As has been previously mentioned here on Nintendo 3DS Daily, 2013 has been an absolutely fantastic year for 3DS games, with all kinds of classics released over the months. But while Pokemon X and Y and The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds are rightfully seen as amazing titles, are Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon and Mario & Luigi Dream Team becoming seen as ‘underrated’ 3DS games?
Personally, I think so. And here’s why each of the aforementioned titles really deserves more respect than it seemingly gets.
Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon
The atmosphere in this game is absolutely superb. Forget any ‘indie’ games, forget any ‘AAA’ games on ‘next gen’ systems, Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon is arguably the most atmospheric game of the year, bar none. I mean, just listen to the music if you don’t believe me:
And it’s not just the music that really makes it so brilliant in this sense. Oh no, Luigi’s very characterisation in the game is absolutely brilliant beyond words. This ain’t no super tough soldier who doesn’t even blink while mowing down enemy hordes, this is a complete coward on the verge of a mental breakdown as murderous ghosts try to rip him to pieces in the midst of a bunch of creepy haunted mansions. As a result, every minute is filled with little touches that add more character and emphasise just how out of his depth Luigi is during the whole experience. Like him humming along with the background music in extremely frenzied ways. Him tripping over/stumbling/messing up whenever its least convenient. The obvious character tics of him shaking like a lunatic and trying desperately to smile whenever E Gadd says he’s going to be some insanely dangerous task he doesn’t particularly care for (you can even hear him mumble ‘oh boy’ under his breath whenever he approaches an area):
Above: Remember, this is a handheld title.
Add an environment filled with tiny details only a few might ever notice (the moving/missing statues in Treacherous Mansion, the knight playing chess in the same area, pictures of the Three Sisters in Haunted Towers, the scary ‘face’ on the Secret Mine window) and you’ve got a game which is just dripping with charm and personality and which arguably makes a lot of others look like empty and bland by comparison. Seriously, you could practically write a book about the minor details you spotted in this game and all the little ‘tricks’ the designers use to add variety and character to the different areas and parts of the game. Forget those bland ‘movie’ style games with bad attempts to be ‘serious’ and ‘arty’, this is the real best example of how to make a game feel more like a real journey or story.
But the characterisation and feel isn’t the only important thing here. Nope, the game itself has always been fantastic on its own terms, serving as a great example to game designers everywhere about how to design a good game. You’ve got amazing boss battles with more complexity and ‘depth’ than most you find out there:
Just look at it. In just the first fight in the game, this title did more than most games do in their later boss battles. Three phases, different strategies needed (some of which are quite complex), changing music, lots of ‘effects’, it’s arguably more impressive than any non final Zelda boss from any game between Ocarina of Time and Skyward Sword.
Or how about the Tough Possessor fight? To a degree, this basically IS a Zelda boss. The atmosphere/music just shouts ‘Zelda series’, the enemy itself looks like something you’d fight in a Zelda game and the strategy is also… kind of like something you’d do in a Zelda game…
Add a four player online co-op mode that’s actually surprisingly entertaining (the whole feel of the ScareScraper is basically Four Swords in 3D, which can only be a good thing), an absolute ton of content and things to do in general and some of the most impressive tech on the system, and damn, Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon should have really got more credit that it did. And perhaps a Game of the Year award or something from a few publications.
Mario & Luigi Dream Team
But while Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon has a great atmosphere and is a massive change from the original title it’s a sequel to, Mario & Luigi Dream Team is amazing for a very different reason.
Namely because it’s everything a sequel SHOULD be.
You know what that is?
More of the same, but done even better. The past three Mario & Luigi games had great sprite based graphics, Dream Team has even better ones which make those in the old games look terrible by comparison. The earlier games had good music, Dream Team has one of the best soundtracks of all time:
And what’s more important, the game actually improved on everything gameplay wise. As in, made it better (not chucked it all out in some desperate attempt to be different and please ‘hipsters’ like Sticker Star). The overworld was actually a lively and fun place to explore with interesting areas and a decently done world map. The battles now incorporated gyro controls, free movement and crazy hard counter attacks into the mix instead of mere timed hits. And the giant battles… well, they were impressive (even if they didn’t always work perfectly):
Above: Ignoring the camera ‘quality’ of the video uploader, you have to admit the battle is pretty epic.
Put simply, Dream Team is what a sequel should be, more of what made the first game good. With lots of callbacks, humour, good music and much more, it’s kind of like the Thousand Year Door of the Mario & Luigi series, a game which tries to evolve the gameplay of its predecessor rather than toss it all out and is much better for it.
Above: Note that the best Mario RPGs are those that evolve their predecessors, not just chuck everything out and start over.
So let’s have a cheer for two fantastic 3DS games that arguably need even more credit and acclaim, Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon and Mario & Luigi Dream Team. Because as great as Link Between Worlds and Pokemon X and Y are as games, they’re not the only great games on the 3DS system.