We jump 20 years back in time – at least in our minds, because as pitiful Muggles we have no way of actually traveling in time. The year is 2001, the start of the Harry Potter series in cinemas was just a few months ago. The first novel by J.K. Rowling was published four years ago in 1997 and has delighted young and old readers all over the world. So it is clear that there is great interest in this obvious license to print money! This is also the case with Publisher Electronic Arts, who takes on the first part of the series and numerous games on The Philosopher's Stone brings to market. Depending on the platform, these are very different titles from different studios.
But this article is about the version for the good old Game Boy Color, which saw the light of day in 2001. By the way: While German readers and gamers know the beginning of the series under the name Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, there are international differences. Rowling's novel is called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the UK, but it's called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in America – it's the same with the games.
Although the names differ, behind both names the same game is hidden on the Game Boy Color. And now the important question: Was The Philosopher's Stone a good licensed game?
Lots of names, lots of games
Source: PC Games
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is explicitly not based on the film, but on the novel. Therefore, the characters do not look similar to the actors, but are based on the descriptions in the literary template. This also means that you have to do without the iconic film melody and instead listen to relatively interchangeable doodling. You will also experience the most important moments from the book in the game, including those that were left out in the cinema strip. Poltergeist Peeves, for example, did not make it into any of the eight films, but on Game Boy Color you have the "pleasure" of getting to know the unpleasant contemporary. You are not allowed to play Quidditch matches here (but in some other editions of the game for the rest of the platforms at that time). And be careful: Although one might guess, the output for the Game Boy Advance is not the same game with a better look: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for the successor Nintendo handheld console is a puzzle game , no RPG like on the GBC!
Source: PC Games
The Game Boy Color game comes from the Griptonite development team, which has also taken over further licensing updates for Nintendo platforms, such as The Lord of the Rings or James Bond, and also created the sequels to the GBC title. The pocket adventure begins with Harry's life as a magician: He receives the letter entitling him to attend the time-honored Hogwarts School of Magic, then he goes shopping with Hagrid in Diagon Alley – from this point you take control of the hero . The story is presented in a genre that has always worked extremely well on Nintendo consoles, namely as an RPG. The similarities to various Japanese RPGs, but especially to the already extremely successful Pokémon series, are certainly no coincidence, but the result of a correct assessment of the target group on the Game Boy Color. While traversing and exploring the magical world, Harry repeatedly meets opponents. Unlike in a Pokémon, where random encounters can take place in certain areas at any time, potential conflicts are marked here with clouds floating around the field.
Source: PC Games
Occasionally, however, these clouds form directly above Harry, which means that he cannot evade and a fight begins – so under certain circumstances there will be one or the other chance encounter … Harry's opponents can be rats or larger monsters and magical beings. The view in arguments is very reminiscent of that in old Final Fantasy games. Although Harry is often out and about with his friends Ron and Hermione, only Harry actively takes part in combat, while monsters can also attack in groups. The hero attacks with spells or uses cards and items for special effects. It's not too tactical, given only one controllable character and the manageable amount of defensive magic, but of course there are various strengths and weaknesses in opponents that you should find out through experimentation and then take into account. A nice detail is the level system of the spells:
With use, they get stronger and you can use improved forms. There are two small catches, however: On the one hand, the better spells cost more magic points, on the other hand they expand the confusing list of spells that you have to sift through in every combat action in search of the desired magic. The menus are unattractive, sometimes not understandable at first glance and they eat up time – even if you want to use a certain item, you first have to find and select it in the bland text list. As is common in the genre, Harry also rises in level with the experience he has gained, and you also put on various equipment in five different slots, such as new gloves (the model of the character always looks the same).
Source: PC Games
The card mechanics in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone were probably inspired by Pokémon. As in the novels, the GBC game features trading cards from famous magicians. If you combine them or use them individually, useful – or less useful – effects unfold in combat. While the basic idea is successful, the title does not use the mechanics particularly successfully, especially since too little is explained at this point, especially for the young sorcerer's apprentices. As you wander around Hogwarts, you'll find new cards in the most impossible places to expand your deck. Keyword Hogwarts: The wizarding school is huge, even on the Game Boy Color. However, many areas of the magnificent building are more or less filler material – there is nothing story-relevant to do there, you might find a few items, but that's about it.
Source: PC Games
In the absence of a map and in view of the often very vague indications of the game where to continue, one often gets lost in the halls of the school. While Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is certainly not one of the most beautiful GBC games (the backgrounds are often too confusing and ugly), the fluid animations of the characters look surprisingly good. Individual moments are also implemented in an atmospheric way, such as a trip to the forest or a flight with a broom. With a playing time of around eight hours, the scope is decent, albeit far removed from a Pokémon Silver or Pokémon Gold, the then current editions that kept JRPG fans happy in around 30 hours. Whoever wants to find and do everything in the Harry Potter Game Boy adventure is of course busy longer, but a part of the playing time that should not be underestimated consists of running around (very slowly) to run errands, finding the right path and rummaging through menus in search of the desired spell or item.
One-eyed among the blind
Source: PC Games
That all sounds pretty harsh. However, despite its problems, the game was not badly received by the gaming community. An archive version of the test overview page, which has since been taken offline, reveals that the rating average was a decent value of 73. You have to admit that the developers of The Philosopher's Stone also have many criticisms of the game in the Continued The Chamber of Secrets, also published for the GBC, got rid of the world or at least tried to. Instead of being in the form of text deserts, the menus and items are presented here with simple and immediately understandable symbols, Harry no longer has to fight alone and you can even play Quidditch. Nevertheless: Harry cannot compete with deluxe licensed games such as the Batman series, but the GBC role-playing games are not a catastrophe like that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, which in the DS version is almost a hit with an average rating of 56 compared to the rest of the editions – the PC version has an average of just 37 points of fun.
Source: PC Games
Sure, there are also much better Harry Potter licensed games, for example the Lego variants of the movies. What is impressive about all the video game adaptations to the story of the wizard is the sheer variety of genres and styles that are covered. From the third-person shooter (The Deathly Hallows) to the puzzle game (The Philosopher's Stone on the Game Boy Advance), to Zelda-like action adventures (The Chamber of Secrets on the PC), a Quidditch spin-off for the pc to a skill game for Xbox Kinect (aptly named Harry Potter for Kinect), there is a Harry Potter game for pretty much every niche. Most recently, fans of the universe saw the mixed Mobile game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery let go.
Despite bad average ratings, it has existed successfully for three years, which is also due to the unbroken love of the so-called Potterheads for the world devised by J.K. Rowling. It is true that the story of Harry is told to the end with the Film series on Fantastic Beasts But the Potterversum lives on (by the way, there are already two games for the film series). As a Switch owner and Potter fan, it's hard to take that Hogwarts Legacy will not appear for the Nintendo console (at least according to the current information status). The huge open-world role-playing game takes you to Hogwarts in the 19th century – how exciting! As a substitute for this, the little Game Boy Color role-playing game The Philosopher's Stone can of course not keep up. But maybe you feel like a little nostalgia?
Put the pink nostalgia glasses down: I remembered the game better!
When I was playing Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone again for this article, it quickly occurred to me that I don't have positive memories of the adventure. I just pushed the rest away! Okay, it's not enough for the “You must have played this insider tip” status, but that was an interesting experience. Otherwise we usually only have the real delicacies in the retro area. Well, from a distance some things look better than they are. But that doesn't mean that I didn't have fun with the GBC version. I'm not as much a fanatic as my colleague Paula for a long time, but I like the novels, so I like to see an interpretation of the material outside of the established film implementation (on which many other Potter games are based).
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