For this review, I did things a little differently. I wanted to play every version that was available to me, and give them a little breakdown and comparison between them, to see what ones are worth playing, and what ones should be avoided. This is a first time project, so it may not be as in-depth as some are hoping, but I thought it would be a fun idea! So without further ado, let’s jump into each version of the game!
Review – PS1
The game starts off by putting you directly in Hogwarts. But it at least gives you a nice backstory to Harry before dropping you right in. The first thing you would instantly notice though is that the HUD is very minimalistic, so all you get to see is your health bar. But not much is needed really. This version does a great job at telling the story of the first movie, and has you seeing the different classes Harry attends in his first year. Unfortunately though because it’s PS1, you don’t get to explore much. The classes though act like little dungeons. You learn a spell to help you deal with it, then you go in, usually to collect some sort of item, to prove that you’ve “mastered” the spell. But a lot of the spells you use just end up being used by following a simple “press the button when the icon is near it” minigame.
There’s a few minigames, like Quidditch, that take place once in a while, but the steering takes some getting used to, as it’s very light. So it’s easy to over-correct a turn. The game is pretty easy going and relaxing honestly, except for the last few areas, where the worst part was easily the battle chess minigame. As every colour wanted to hurt you, and they all moved the exact same way. So you need them to bump into each other. You had to do this 3 times in a row, and if you failed, you restarted.
The boss battles, especially the last one, were kind of lifeless and dull. You run around, waiting for your opportunity to hit the boss, then you take it. But the best boss fight was probably against Malfoy with your “wizard duel”, as you end up throwing firecrackers at him instead of using magic. It was fun exploring what little I could of Hogwarts though, except for when you had to sneak into the restricted area of the library, as Ms Morris was awful to deal with. It would’ve helped if they had a cone for their eyesight, because if you got to the last area and got caught, it was all the way back to the beginning for you!
Review – GameBoy Colour
This time you start off in Diagon Alley. The game is set up as a turn based RPG, where you use spells in battle. If you use anything other than the basic spell, it costs mana points. Then you upgrade some spells by using a powerful version x amount of times. How many times? Who knows. With this being an RPG, you’d think it would be obvious that you end up spending your money on a ton of items for battles, and buying better gear right? But I never got many chances to spend money. Literally only twice. Once at the beginning of the game, and once halfway through.
The game follows the story surprisingly well, even looking more into the classes Harry takes in his first year. But these turn into mindless fetch quests, where sometimes you fight enemies, or you have to run around interacting with things, like piles of grass to get the items you need. The difficulty spikes are also odd. Like when you don the invisibility cloak to go to the library at night. In the halls, the enemies are very dangerous and powerful. But in the library, they’re weak and powerless, after all the time I spent getting through the other powerful enemies. It didn’t help that the only party member in the game was Harry. No Ron, no Hermione, no anybody. So if you were against 3 enemies that you knew were tough, you’d either have to slowly kill them, or just run and save yourself from exhausting too many resources.
There’s no minigames here exactly, except for flying after Malfoy when he takes Neville’s Remembrall. There is not even Quidditch! Then some things make no sense. Like a gauntlet of fights in battle chess, and having to concoct a potion by a “guess the 4 symbols” minigame. Instead of needing to find the material to make the potion for Snape’s test to the Philosophers Stone. Then if you lose, you restart it all over again. The final boss is even a random difficulty spike, as it happens in two phases. The first phase was super easy. But the second phase, you can die super quick if you have no idea what to do.
Review – Nintendo GameCube
The prettiest of the bunch! It came out 2 years after the initial release, with a whole new design, spells, bigger map, bigger Hogwarts, side quests, and a ton of wizard cards to collect! 101 in fact! Except this time the game took some very creative liberties that I just didn’t enjoy. If you skip the opening bit before the main menu, you learn nothing. The game drops you into where Harry Potter meets Professor Quirrell. Next thing you know, you’re in Olivanders to get your wand. Suddenly you’re whisked away to Hogwarts and told to go to your classes. In your classes, you have to go through a dungeon of sorts, to get to the spell book to learn said spell. These are then used in future dungeons, and to help you explore Hogwarts, and my god is there a lot to explore.
This was easily the best part of the game. You get to explore every floor of Hogwarts, with hidden passages that light up when you use the Lumos Spell. I spent so much time exploring the random halls, because it was so exhilarating to be given such a large castle to wander in. Then finding spots I could come back to with future spells was amazing. Even if all I got was a wizard card. But it wasn’t for nothing, because if you gathered enough, eventually you’d get more health!
But other than that, the game failed in a lot of areas. The camera was awful and would get stuck a lot, the lock on system for the attacks would hardly ever work, and sometimes the enemies would take a million hits, and sometimes they’d take one. Sometimes even when I would jump off a platform towards another, Harry would sometimes grab the edge and pull himself up, and other times he’d just fall to his demise. What’s worse is I’d get stuck in walls by NPCs and would have to restart the game to fix it, and as I said, some creative liberties with the story were taken. Like in Charms class. You don’t learn Wingardium Leviosa. Instead you learn Spongify, which is just a magic spring basically, so because of this, Ron doesn’t make fun of Hermione for schooling him about the Wingardium Leviosa pronunciation. So when the troll from the dungeon arrives, Hermione is just in the bathroom crying for no reason. This also means that Harry and Ron don’t beat it in the normal way either! Heck even the PS1 version managed to work in Wingardium Leviosa!
Or in the Forbidden Forest. Harry isn’t there for detention, he’s there to get an herb for class. Sure he sees Voldemort, but Firenze the Centaur doesn’t save him. What does? Who knows! Heck, you don’t even get told how he makes the Quidditch team! Eventually at the end of the game, he’s just told to play! But the Quidditch match happens way earlier in the story. Plus many story bits and lines are taken way out of context, and put into places they don’t belong. It was infuriating and a jumbled mess. All this version had going for it was it’s good looks and huge map. That’s it!
Review – GameBoy Advance
This is the version that I have the most nostalgia for. As I played it a ton. Sitting on the staircase, next to a window, catching the sunlight on my GameBoy. But is it as good as I remember? Well the game starts out by telling you about Harry. How he lives with his Aunt and Uncle in Privet Drive. It then tells you how he gets everything from Diagon Alley, and again, just tossed right into Hogwarts. This version is probably one of the weirdest. As it plays as a top down adventure. You do get to visit every class throughout the year though. Whether it be Charms, or Transfiguration, or even Herbology. But just as the rest, when you go into the class, you’re usually put into a dungeon. Though when you first learn a spell, you first have to play a game of “Simon Says”, with more actions coming for every success. You then use this spell to complete the “class challenge”.
Each of these class challenges are unfortunately just long and drawn out, kind of boring, big wide open areas. If you’re not trying to hit an enemy with a spell, you’re just walking down a hallway, hoping you’re going the right way, as your view is honestly pretty limited. This paired with some bland puzzle solving, and some terrible collision detection when trying to step on moving platforms, makes it rougher than the game needs to be. Often the moving platforms would only stop for a second, and you’d have to run to them. But sometimes, you’d just fall through them. This then causes you to go back to the beginning of the area, whether you were at the end or not. So this made me frustrated when I had to go back through the winding corridors of grey, trying to remember where I had to go.
Another large part of the game is going through the halls of Hogwarts at night. Often walking through uneventful hallways, hoping to dodge prefects. But as I mentioned, with the limited view range, if a prefect started coming your way, you wouldn’t have time to react before they caught you. Heck sometimes they’d catch you when they’re right beside you, other times you’d be caught right as they entered the screen. It was so inconsistent, I had no idea how some failures happened. Then there’s Quidditch. Quite a bit of it actually. But imagine you’re playing something like Pro-Am Racing, and that’s this. You fly from a top down view, chasing the Snitch, which can just immediately do a 90° turn, and leave you fumbling to get back to it. At first you have to stay in a circle long enough to trigger the next phase, which requires flying through rings to try and get close enough to catch it. But oftentimes it just went on for way longer than it needed too, because again, it would just change directions on a dime.
But at least this version stuck mostly to the source material. With some differences. But for the most part, the big things are there. Like Firenze saving Harry in the Forbidden Forest. Or actually seeing Harry getting drafted to the Quidditch team. I do kind of wish the gameplay held up though. As. But unfortunately they can’t always age properly, and we’re left with a shallow, boring game.
Now unfortunately I don’t have the opportunity to play the PC version. So technically I’m only comparing the 4 different console versions. Now all of them do their own things right. But for the story, I think the one that best follows the story of the original source material is probably the Gameboy Colour version. But the PS1 version does come in close second, as it was very good as well, followed by the Gameboy Advance version. Unfortunately for the GameCube version, it took way too many creative liberties for my taste, and again, took some bits way out of context. Though I will give kudos to the Gameboy versions, as they’re the only ones that mentioned anything about Snape’s protection for the Philosopher’s Stone. Which mind you, was mentioned in the book, but not in the movie.
As for gameplay, this is easily given to the PS1 version. It was simple, yet exciting. Nothing was overly complicated, and if I ever failed, I was never frustrated. Sure some spots are a bit dull, but maybe I had too high of expectations. The Gameboy Colour version fails this portion, because it’s just way too difficult for no reason. Plus who makes an RPG where you get no party members!? The Gameboy Advance version is just too bland and shallow. Even if I do have fond memories of it, the gameplay just doesn’t hold a candle to the way it used to, especially when compared to other versions. Unfortunately when it comes to the GameCube version, this has way too many issues to even deal with. Sure it looks fantastic and I got to explore a very fleshed out Hogwarts, but that’s not enough.
Everyone loves music with their games, and I love the Harry Potter tune. It instantly transports me to Hogwarts when I hear it, so I expected this to be playing in all the games, even if it was a little chiptune for the Gameboy versions. But for the most part, all the games are quiet. Or in the case of the portable ones, it’s weird music that you’d expect to hear when you crawl through a dungeon in an RPG. The most you’ll ever hear when playing is Harry yelling out the spells you’re casting, unless you’re watching a cutscene.
So with all of these things taken into account, and the brief rundown of each game, where does my decision lay for the best version of the four that I played? Well in all honesty, it was a hard choice. But from best to worst, here is the list:
- PlayStation 1 Version
- Gameboy Colour Version
- Gameboy Advance Version
- GameCube Version
That’s right, the PlayStation 1 is crowned the winner in the competition and comparison! If I could only ever replay one of these, it would be it. It wasn’t too overly complicated, the controls actually worked, there was no inconsistent difficulty, nothing was overly bland. I loved almost every second of it. If I have to give scores though, here’s what they would be:
- PlayStation 1: 7/10
- Gameboy Colour: 6/10
- Gameboy Advance: 4/10
- GameCube: 3/10
I loved playing all of these and comparing them side to side, to see what worked, and what didn’t. Did I expect the GameCube version to be at the bottom? No, absolutely not. But I’m also glad I didn’t let nostalgia overpower my thoughts for the GBA version. If you want to play the first game, I highly recommend the PS1 version. Unless of course the PC is truly the superior one, but I’ll never know! I hope you enjoyed this read, and thank you!
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