Jonny played the original Pro Skater on N64, then the sequel on Game Boy Advance. The system rotation continues with THPS3 for GameCube, and the results are spectacular.
Most of you have almost certainly played one Tony Hawk game or another, so I'll spare you a detailed gameplay description. The third installment of the series is a drastic leap from its predecessors, mainly in the area of level design.
THPS2 introduced the manual, and number three has the new "revert", but it will only make a big difference in gameplay to advanced players. What's really noteworthy is all the skateparks, mainly because Neversoft has tossed aside reality in favor of more fantasy-based environments. Sure, they're all based on more or less realistic places, but what fun is Suburbia without the obligatory haunted house, or the trailer park full of rednecks begging you to show off a cool trick? It's all quite silly and wacky, and while that may turn off real-world skaters, gamers will probably prefer the whimsy.
One interesting and questionable change to THPS3 is the heavy emphasis on grinding. Vert tricks (flips and grabs done in the air off ramps) seem to offer low point values and higher difficulty in executing, compared to strings of grinds and manuals. Reverting works well enough with practice, but using that and then a manual hurts your speed so much that I can't really pull off two vert tricks in a row...best case scenario, I'll vert, revert, manual, then grind around for a while and maybe tack another vert onto the end somewhere. The focus is still on grinding, and as a fairly unskilled Tony Hawk player, I find it much easier to score points with grind strings.
Anyway, moving on. The graphics are great, perfectly comparable to the PS2 version if not just a tad less aliased. I do have one very major complaint though: the Tokyo level has MASSIVE framerate problems, to the point that they screw with the gameplay. That's the last thing I need in the hardest competition of the whole game, and combined with the tough-as-nails judges, the busted framerate in Tokyo has made that stage impossible for me to beat so far.
I was a bit worried about controlling the game with the GameCube controller, but everything turned out fine. The face button layout is perhaps even preferable to the Dual Shock 2. I can imagine there'll be problems if you play this series with the D-pad, for obvious reasons, but since I use the control stick (and quite effectively I might add, so piss on you joystick-haters), it's not a problem at all for me.
Finally, the editor modes are a blast to play around with. The character editor is extremely detailed, and you can come up with some positively hilarious outfits if you're so inclined. You can even make female skaters, and they have a whole different set of clothing and accessories and options to play with. The skatepark editor requires a lot more patience and ingenuity, and the control setup for that mode takes getting used to, but I was able to make a pretty cool level in about twenty minutes. Best feature? Getting to make your own gaps, and naming them with inside jokes that your friends can truly appreciate.
So far I'm extremely pleased with Tony Hawk 3 on GameCube, and while I may never be pulling off million-point combos, I can at least have a blast with the levels and manage to accomplish most or all of the goals. The problems so far are the aforementioned framerate dives in Tokyo, and the unusually long load times. Now don't get me wrong, this is nothing like what you see in the average PS2 game, but sometimes the wait can be ten or fifteen seconds...which is certainly more than any other GameCube title I've seen yet. It's an annoyance at most, but still worth noting.
Look for a full review as soon as I figure out how to impress the Tokyo judges and how to score 400,000 points in LA.