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I went into reviewing Luigi's Mansion 3 expecting to be disappointed. After the disaster that was Super Mario Maker 2, and the remake of Link's Awakening people tried to claim they'd wanted after showing no signs of it until it was announced, I figured Luigi's Mansion 3 would flop. While I have yet to play the game, I can at the very least give some kind of preliminary assessment.
The gameplay is too sweet for me to call it outright bland, but too formulaic for me to call it innovative. While there are new mechanics introduced, the game seems too scared to get too creative with them. This, I believe, is due to the sheer volume of them- they didn't want one to outshine the others, so they kept them very basic. In fact, most of the unique stuff you do with the new tools seems relegated to boss encounters. While this makes each boss feel like more of a unique threat, it makes lower tier opponents a bit of a slog- they stop feeling like enemies and more like bland obstacles. While I appreciate that they tried to spice things up, it's not enough for it to really stand out in my mind. 7/10.
The visuals were given a much needed boost, and the game takes full advantage of it- the gems and coins actually look like they're made of metal and precious stone now, and Gooigi has that delectable "gummy-bear" feel to him. Stuff you smash ghosts into doesn't just "fade away," outside of particle effects. Instead they remain on screen, broken into itty-bitty pieces, which makes it rather cathartic to pound ghosts into them. The lighting is milked for all it's worth, taking advantage of many different means to make the hotel feel ominous. While there are minor hiccups, this is one of the most visually impressive games on the Switch. 9.5/10
The plot is nothing new. Most if not all the story elements in play here are things I've either seen before in the Luigi's Mansion series, or make the plot less divergent from a core Mario game. This is a game you get for gameplay, not plot. That being said, it doesn't commit any grave offenses, and it does refine a few things that were already there, so it's not entirely cookie cutter. 5.5/10.
The audio is its own worst enemy. While the game has some pretty good songs in the soundtrack, you can barely hear them over the sound effects, which you'll be getting a lot of as you vacuum up enemies who refuse to shut up. Also, the instruments they chose, while clearly played skillfully, include some pretty obscure ones that tend not to have widespread appeal. 4/10.
Final rating: 65.5%. A solid "safe" game. While not among games that are truly brilliant, you get your money's worth of content. It is a worthy successor to the title, which given Nintendo right now, is already more than I expected.
The Nintendo Switch has an identity to its library that fits the system: open, big games that elegantly combine the best parts of older ones. This game fits that, as Next Level Games continue their excellent work from Dark Moon/2 while making it fit the Switch and bringing back some of the first game.
3 has elements from both previous games, and it's seamless. The floors are large, and each has a theme and a boss ghost, who are defined caricatures like the Portrait Ghosts from 1. The game is one connected map, and you almost never have to return to base. Plot sometimes steps in, but not often. Each floor is an exciting jaunt through a theme, and the enticing mystery of each floor's concept keeps you from being disappointed that the last one ended. In 2, there were themed areas, but they were longer and in them, levels were driven by contrived plot turns and not the thrill of a new setting. For me, the best Nintendo games make each level new and fun, and this does it.
The combat is good. The slam makes crowds easier and allowing for high damage, and the burst clears away ghosts.
Puzzles are tied to your moves, with the character Gooigi added in. You can fire plungers to let you slam objects or pull things; a natural fit I know I'll miss when I return to 2, and the burst has some puzzle use as well. Gooigi adds a lot of dimension to each space. I wish the Spirit Ball illusions weren't reduced, but the new mechanic involving purple ones is a great expansion on the concept.
The bosses are good, and all of them are better fights than the Portrait Ghosts. Here, there's a back-and-forth for each rather than a test of how long you can hold each one, there's slightly more effort involved for each boss's puzzle, and the climax bosses fit with the other characters while working like 2's Possessors, which is great.
The regular ghosts aren't great. Most of them are blatant copies of 2's, and they don't have much charm because of it. They also don't get harder later on.
The oddest thing that didn't work for me was King Boo. Even though this series is about him and Luigi, he felt shoehorned into the game. Hellen, the hotel owner ghost, has more presence and is an interesting villain on her own. She's the foe motivating the player, and she's the more satisfying one to beat. But King Boo is here, and felt a little forced. It's baffling that I found the sudden new character to be a more compelling villain than the mainstay, and I feel like that's an issue.
The Gallery feature felt like a throwaway compared to the previous two games. Treasure ghosts aren't counted, and none of the types or bosses have flavor text or bios, leaving the new characters feeling a little less characterful.
In the end, this is a great time, and just what a Switch LM should have been. It just has some narrative flaws.
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