E3 2001 Hands-onHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter's book to PSOne translation was playable at E3. Spells were cast, and here are our impressions.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was the first book in J.K. Rowling's wildly popular series that chronicle the adventures of English youth Harry Potter. What makes Harry so special is that he is attending the wizarding school at the mysterious Hogwart's School for Magical Studies. Each of the four books released so far in the series has been a top seller, and it comes as no surprise that many of the industry's biggest companies sought after the rights to publish video games based on the franchise. Electronic Arts has brought Harry's adventures during his first year of school to the PSOne, and so far the results have been impressive.

Harry's story takes place at Hogwarts shortly after his initial arrival. Harry's 3D environments are simple yet attractive, with plenty of notable touches that will ring true to readers of the novels. Becoming familiar with the many passages and chambers in the old castle is part of the process of becoming a proper fledgling wizard. As you stroll through the ancient halls, you can pick up Chocolate Frogs for energy or Bernie Bott's Every Flavor Beans that are collected like currency. You can attend Professor Flitwick's charms class with Hermione and Ron to master the magic behind levitation, which entails successfully passing a memory game where sequential button presses trigger the spell.

You can then walk past a few stray ghosts in the halls to help Neville Longbottom recover what the vile Draco Malfoy took from him. Chasing after him puts you behind the shaft of a mean broom, which you control in a fashion similar to games like Jet Moto. Harry always has his wand by his side and can shoot bursts of magical energy that can be used to stun foes, initiate magic sequences, or crack open containers. The Harry Potter character model itself looks suitably authentic, and while not mirroring the book's character exactly, is designed to emulate the movie's depiction of the cast, with author J.K. Rowling's full consent.

The 3D characters, magic effects, and environments are pleasant but not extraordinarily beautiful. The load times that you have to sit through every time you leave an area or start a new minigame are a bit unpleasant in this build. Instead of artwork, you watch rather unimpressive screen images from other parts of the game. This may be changed as the game approaches completion, however. The sheer quantity of things to do at school, places to explore, and magic to learn add up to what should be a faithfully pleasant translation of the popular book.

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