trap Luigi and co. in magical paintings. Seemingly on the verge of victory, King Boo is thwarted when Luigi falls down a trash chute and evades paint-ification. Our hero then finds himself in the hotel’s basement garage, where he discovers that his long-time ghost-hunting pal, Dr. Gadd, is staying at the hotel as well, due to the presence of the professor’s car. Conveniently, Luigi discovers a new model of Gadd’s ghost-sucking vacuum cleaners inside the vehicle and, reluctantly as ever, sets out to rescue his friends from the clutches of King Boo.

Luigi is stymied in his effort, however, by the fact that the ghosts have sabotaged the hotel’s elevator, stealing and jealously hoarding most of the buttons for the building’s 15 floors and 2 sublevels. It’s up to Luigi to swallow his cowardice and beat-down the hotel’s resident ghosts in order to repair the elevator and scour the building for his missing friends.

In general, “LM3” has a fairly strong narrative for a ‘Mario’ game. It is rather amusing that, while there is dialog from the ghosts and Dr. Gadd, when Luigi, Mario, and the crew converse, it all takes the form of their traditional catch phrases and sound bites strung together, like some mad DJ’s remix of every ‘Mario’ game of the last 20 years.

However, the pacing really struggles at points, making the game feel simultaneously rushed and plodding. Luigi spends a lot of time on certain floors, revealing interesting subplots behind the floors’ resident ghost bosses, while on others he’s in-and-out with the missing elevator button in moments. Furthermore, the entire structure of the game as a hotel with theme-park like floors tends to stretch credibility to the breaking point. Why does a hotel have a natural history museum? Why does it have a pyramid, for that matter? And why is the swimming pool waaaaaay up near the top instead of on the ground floor or in one of the basements? These oddly-themed floors, while enjoyable in and of themselves, make the overarching experience feel incredibly disjointed.

“LM3” is not a terribly long game, though it is a far cry longer than the original “Luigi’s Mansion,” which was pitifully short. “LM3” gave me about 20 hours of entertainment. I was fairly thorough and managed to get the “best” ending, however I was not a completionist and didn’t go back and find all of the hidden secrets, as there is no in-game reward for doing so, other than a nebulous “sense of accomplishment” at padding out the experience with an unholy amount of backtracking.

The ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ series has always been what I like to call a Survival Horror-lite series. There are spooky environments, limited sources of light, and a plethora of opportunities for jump-scares, yet nothing ensconced within the confines of the series is actually gruesome, horrifying, or really ‘scary’ in any definable way.

The player controls Luigi as he traverses floor after floor of a haunted hotel. Each of these floors contains a number of discrete rooms separated by (sometimes locked) doors. While the player’s main view into the game world is a slightly-elevated side-on camera that follows Luigi in longer hallways but remains fixed in individual rooms, the player also has access to a floor map at nearly all times, giving them a birds-eye perspective of the hotel’s immediate layout as well as handy visual representation of which rooms haven’t been explored yet.

The player’s primary task is to guide Luigi from the elevator that marks the entrance of one of the hotel’s 17 total floors to a conveniently-marked boss room, where a boss ghost dwells. Defeating a boss ghost inevitably (though sometimes requiring some more roundabout pursuit) grants Luigi access to another floor in the hotel, where the process of exploration begins again.

Many rooms contain puzzles, and even more contain intervening ghosts, which must be dispatched before Luigi can move on. Busting ghosts in the ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ series has always involved a special vacuum cleaner dubbed the ‘Poltergust.’ In “LM3,” Luigi wields the Poltergust G-00 model of this vacuum series, and largely battles ghosts the same way he always has: By sucking on their ‘tails.’ However, the G-00 has a couple of new features not seen in the series before. First, after Luigi has caught a ghost by the tail, instead of just using the vacuum as a fishing pole analog and ‘reeling it in,’ he can build-up tension and slam the ensnared ghost back and forth, damaging it (and any of its cohorts who happen to get in the way) severely (which seems a bit odd, since one would think a ghost would just pass through the floor instead of being damaged by it…).

In addition its extra ghost-beating prowess, the Poltergust G-00 also features a goo tank, which Dr. Gadd will eventually fill with a special sauce that seems to be one part nanomachines, one part ectoplasm. This goo, dubbed ‘Gooigi,’ can be deployed to create a doppelganger of our hero that can act independently. Gooigi is the primary vector through which two players can coop their way through “LM3,” though a solo player can easily swap between Luigi and Gooigi at any time in order to solve two-man puzzles, or to explore narrow spaces (such as pipes and grates) where original recipe Luigi won’t fit.

In pursuit of puzzle solving, Luigi also has access to a few other handy tools. First, he’s got a flashlight, which paralyzes ghosts (provide they can’t cover their eyes somehow) and can be charged like a flashbulb. He also has access to a Dark Light (returning from the 3DS game) that reveals invisible objects and is used to fight a specific type of ghost (the type that likes to possess garbage cans and steamer trunks). Then there’s the plunger gun, a (very difficult to aim) projectile that allows Luigi to stick a suction cup with a rope attached to a large number of compatible surfaces in order to better ‘manipulate’ them (that is, suck on them) with the Poltergust.

Other than capturing ghosts, solving puzzles, and gathering missing elevator buttons to unlock subsequent stages, the primary activity players will engage in while playing “LM3” is gathering money. Like in its predecessors, nearly every surface, object, nook, and cranny in “LM3” is stuffed with coins, bills, gold bars, and giant pearls for Luigi to hoover-up in his Poltergust. And like the previous games, the ending the player sees will change ever so slightly depending on the amount of money collected over the course of the game. “LM3’s” thresholds for money collection are much easier to hit than previous titles, though this seems to be due to the fact that it is now possible to buy secret-finding items from Professor Gadd for $1000 of in-game money (it’s sad that I have to clarify that, but if this was EA instead of Nintendo, it would cost real money) each. Each floor contains 6 hidden gemstones (that don’t actually do anything when found) and a hidden Boo (who only appear after the floor is cleared and the player leaves and returns), so it’s possible to burn a lot of coins hunting them all down.

For the most part, “LM3” feels like an exploration-focused game that rewards players for fiddling with every single bit of the game world they can, somewhat in the vein of “Super Mario Odyssey.” But in between these rewarding bouts of exploration are some very unrewarding boss battles. In far too many face offs with boss ghosts, I felt like I was trial-and-error-ing my way to victory, not because the bosses were particularly difficult (though the final boss is largely a big guessing game), but because the way they telegraph their attacks and weaknesses can be incredibly, infuriatingly vague, to the point where figuring out what I was expected to do was far more challenging than actually doing it. Furthermore, I feel like the in-game lessons on how to capture ghosts aren’t really adequate. In the original “Luigi’s Mansion,” I remember what great pains the game took to explain how to snag a ghost and always pull the analog stick away from it in order to damage it, but “LM3” seems unfriendly to newcomers, as I primarily relied on my remembered skills from 2001 to play it properly.

“Luigi’s Mansion 3” is not a particularly ambitious game, nor does it really do anything to raise its IP to new levels. It’s a big, sprawling, sometimes messy experience that occasionally rushes, occasionally drags, occasionally confounds, and occasionally delights. While it has its moments, I feel that the parts are, at times, greater than the game taken as a whole.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 4/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Overall (not an average): 4/5



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