By: Jared Black
debuting on the PlayStation, the Tony Hawk series has been
widely regarded as one of the best sports series ever. With an
accurate portrayal of hundreds of different skateboarding moves,
high-flying ramp jumps, and perfect controls, itís won over a
legion of fans who had never even skateboarded before. Naturally,
this success led to the inevitable: a version for every platform.
With the GBA being such a surefire hit, everyone knew that it would
get its own version of Tony Hawk. However, almost no one couldíve
predicted just how well it has turned out. Tony Hawkís Pro
Skater 2 for the GBA is without a doubt one of the best
console-to-handheld conversions ever.
What makes it
such a wonderful port is that, despite the limitations of a smaller
screen and fewer buttons, developer Vicarious Visions has still
managed to deliver almost the exact same gameplay to the little
handheld. In career mode, youíll start out by choosing a skater to
use. Youíll then be given a set of objectives to accomplish for
one area, each rewarding with you with money. Once you earn enough
money, youíll unlock additional areas to skate in. Each successive
unlocked park requires different dollar amounts. In addition, the
money will also allow you to upgrade your skaterís stats and
equipment so you can tackle the new challenges that lie ahead. In
addition to money, youíll also be shooting at scoring as many
points as possible by pulling off stunning combinations of tricks.
However, all is
not well with the GBA port. In order to bring the gameplay of THPS2
to the GBA, they had to stick with a standard isometric viewpoint,
as a behind-the-back viewpoint just wouldnít work. Unfortunately,
long-time Tony Hawk fans will have some trouble adjusting to this
new viewpoint. Right and left now represent the skaterís right or
left (regardless of which way youíre facing), which will result in
a lot of wrong turns early on while you adjust to the new setup. Not
only that, but it can often be difficult to figure out exactly how
things are oriented in each level. Although a building will become
transparent as you skate behind it, itís still often hard to
figure out where certain walls and objects are.
Items you need
to collect are also often difficult to locate due to the
slanted view. An item may look like itís on the ground in an area,
when itís actually floating above the ground below that area.
Although you can use each itemís shadow to determine where an item
is located, itís still difficult to judge how high up that item
is. Not only that, but a lot of shadows are obscured by dark patches
of grass and other terrain. Thanks to the GBA's screen (which
requires a good light source to properly play), this problem is even
worse if you are playing in less than ideal lighting. In fact, there
are instances where youíre forced to just jump around in an itemís
general location and hope you hit it. Itís really a shame too,
because a few tweaks to the level design wouldíve corrected this
problem. With practice youíll eventually adjust to the new
viewpoint, but it still proves to be a less than ideal setup.
about this game is perfect however, especially the graphics. Every
level is rendered with amazing accuracy, as rendering each in a set
static 2D format allowed VV to include a ton of detail. Even more
amazing are the skaters themselves, which are fully polygonal models
(up to 300 polys per skater). While they arenít textured polys,
the skaters are by nature small enough that it really doesnít
matter. Polygonal models also allow for a wider range of motion, and
this shows in the excellent assortment of animation found in each
skater. Every move looks exactly the way it does on the consoles.
While the graphics wonít blow you away with flashiness, itís the
solidness of them all that will really help to draw you in.
everything else in this port, the sound area is also first-rate.
Unfortunately you wonít find any licensed music here, as itís
been replaced with generic beats created by VV. Luckily those are
all excellent, and perfectly fit what youíd expect from a skating
game. The sound effects are also good, although these are somewhat
limited in their implementation (grinds, landing, grunts, etc.) due
to the nature of the game.
frustration you may experience with the control setup will prove to
be inconsequential, and will be adjusted to in time. In the
meantime, youíll still have a blast playing Tony Hawkís Pro
Skater 2. While the gameplay isnít perfect, Vicarious Visions
has still managed to pull off a stunning technological feat that
should be experienced by all GBA owners.
- Plays like
the console version.
- A good amount
of gameplay depth.
- Level design
not optimized for the format.
mind-blowing to think that this is only a first-generation GBA game,
as itís practically the perfect portable title. Not only is the
gameplay perfectly suited for a portable (easy to get into and out
of if necessary), but the level of technology found here makes one
wonder what weíll see from the GBA a few years from now. If it
wasnít for the minor design and control issues, THPS2 would easily
earn a perfect score. As it stands now, itís still an amazing
Overall Score: 9.2