dr. luigi was a surprise nintendo direct announcement at the tail end of last year that added another game starring our favorite plumber in green (and now doctor, insert joke here) to the year of luigi festivities (although related events continued through this year, even after miyamoto declared its official end in march). the release of dr. luigi can be viewed in several ways. yes, it’s an obvious ploy to add yet another iteration of the dr. mario series, previously most recently seen on wiiware, in late may of 2008 and DSiware, about a year later, and the game does reproduce almost identically almost all the modes of the wiiware release. the game also recycles the touchscreen controls, originally seen in brain age 2 on DS and which made a reappearance in the latest brain age game, brain age: concentration training on 3DS. on top of that, the game is available via various VC releases of the original NES and GB versions.
with all these options, for casual players it seems a bit hard to justify yet another iteration of what has essentially been the exact same game even though three and a half years have elapsed since the last full release, esp. since the wiiware version is playable on wii u, although it makes more sense given that nintendo’s wi-fi service for wii (and DS) is shutting down in a few days. the presentation is similarly barebones as the previous wiiware and DSiware releases: developer arika, perhaps most known for their 3D classics releases, just don’t give the games they work on much personality, even taking into account that they’re often adaptations of previous games. (although, there’s a trio of new viruses in pastel versions of the original colors — and featuring a female virus for the first time — and a couple of new tracks).
virtually all the reviews i’ve seen online have dismissed the “operation L” modes (i.e. new luigi modes) as nothing more than a gimmick, but the mode should be more appealing to newbies and dr. mario aficionados. the reason newbies should enjoy it is because on the low and medium difficulty levels it makes it much easier to form a group of four (because the L-shaped pills consist of 3 of the same color together), and thus makes the game much faster paced. the reason aficionados will enjoy it is because in general it makes you rethink your strategies, but on the hard level the game completely changes and the true brilliance of it really becomes apparent. at this level the L shapes don’t have 3 of the same color together, so clearing the board requires much more consideration. this elevates the new mode past the luigi gimmick and makes it the first true expansion to the dr. mario series’ mechanics in 23 and a half years.
it seems like most reviewers didn’t spend enough time with the operation L modes to discover how worthwhile it really is, and nintendo could have done a better job of making it more apparent (with mission and/or puzzle modes) and otherwise rounding out the $15 package with other equally fresh gameplay to make it feel more complete. even though the true worth of the game will probably remain lesser known i suppose it’s somehow fitting since luigi himself has always flown a little under the radar. still, the game is an easy recommendation for people who don’t already have one of the many versions of the game, for dr. mario vets who are eager for new wi-fi battles, and for long-time dr. mario fans who are willing to invest in the time to uncover and enjoy the more challenging aspects of the new luigi modes.