Narrative in Video Games #16: Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

The 2001 launch of the Gamecube was something of a departure for Nintendo. After launching the NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 with Super Mario Bros, Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64 respectively, the gaming public expected the new console to launch with its own Mario game as well. Instead, we got the cult favorite spinoff Luigi’s Mansion that won players over with its palpable atmosphere and undeniable charm. After more than a decade had passed, many believed the game to be a one and done experiment. At least until 2013, when the long-awaited sequel Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon launched on the Nintendo 3DS.

Some time after the first game, King Boo returns and shatters the titular Dark Moon, causing the ghosts of Evershade Valley to go on a rampage. It’s now up to Luigi to find the pieces, stop King Boo, and return everything back to normal. The most apparent changes in Dark Moon are the scope expanding from one mansion to five and the new mission structure. Most mansions have five missions that create a smaller narrative arc within the larger story. This creates a problem when each mansion is largely self-contained and the game has little in the way of a strong narrative through line. Each mansion feels like starting over and Dark Moon as a whole suffers from the general lack of rising action.

Another major change is the shift in enemy focus by removing the previous game’s portrait ghosts and relying almost exclusively on standard enemies. Common ghosts are given more personality and versatility that makes them shine in the moment, but this also creates a real lack of standout encounters. There are only so many ways to suck up the same ghosts.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a charming game that suffers through repetition. It’s a worthy sequel to one of gaming’s cult classics, but doesn’t quite match the tight focus of its predecessor. Dark Moon is at its best in short bursts, so its a perfect fit for a handheld.

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