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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

Review By: Jared Black

Developer:   Vicarious Visions
Publisher:   Activision
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Skateboarding
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   6-12-01

Ever since 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.

Everything else 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.

Just like 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.

Overall, any 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.

Highs:

  • Plays like the console version.
  • Stunning graphics.
  • A good amount of gameplay depth.
  • Excellent music.

Lows:

  • Level design not optimized for the format.

Final Verdict:

Itís really 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 achievement.

Overall Score: 9.2

Additional Images:

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Box Art

 



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