When Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon releases in North America on the 3DS next week, it will do more than serve as a nostalgia trip for fans of the original game, according to Nintendo and Next Level Games.
Speaking in an interview with Polygon, the developers said that while they were making a sequel to Luigi's Mansion — a game that released more than 10 years ago on the GameCube and has since become "a precious memory to a lot of people" — the teams had to carefully find a balance between the old and the new. In the former, they had to capture what fans loved so much about the original Luigi's Mansion. In the latter, they couldn't just rely on elements of nostalgia to keep players interested.
"When you're sequelling or bringing back a franchise, you need to respect the original developers and the fans of the product," director of Next Level Games Bryce Holliday told Polygon. "But you can also figure out what's different from then to now, and one of the big differences is the hardware has changed."
"Watching Luigi is kind of like watching a Mr. Bean episode"
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon introduces elements to the game that either did not exist in the first game or were not possible to implement back in 2001. It has multiplayer, which allows up to four players to venture into haunted mansions with Luigi to vacuum ghosts. The game is in 3D, with the additional dimension opening up new gameplay opportunities and giving players more interesting haunted spaces to explore. The battle system has been re-designed from scratch, and Holliday believes that the game is the most cinematic of all of Nintendo's titles, with the development team putting extra care into the game's presentation.The game also introduces the Polterpup, a white ghost dog that can float between rooms (a first for Luigi's Mansion), and Luigi is armed with both a flashlight, which can be used to scare ghosts, and a dark light, which allows Luigi to see through illusions to find solutions to puzzles, trigger traps or gags and even expose ghosts.
According to the game's gameplay engineer, Brian Davis, all these additions meant the developers could come up with new puzzles, new mechanics and new gameplay, which makes Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon feel fresh.
"When we think of the nostalgic element of the GameCube version of Luigi's Mansion, it's the atmosphere," said Ryuichi Nakada, one of the development supervisors of Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon.
"It's the balance between the slight horror and slight humor that people feel nostalgic about. So we knew if we were able to create that same feeling, the fans wouldn't feel that we betrayed them."
Nakada explained that one of the ways the developers were able to evoke that feeling of fear and tension that existed in the original Luigi's Mansion was by communicating the sense of tension through Luigi himself. As he walks through the haunted mansion, everything from his facial expression, posture and movements tells the player how he feels, and that tension feeds back to the player. By connecting the player to Luigi, when he is frightened, the player is also frightened.
"We're hoping that when people play the sequel, they'll say, 'Wow, this is a Luigi's Mansion game'"
When it comes to injecting the game with a Luigi's Mansion sense of humor, Holliday says Next Level Games looked to Mr. Bean for inspiration.
"Watching Luigi is kind of like watching a Mr. Bean episode," he said. "You know he's going to get into trouble, but you're kind of surprised about where it's going to come from.
"We did watch a lot of Mr. Bean in the beginning to get reference for the character animations, so he's kind of like that hapless fool and reluctant hero. He's trying to live his life, but you know what the joke is before he does."
Holliday said despite the player anticipating that Luigi will get into trouble, they are nevertheless surprised and even scared at times because they empathize with Luigi. His fear becomes the player's fear. His sense of surprise becomes the player's sense of surprise. And when he exaggeratedly reacts by jumping in the air, pulling a face and fumbling his torch, players receive the comic relief they've come to expect from Luigi's Mansion.
"We're hoping that when people play the sequel, they'll say, 'Wow, this is a Luigi's Mansion game,'" Holliday said. "If we can get people to say that, then we'll have done our job."
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon releases on the 3DS in North America on March 24. It will release in Europe and Australia on March 28.