After the enjoyment I had from the first two Harry Potter games on the handheld, it was yet to be seen if I was going to enjoy the first GBA outing for the series that I experienced…
How was it, after the first couple of games, where they managed to stick to the story from the books fairly well, that EA managed to so badly nark this one up? It felt far more like they drew from the film version for the plot, rather than the book.
One thing I cannot stand on a book tie-in is when the game is based on the film more than the book, especially when the film was already badly butchered to begin with.
A lot of the story also felt like a massive fetch quest – go to class, go and find this item. It got a bit boring after the first couple of times I had to do it.
The pacing is also very off – there are portions of the game where it does follow the book and then it suddenly branches off into some fetch quest to show off a new spell which you conveniently just happened to learn in time for the newest maze.
There was also a sudden lot of plot dumping at the very end of the game – I know this happened a bit in the book, but where was the build up for it in the game? At least events in the book led to gradual plot dump, but there was none of this here. A shoddy attempt at adaption of the story by EA, I regret to say.
The music is okay. It’s not fantastic, but at the same time, I know the series can do better than this. The music isn’t too repetitive, and it does change to suit the background of where you are. The boss fight music is decent. There’s nothing that really grabs me, though…
The graphics are a major step-up from the previous games on the Gameboy Color, especially the character models and the sprites used during fights – you can actually identify your enemies based on the sprite, and they aren’t a load of palette swaps this time round either!
The backgrounds and dungeons look quite nice as well, as do the spell effects in the over world. I would also say that the spell effects in battle are good – they certainly look pretty when you use them.
One major complaint I do have with the graphics in this game however, is the character portraits when you’re in conversation with another character. Why are the portraits so ugly? Hermione’s in particular is a sore point for me, it’s awful.
I think you could use multiplayer to swap wizard cards and things, but never had to use it myself as you could collect everything in a couple of play-throughs anyway.
There wasn’t what I would call a challenge to this game – if there was, it was easily solved by the simple matter of grinding until you could brute force your way past the boss fights. I actually found that most of the challenge came from the segments of the game where Harry is on his own, and does not have Ron or Hermione to back him up in a fight – against some opponents, such as the suits of armour in groups of three; Harry can occasionally be overwhelmed, especially if he’s low on magic points.
The game also added a puzzle element to it in the form of using certain spells to affect the environment, kind of in the style of the Golden Sun games, but on a much more basic level – these did nothing to add to the challenge, apart from being a bit frustrating – some of the puzzles were very finicky about directional controls, and that just became annoying in the end.
This game is very much the same as the previous two games on the Gameboy Color were. It has a very basic RPG turn-based system, with you facing off against a maximum of three opponents, with you fighting as Harry. Occasionally Ron and Hermione also join you in a fight, at select parts of the game, with slight differences in stats between them – I think Ron has higher HP and Hermione has more spell points. There are various different spells for use in this game, with different opponents resisting and being weak to each spell.
There is a basic levelling system in the game, with your characters gaining experience after each fight, and each time a character levels up, they gain various increases to the standard RPG stats of HP, MP, strength, defence, etc. There was a definite increase in the amount of available spells to use in this game as well; however, I once again seemed to only be using Flipendo, Vermillious, Verdimillous and Incendio as my main spells, with the odd bit of Glacius when it became available. Spells also levelled up depending on how much they were used, which I quite liked as a retained feature, although I would have liked having more than three spell levels.
Slightly different in this game to the previous ones is how you trigger battles. Whereas in the previous game enemies would appear as puffs of blue smoke and boss opponents would be bigger puffs, regardless, in this game, after you have used the Informus spell on an opponent, it will appear as the sprite model for that monster, rather than a blue blob on the over world. This means that it’s easier to pick and choose what you want to fight against. This makes hunting for certain item drops from battles much easier than what it was in previous games, and was a nice change.
I usually only ever replay this game in order to collect the Choclate Frog cards and unlock all the spells.
There is a bit of forced replay involved in this game, for the sections where you can choose to travel with Ron or Hermione, and the different puzzles you have to complete with them, and slightly different items to collect – so you’ll have to replay at least once. I don’t really like forced attempts to make you replay a game, though. Surely a game should be good enough for you to want to replay it, not because you have to?
Replay Value: 3
An okay game, but I do feel this was the beginning of the end of the decent Harry Potter handheld games.
Written by Karen