Okay, so here we are, on Wednesday, doing our Anime Reporter thing once more. Me writing, you reading, and several other people being in no way involved, many of whom are quite possibly eating pasta. Now, some readers may have noticed that I have, of late, veered somewhat away from solely writing about anime and manga, and this may seem somewhat strange for a place with the domain name animereporter.com. I assure you that the days of anime and manga reviews are not over, but this site has become a place for my thoughts on a number of topics, personal, trivial, pop and private. I hope you’ll indulge me in my off-topic ramblings.
Today marks the first of what may turn into a few new reviews. I’ve written before about my fondness for Lego, video games and Lego video games, and about my fondness for Nintendo in particular. Today I’m going to start talking about something I’ve noticed a lack of around these here interwebs; coverage of DS and 3DS Lego video games. It’s strange, to me, that the Nintendo 3DS family is currently the most popular video game device out there, but any time I’ve searched for reviews of recent Lego video games on the 3DS, I’ve been hard-pressed to find an in depth review that wasn’t about the Playstation or Xbox versions of a game. Yes, it makes sense to me to cover the more powerful home consoles’ versions of the games to give readers an impression of exactly what a game can offer, but when the portable game offers a different experience, and those portable devices are incredibly popular, it only makes sense to me to also include coverage that appeals to this fan-base.
In any case, I shall henceforth take a bit of time here and there to discuss what Lego video games I have had the fortune to play on my 3DSXL (Yep, still waiting for that new version to find its way into my home). Today, we’ll be going a little bit old school. Today, we’re going with the DS version of Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4.
This game delivers pretty much exactly what it says on the box, offering the chance to play through some of the major events of the first four books or films. This game dates back to 2010 when Lego still hadn’t incorporated much voice work into their games, so cut scenes offer up a lot in the way of gestures and really, if you didn’t know the books or films pretty intimately, you could easily be a little bit lost as to what the hell is going on in between levels. The Lego sense of humour is still there, but it’s pretty basic, far from what we’ve come to expect with titles like the Lego Batman series or Lego Lord of The Rings.
The cut scenes, and indeed the general gameplay, show their age and their generation of console pretty blatantly. Cut scenes can be a little blurred or pixelly, while the gameplay environments are not about to leave anyone enamoured with the immersive experience of it all. Still, that’s pretty much what you’d have to expect going in to a DS game at this stage, so I really can’t fault it there. Let’s get on to the real star of the show.
The gameplay is, simply put, excellent. The game makes use of the stylus and touchscreen in a way that so many 3DS games just don’t. You can control characters entirely with the stylus if you like, while you have the option of using directional buttons or the 3DS’ joystick-like controller to move them around. It’s actually much more comfortable than I’d expected to just use the touchscreen to move characters around. Spells are where the gameplay really shines though. There are many different spells to learn throughout the four stories, from standard attacks that involve drawing a quick line towards enemies from tracing out more complicated patterns to create fire, transfigure objects or levitate things. These spells are easy to learn and actually form a more natural device for Lego’s good old formula of having to return to old levels with new abilities. You can often access most areas with Harry, but may still have to learn a new spell before you can unlock everything on a given level. Other magical abilities include using the invisibility cloak to sneak past enemies, flying around on broomsticks, letting your pet alert you to hidden items or, if playing as a ghost, floating through bars into inaccessible areas.
Truth be told, I’ve only recently added this game to my collection, but I’ve found its charm pretty undeniable. While I half-expected it to pale in comparison to more recent Lego games I’ve played, I actually found that, with realistic expectations, it was just as enjoyable as any of them. The controls and gameplay lend themselves perfectly to the 3DS and I know kind of find it hard to imagine playing Lego Harry Potter without tracing out spells with a stylus.
So, Harry Potter Years 1-4 for the Nintendo DS, how did it fare? It’s fun, it’s simple, it’s every completionist’s dream and it’s a nice friendly skip down memory lane for fans of the Harry Potter series. I most definitely recommend picking up this young classic.