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GBA

North America

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 GBA

by Jonathan Metts - June 30, 2001, 11:49 pm PDT

9

After three weeks of heavy playing, has the handheld skating wonder proven itself? Jonny Metts knows what evil lur...~ahem~, knows whether you should get this game or not.

Before I dive into this review, and really before you play and/or evaluate the Game Boy Advance version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for yourself, I think something needs to be said about this port. In the past, handheld versions of current console games have been simple adaptations...hell, look at Tony Hawk 1 and 2 for Game Boy Color. Part of the problem is that handheld systems have never had enough power to handle accurate ports from the console systems. However, I believe the other part of that problem is that developers (and I suppose publishers as well) have been too scared to attempt a console-type game on a handheld. Many people on both sides of the handheld market have a very deeply ingrained assumption that handheld games must be shorter, simpler, and dare I say it, inferior to their console brethren. I don’t want to over-dramatize what developer Vicarious Visions has done with Tony Hawk 2 on GBA, but the fact that they plowed through the old way of doing things truly is significant, and the game’s quality aside, I want to congratulate them on having balls enough to port a Playstation game to Game Boy and actually doing it right.

When dealing with ports, having a good game to start with makes all the difference. Although I’ve never played a console version of Tony Hawk 2, I did play its predecessor extensively on N64, and in light of that experience, this GBA version is obviously very faithful to the franchise. In some cases the detail and devotion to the console games is almost frightening. The “gap” list and trick selection are nothing short of exhaustive, for instance.

Interestingly enough, THPS2’s extreme closeness to its console counterparts has downsides along with the more obvious advantages. If you can live without the multiplayer and level editor, this GBA cart can literally and justifiably replace all other versions. At the same time, Vicarious Visions wasn’t able to add in any new features to speak of, so if you’ve already played the PSX or Dreamcast versions to death, you’re not going to find a new gameplay experience with Tony on Game Boy Advance. It’s a technically amazing, beautiful handheld title, but it’s no more a new game than the upcoming N64 port will be.

The other double-edged sword is the game’s depth; suffice it to say, THPS2 is so deep that even Konami’s launch games seem simple by comparison. Although the main mode (Career) is broken down into neat little two-minute bursts, getting anything done might take two or three exploratory runs and then several attempts per goal. The game is definitely challenging, and the skill required to advance will come only through practice and persistence. The possible downside is that getting good enough to even see the later levels can take many, many hours of playing, and some people may just not have that kind of patience for a handheld game...even one that is actually a console game. Absolutely everything has to be unlocked or purchased, and considering the rather steep learning curve, I’m afraid some players will never get past the first or second level simply because they’re not willing to invest the time necessary to get really good at the game.

With all that said, the GBA version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 can be a fantastic game for some people and a totally unsuitable choice for others. Hardcore, obsessive gamers who haven’t played the console versions to death will love it. More casual players or those who already know THPS2 inside and out won’t be able to appreciate this handheld beauty nearly as much.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 9 8 9 8 9
Graphics
9

The pseudo-polygonal skaters are pretty fugly up close, but they look fine zoomed out during the game, and the animation they allow is unmatched. The levels are sharp and detailed, but the isometric view does get in the way sometimes.

Sound
9

Composed by the same people at Shin’en who developed the game’s GAX sound engine, THPS2’s music tracks are all great substitutes for the licensed console music. The instrumental/synth songs in the handheld version actually hold up better over time, because you won’t get sick of hearing the words over and over. Sound effects are good, nothing spectacular.

Control
8

Everything has been simplified a bit, but it’s still all there. The controls are highly responsive, which is critical in a game like this. You can purchase upgrades for your skater that actually make visible improvements in speed, jumping, etc. Unfortunately, balancing grinds and manuals isn’t very natural without analog, but that’s a small gripe. The only major problem is that some ramps facing the camera can be very hard to use, due to the transparency/isometric situation. Still, such surfaces are uncommon and can simply be avoided most of the time.

Gameplay
9

What can I say? If you still don’t know what the fuss is about, get a Tony Hawk game as soon as possible. Even for non-sports people like me, Neversoft’s original design combines a simple but fun trick system with a great mission-based interface. The Tony Hawk gameplay ignores competition in favor of freestyle skateboarding where exploration and crazy tricks are emphasized above all else. It’s every bit as fun and addictive on GBA as anywhere else. Watch out for the learning curve though...THPS2 isn’t for the faint of heart.

Lastability
8

The challenging Career Mode will keep you busy for hours and hours as you build up your character and unlock new levels. If that’s not enough, there are a dozen more skaters with which you can do it all over again, and each one is different enough to at least merit a look. The lack of the console versions’ multiplayer modes and level editor is a shame, but THPS2 is still deep enough to last much longer than the average handheld game.

Final
9

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is the type of game that you’ll show off to friends for the wow-factor at first, but pretty soon you’ll find yourself playing for long stretches and with weary eyes. Provided that you can invest some serious playing time for practice, the two-minute sessions will start to fit themselves into all kinds of cracks in your schedule. This game is the perfect purchase for anyone who missed out on the console versions of THPS2 or is looking to get introduced to the series.

Summary

Pros
  • Deep, challenging gameplay will keep you busy for a long time
  • Extremely accurate port of the console versions
  • Fluid animation and very detailed levels make for a visual treat
  • Tight control, tweakable with many possible upgrades
Cons
  • Nothing new for fans of the series
  • Only six courses
  • Steep learning curve demands extensive playing if you want to be good
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Sports
Developer Vicarious Visions
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 GBA
Release May 30, 2001
PublisherActivision
RatingEveryone
jpn: SK8: Tony Hawk no Pro Skater 2
Release Dec 14, 2001
PublisherActivision
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