Attendees of Nintendo's E3 2011 press conference seemed surprised by the announcement of Luigi's Mansion 2, though probably not as surprised as they were by the fact that they actually missed the heck out of the original. It's not that the game's loveable, suction-powered Gamecube predecessor was particularly forgettable, it's just that we've seen quite a few years (and a number of entries in Nintendo's other first-party franchises) since the franchise's inception.
Playing the new 3DS title stirred up even more nostalgia than the announcement trailer elicited. It's hard not to sympathize with Luigi, who shivers and creeps his way through countless palatial estates in search of mischievous phantasms. It's also hard to ignore the fact that Luigi's characteristically slow ghost hunt seems to have gotten even slower over the years.
The depth-of-field is different, but the core ghostbusting process is the same: Luigi hunts from room to room in search of a particular boss, all the while plagued by smaller, equally bothersome ghosts. Enemies must be incapacitated by a strobe of your trusty flashlight before you give them the Hoover treatment, always maintaining a steady pull against the direction said ghosts are attempting to flee.
Though the original Mansion added a few other elements to this scheme, the demo I played didn't do a whole lot to show what's new this time around. The only ones who managed to throw some variety into the mix were the ghosts themselves. As they popped out of objects, they seemed to take some of said object with them -- a pair which materialized from a fully set dinner table wielded pans as shields against your strobe, for example.
The mansion in which the demo took place (one of several to which Luigi is transported by returning nutty professor Elvin Gadd) looked as dark and atmospheric as the first game's singular setting. Long hallways look unsurprisingly great with the 3D shutter turned up, and the frequent momentary power outages are just as unsettling as they were the first time around.
Unfortunately, it's difficult to find all of Luigi's Mansion 2's nostalgia-inducing elements endearing when they're surrounded by some of the worst framerate issues I've experienced on the 3DS. They were certainly magnified by the fact that Luigi's methods of movement are slow and methodical -- mostly out of terror -- but in some of the game's more frantic moments, the framerate slows to an unacceptable crawl.
With a launch window of early 2012, Next Level Games has plenty of time to try and remedy the slowdown. As it stands, this demo was just an illustration of the sequel's capacity to recapture the magic of the original, an objective it achieved expertly. I hope the next preview will show off some new tricks that Luigi has tucked up his emerald, glove-tucked sleeves.