Posted in Fiction, Film, Video Games

Do you know the seven ways to experience Harry Potter?


Who doesn’t love the first Harry Potter novel? I’ve read it at least three times, and I’ve enjoyed this story in all sorts of ways… seven ways, to be exact!

1. The Novel

The first time I paid attention to the two words, “Harry Potter,” was in July of 2000. I was staying in a cabin in Tahoe, and my grandfather Ralph, of all people, showed me a copy of a new book he had picked up a few days ago, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He said it’s more geared toward younger readers but that “it opens with a double murder.” That week I also remember turning on the news to see a story about the midnight madness of the release of Book 4. I didn’t rush out and buy the first four books that week (I didn’t do so the rest of the summer, even) but the J.K. Rowling books about a boy wizard who goes to a magical school had finally caught my attention.

In September I finally stumbled upon a copy in my brother’s room and asked to check it out. You want a confession here and now? I read the first chapter, strongly disliked it, and gave it back. To this day I still think the greatest book series of all time opens on a mediocre note, telling of Uncle Vernon’s trip to work as he sees strange sights in the London streets. I remember at that time having no interest in going on to Chapter 2.

Thankfully, come November, I had Accelerated Reading points I needed to accumulate for my sophomore year English class, and the first three Harry Potter books at the time counted. I could read all of Harry Potter 1 and take an easy ten-question test to receive my points in full for AR. So I moved on to Chapter 2. By the end of that chapter, I was hooked. By the end of Chapter 3, I was enraptured. I read the book over a weekend and fell in love. My Harry Potter obsession had begun.

2. The Film

One of my most highly anticipated films of 2001 was not The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the movie on seemingly every book lover’s mind, but Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I saw it opening night at the Century Park Lane movie theater in Reno and fell in love. I ended up seeing the movie three times in theaters and put it #3 on my Top Ten Films of the Year list of 2001, just behind Memento and Mulholland Drive.

Of all the eight Harry Potter movies, the one that has probably held up the least is the first one, which is a little clunky at times, overlong, with child actors still trying to find their groove, and special effects that needed an extra six months to get right. But I still adore this movie because it worked as the introduction to the Harry Potter world, and I’m still amazed that, except for Richard Harris, the entire cast stayed in tact throughout all eight movies. Fantastic!

3. The Video Game

How long has it been since the first Harry Potter video game came out? I played Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, in full, from beginning to end, on the Playstation 1. You read that right. Not the Playstation 2, even. The Playstation 1! The graphics left a lot to be desired, but I had a blast with this game, which at the time offered the video game player the chance to roam the halls of Hogwarts as much as he or she wanted.

The music was great, and there was plenty amount of cute little cut scenes, where Harry, Ron, and Hermione (which on the Playstation 1 consisted of mostly blank faces with either brown or red hair), would interact with each other and stick together on their next adventure. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released a year later for the Playstation 2, and even eventually came out for the XBOX, but my experience was on the PS1. And while the game didn’t necessarily look its best, I had a blast with it.

4. The DVD

Remember the initial DVD? The one that made you spend hours solving puzzles and going through various loopholes just to get to the ten deleted scenes from the movie? Ahhh, those were the days. (The ultimate puzzle of a DVD bonus disc remains that strange eighth disc on the Nightmare on Elm Street box set.) The picture quality wasn’t its best, and the audio — eh — but I remember buying the DVD opening day and watching the film an additional three times, the first two soon after I bought it, and the third in preparation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which came out less than a year before the first movie (one day early, but still)!

I watched this DVD on and off throughout the years, as recently as May 2011 when I started, with my brother, watching one Harry Potter movie a week in preparation for the final film in mid-July of 2011. But in addition I picked up the Blu Ray extended edition a few years back, which included not only a cut of the film that incorporated many of those deleted scenes seen on the initial release of the DVD, but also a scene-specific video commentary from the first film’s director, Chris Columbus. Love it!

5. The eBook

So what do I think of J.K. Rowling’s book now? I hadn’t re-read the book over the years. I just read it that one time in the fall of 2000 and have never touched it since. Therefore, I was excited to download the eBook of Sorcerer’s Stone when the eBooks of the entire series finally were released to the public. I had just recently gotten a Kindle, and while I still prefer physical books any day of the week, I’ve been reading the occasional eBook, and I knew one that I would love to revisit would be Sorcerer’s Stone. I thought I’d start with that one.

And I had a fabulous time. I loved re-visiting the intro story, especially spending time in Diagon Alley again, and seeing Quidditch through the eyes of Harry Potter for the first time again. While the first book of Rowling’s series is clearly more aimed at kids than later books in the series, I kind of enjoyed that aspect this time around. I liked that the main trio were never really in any mortal danger that made me want to start weeping. That first book is more an action adventure for the middle-school set, and I really enjoyed it on that level. My favorite of the book remains Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the massive tome that works as the bridge between the Harry Potter for kids and the Harry Potter for older teens. But I’ll always love Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s a lot of fun, and I had a blast revisiting Rowling’s awesome world again.

6. The Audiobook

One way I had left to experience Rowling’s novel was through the audiobook, read by Jim Dale. It took me forever to get a copy of this. If you just buy a brand new copy on Amazon, it’s 35 to 50 bucks, and I wasn’t prepared to spend that much. Therefore I spent a good three or four months trying to borrow it from the local library. It seemed like every time I asked for it, it was reserved or checked out by someone.

Finally I managed to reserve a copy for myself. I’ve never been one to enjoy audiobooks, but I sure enjoyed this one. I didn’t know who Jim Dale was when the reading began, and I was overjoyed to discover this guy wasn’t a total stranger: he was the narrator to Pushing Daisies! I was in awe of how he could inhabit each character, from smart, plucky Hermione, to big, booming Hagrid, to eerie Voldemort. And I love the warm, whimsical quality to his voice. Dale’s the kind of guy you’d want to sit around a campfire with and have him tell you a story. He was the perfect choice to read aloud the Harry Potter series, although I’m curious how he’ll do with the later, darker chapters.

7. The Pottermore Experience

Finally, Pottermore. I had two reasons for buying the eBook and borrowing the audiobook from the library. One was that after watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 on Blu Ray I realized that the journey was officially over. The books, the movies, the DVDs, DONE. And I didn’t like that feeling. I don’t want the Harry Potter experience to ever end.

And so I was thrilled to discover the online Pottermore, which brings most of the scenes of Sorcerer’s Stone to life, in a new illustrated fashion that doesn’t necessarily follow the look of the films. There’s been a lot of disappointment and chagrin over Pottermore, and I agree there could be a little more interactivity (Quidditch matches, classroom sessions, etc), but I still had a lot of fun with it. I loved seeing new takes on all the innovative rooms of Hogwarts castle, and the illustration of the dark dungeon room with Quirrell and Voldemort was legitimately creepy. Pottermore isn’t perfect, but it’s a great new way to re-experience our favorite books in a whole new way.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone isn’t the best book, or the best movie, in the series, but it’s still a favorite among Potterphiles. It’s where the saga began after all, and it’s in the introduction to this magical world that we had our first flirtations with J.K. Rowling’s genius.

So what about you? How do you rank Sorcerer’s Stone among the other books and films? And have you tried to experience the first book in all seven ways as I have?

Posted in Video Games

What are the 5 best video games for the NES?


For many, the Nintendo NES console marked their first gaming experiences. The magical worlds, the iconic characters, the eye-popping graphics (for the late 1980s at least). Although the game crowd moved on to the Super NES in 1991, there would never be forgetting that first step in Nintendo’s legacy.

Here are the five best games made for the Nintendo NES…

5. Super Mario Bros

While there’s a lot of cheesiness to love about Super Mario Bros 2, there’s really nothing classier than going back to the one that started it all. Its timelessness knows no bounds. The colors are a bit faded, and the gameplay can be awkward at times, but there’s just something incredible nostalgic about this game. And who doesn’t love that great secret in the second level where you can transport yourself all to the way to World 8 in a matter of seconds?

4. Little Nemo: The Dream Master

This one lights up the heart and soul whenever mentioned. While it’s not as well known as these other four picks, this magical game, which was based on a comic strip by Winsor McCay, put you in the feet of a boy who travels to Slumberland in his own surreal dream. Nemo can ride certain animals like a frog and a gorilla by feeding them candy, possibly influencing similar possibilities in the SNES Donkey Kong Country games. Although this is a difficult game for sure, it’s also one of the most imaginative to be released on the NES console.

3. Bubble Bobble

This one’s a beloved classic, the kind of easier game perfect for the extremely young gamers. The game, which started in the arcades in 1986 before being ported over to the NES shortly thereafter, is about as basic as they come, but there’s a genuine excitement the further and further you find yourself in the game. The colors are bright and cheerful, and the Bubble Dragons are the two cutest NES characters to be found. There was lots of fun to be had in this game!

2. Mega Man 2

Oh man, this is the ultimate. While there were a whopping six Mega Man games made for the NES console, another large handful made for the SNES, and so on, the very best of the super huge Mega Man franchise is this second installment, which had the freshest, most iconic gameplay, villains, levels, and more. Especially memorable are those Metal Man, Crash Man, Heat Man, and Wood Man stages. Once you beat all eight of Dr. Wily’s Robot Masters, there are still a lot more levels and bosses to defeat! This is a legendary game.

1. Super Mario Bros 3

What hasn’t been said about one of the few perfect video games in history? That it’s one of the best video games of all time? That it improved on its predecessors and became the high standard for what every video game released afterward had to live up to? Super Mario Bros 3 is the ultimate video game. It has some of the most re-play value, it has some of the coolest worlds, and the gameplay is nothing short of outstanding. This one’s truly the best.