Pity the younger brother. Always dressed in hand-me-downs, always the sidekick, always in big bro's shadow. So it was for Luigi, beanpole brother and comic foil to Mario, the most famous face in games.
Pity him is what Nintendo did back in 2001, when they gave Luigi his brother's traditional place of honour: star of the launch line-up for a new home console. Leading the charge for the GameCube was Luigi's Mansion, a ghostbusting romp in which the other brother won a crumbling pile and had to rescue Mario from its haunted hauls, sucking the ghosts out of it with a modified vacuum cleaner.
But Luigi's big moment didn't quite work out as planned. Although it was a game of immense charm and exquisite polish, it was intimate to the point of feeling too small. Fans who'd been taught to expect a genre-redefining, mind-bending Mario epic with every new Nintendo console were left disappointed. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II had the wow factor and the sales, Super Monkey Ball won our hearts, and Luigi slunk back to his supporting role.
But Luigi's Mansion, it turned out, was one of those games destined to be loved in retrospect. Its originality, humour and sheer painstaking quality stuck in the mind, and it's probably fair to say it's more fondly remembered now than the messy indulgence that was Super Mario Sunshine.
Now, a full decade later and completely unexpectedly, it's back on 3DS - sitting proudly next to a new Super Mario in the line-up and quite comfortably holding its own.
The E3 demo begins with diminutive egghead Professor E. Gadd - inventor of Luigi's anti-paranormal Hoover - sending our hero into a mansion to capture an unusual ghost running amok in the library. A screen in the professor's lab digitises Luigi into his 8-bit pixelated form, sucks him up, and he's spat out of a CCTV camera outside the haunted house.
You get to experiment with the controls while running around the mansion's front yard - a pressure-free playground in the tradition of Super Mario 64's castle gardens. Suck the sheet of a statue of Gadd with R, and then blow its helicopter blades round with L; it lifts up and, like anything else you can interact with, spews out coins and banknotes to collect.
That's about it. With only one circle pad on the 3DS, Luigi can't move and aim separately this time, but after a couple of minutes of clumsiness you won't miss it. Instead of yanking the vacuum around, a prompt appears for you to press A at the right moment to reel in your catch.
You can look up and down, run, and rather pointlessly adjust the camera a little by moving the 3DS while sucking. You also have a 'strobe' - like a camera flash - on the A button. (More about that later.) The bottom screen features a map with a zoom slider.
Like the original, Luigi's Mansion 2 uses a fixed camera. Its tight but lavishly detailed environments - mostly rooms - are actually perfect for the 3DS' 3D effect, creating miniature dioramas in your hands.
There's a breathtaking moment when you enter a long corridor with a mirror at the end, and see Luigi reflected far in the distance; the long view is so much more effective for being rare.
Luigi's Mansion 2 is an extremely pretty game - probably the best-looking 3DS game at the show, and indeed to date. The lighting effects are exceptional; lightning flashes which cut the power create a dramatic effect, while the lens flare and flickering shadows when you turn Luigi and his torch toward the screen are fantastically effective. Everything is so solid and colourful you feel you could pluck it out of the screen with your fingertips.
The gameplay involves familiar cautious exploration as you search for keys to open out the mansion, battling with ghosts who trap you in strongly individualised rooms along the way. There's garage with an old jalopy, a lab full of beeps and bubbles and a dining room haunted by a ghost with a saucepan on its head.
To defeat ghosts you need to stun them during their brief appearances. This is done by using the strobe near them, then trapping them in the vacuum's twisting cone of suction. Numbers above their heads show how long they can resist being inhaled while the A-button prompts allow you to suck them up prematurely or take a chunk out of their stamina.
Once trapped ghosts drag Luigi around and try to bump him into the furniture, breaking the suction. The skill comes in adjusting Luigi's movement to keep him out of trouble while pulling away from the ghost as strongly as possible, thereby provoking those buttons prompts.
It's simple stuff but if the demo is anything to go by, it's spiced up by room design and mixing up ghost types. You need to keep Luigi from being startled by other ghosts while he's on the pull, so to speak, and some of them have special attacks, like the big, thuggish red ghosts' thunderous claps which can knock Luigi across the room.
After a few rooms - how many depends on where you choose to spend your keys to unlock new doors - Luigi ascends a treacherous staircase to the library, piled high with books and soundtracked by the spooky tinkling of an unmanned piano.
Here a ghost with an outsized brain pulsing visibly in his mushroom head hurls books invisibly at Luigi. You'll need to dodge those while watching for subtle tells to startle him and hunt him down.
Luigi's Mansion 2, as the title suggests, is the straightest of sequels. It transposes a minor Nintendo classic to a new home which suits it perfectly, adds nothing unnecessary, and does it all with innocent charm, impeccable attention to detail and an immediate, physical sense of fun.
It's another astonishingly convincing understudy performance by Next Level Games, which recently made Pilotwings Resort for 3DS and Punch Out!! for Wii before that. [Correction: Next Level totally didn't make Pilotwings. Whoops. It was a long day. -Ed.] So many studios fail to replicate Nintendo's knack for strong control feedback and a sort of sturdy playfulness, but this Vancouver outfit has it down.
If Luigi's Mansion 2 doesn't immediately promise to take this once-neglected, now-loved idea in a new direction, that's OK. Poor old Luigi is owed this one.