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Luigi's Mansion 2: The sequel you forgot you wanted

Could Luigi outshine his brother on 3DS?

The biggest cheer heard at Nintendo's E3 conference was an oddly heartwarming one. For a character frequently the butt of in-jokes and consistently overshadowed by his more famous brother, this was a watershed moment.

For three minutes, the limelight was all his. It was the kind of occasion that would make for an uplifting piece of cinema - if only the subject involved were real.

Granted, the surprise factor played a part. Arriving after a quartet of trailers for games we already knew about, Luigi's Mansion 2 was the first revelation of Nintendo's briefing. But the audience's whooping and clapping spoke volumes of the affection for the much-maligned original.

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Back in 2002, and with Mario's second 3D adventure not quite ready for launch (cynics would argue it felt that way after release), it was his skinnier sibling who was reluctantly shunted to front of stage by pushy mother Nintendo. And, as it turned out, he wasn't quite ready either. Luigi's Mansion had plenty of that Miyamoto magic, but lacked the substance expected of a first-party launch title.

Sweet but undeniably short, it was the GameCube in microcosm - an interesting experiment that didn't quite work. Yet much like the Cube itself, Luigi's Mansion's reputation has only grown over the intervening years.

Perhaps that's no surprise - class is, after all, permanent, and Luigi's haunted house adventure has quality in spades. Even ten years on, there's a wonderfully tactile feel to the ghost busting - outside rounding up your Pikmin troops, the C-stick has rarely been more effectively used than to wrestle with spectral foes.

With playful touches like vacuuming up to guide the hose of his Poltergust-5000, he's had to develop a new method for grabbing those ghoulies. Torchlight is now ineffective - instead you'll need to activate a strobe flash to stun ghosts before hoovering them up, tapping the A button at the right time to finish them off.

As before, each one has a number representing its resistance to the Poltergust's power, with larger spirits requiring some serious grappling before they disappear up its nozzle.

It's not just ghosts that'll find their way into the world's biggest vacuum bag. Wallpaper can be ripped to reveal secret areas, and just about everything that isn't heavy enough to remain unmoved by the Poltergust's supreme suction will spit out coins and notes. You can even reverse the polarity and use it as a leaf-blower, revealing hidden treasure.

GHOST WRITTEN
If all this sounds a little familiar, then that's understandable: Nintendo isn't one for revealing its hand all at once, and Miyamoto has promised increased focus on the game's puzzle elements this time around. And even if it is just more of the same, we're assured that 'more' is Nintendo's watchword here, with at least two mansions to explore. Already we've seen what looks like an ancient Egyptian tomb complete with sarcophagus, whose inhabitant only awakens once Luigi's back is turned. Brrr.

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Besides, the fact that it resembles the original is no bad thing. This offers a remarkably faithful recreation of the Cube game's lovely looks, and might be the most gorgeous 3DS game so far. The fixed camera, following the action from an unusually intimate perspective,
is the perfect showcase for 3D - a remarkable sensation of depth makes every room look like a tiny theatre set.

The only visual quibble so far surrounds Don't try this at home, kids. Luigi might make it look simple, but it's not, You'll be a sometimes iffy frame rate, but with at least six months of development time to go, there's plenty of time to iron out any such technical wrinkles.

That responsibility has fallen, perhaps surprisingly, to Vancouver-based Next Level Games. Yet there's no need to worry - they gave us the excellent Punch-Out!!, after all. More excitingly, it's the first time in a while that Nintendo have given us a relatively 'straight' sequel. Why so thrilling? Well, the last time the big N created a follow-up designed to make good on the potential of an all-too-brief original we got Pikmin 2.

And if what we've seen so far is anything to go by, one thing's for certain: unlike our hero's spook-hoover, Luigi's Mansion 2 certainly won't suck. Come release day, maybe that ovation will be longer and louder...

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