Review by thedaveman64

Reviewed: 07/13/01 | Updated: 07/13/01

The Hawk soars high in this GBA gem

Activision’s hit skateboarding franchise debuts on the Game Boy Advance in a game that rivals the PSOne, even N64, version. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on GBA, sporting a fixed camera angle, still stays true to it’s sister games while adding unique features of its own. The most noticeable difference between the GBA version of THPS2 and the console versions are the prerendered skating parks and fixed camera angle (3/4, RPG view that scrolls extremely smoothly as you skate off the screen), whereas in the console versions the camera is constantly behind the skater. GBA couldn’t pull off such a feat because of it’s weak (not non-existent, just weak) 3-D graphics capabilities. Instead, we have a three dimensional skater grinding gorgeously crafted, prerendered levels (almost 10 in all) full of walls to ride, ramps to ollie and innumerable things to grind, all of which will be key components to your success in the game.

Story: -N/A- THPS2 doesn’t have much going for it in the ways of a plot or story, but sports games typically don’t, so no harm done.
Gameplay: -10- There are 4 options from the starting menu, Career Mode, which you’ll be spending a LOT of time in, Single Session, Free Skate and Options.
Options contains features that allow you to toggle with blood, music and sound controls, cheats you’ve earned (or typed in), high scores, etc.
Career Mode is the equivalent to story mode; you choose your skater out of the 13 preliminary boarders and take him or her through the levels grabbing cash, performing tricks and accomplishing individual level tasks, like Wallriding 5 school bells in School 2, or wrangling the blue cow in New York. Other tasks include attaining or surpassing specific score limits in the amount of time given (2 minutes on normal levels and three 1 minute heats in events). There are also special “Gaps” that each level has (can be verified on a checklist in Options) that need to be grinded, ollied, etc, in order to complete the level, or gain cheats. Accomplishing these tasks gives you an according amount of money that can be put towards editing your skater, his/her board and moves. By advancing through the game, you’ll unlock more characters, cheats and a new level. The journey is long and tough, but fun and well worth it.
Also in Career Mode is the ability to edit your character’s moves, stats and board with money you’ve found in Career levels or earned by accomplishing Career tasks. In the Skate Shop, boards bought become progressively better until max stats are reached (four points in four categories is the maximum). The boards’ stats being rated are Weight, Speed, Turning and Durability. The skaters’ stats being evaluated are Air, Hangtime, Ollie, Speed, Spin, Landing, Switch, Rail Balance, Lip Balance and Manual, all of which can be upgraded if you have enough cash. Each character has 3 signature moves that can’t be erased and 3 empty spaces to fill with moves that you can purchase in the Trick Edit mode, including others’ signature moves.
In Single Session, you can choose a level that you’ve accessed during Career Mode and skate on it until the time is up. There are no tasks to pursue, but money is still scattered throughout the level and your score will be recorded if high enough.
Free Skate is much like Single Session; only levels accessed during Career Mode are available, and you choose one to skate. The difference is that there is no time limit, no money and even if you break a record, your score will not be recorded.
That’s one of the features that make THPS2 such a great game; you can pick it up and play, not having to worry about stats or scores then put it down, or you can work on building your character to superhuman abilities and spend hours pursuing goals.
Control: -10- Game Boy Advance’s limited amount of buttons (compared to PS2, DC or N64) don’t impair your capabilities to perform sick combos and impress everyone watching. Your skater starts moving by itself at the beginning of the level and from there on, you can either speed it up or bring him/her to a halt, but when no buttons are pressed, the skater starts up again in the direction he/she’s facing. Controlling the direction in which your boarder goes feels almost exactly like the default control scheme in Resident Evil. Left is the direction your character sees left, not necessarily you. The same applies for all other directions. This can be daunting at first, but becomes almost second nature after some practice. You can ollie (jump), grind, and interact with pretty much everything you encounter. Basic tricks usually are comprised of the push of two buttons in sequence. If you pull off a few basic tricks without falling, your special meter will turn yellow and flash, which enables you to perform, you guessed it, special moves! All of which are 3 button sequences that can be linked to any other combination of moves, as long as you don’t fall. Falling results in loss of your special capability until you regain it by performing move basic moves. This trick system is very easy to learn and master. Menus are quite user friendly, as well, so it isn’t hard to find your way around this deceivingly enormous game.
Graphics: -10- The prerendered backgrounds look very realistic while objects that you can hit (like boxes, barrels, etc.) tend to stand out with brighter colours and less detail, but detail nonetheless. This is starting to sound more and more like Resident Evil; I wouldn’t be surprised if Claire Redfield was a secret boarder… The skaters, believe it or not, are three dimensional, and look very good while skating. Although you can tell them apart, facial features, along with other distinguishing characteristics can’t be found on these models. Still, THPS2 has the best graphics to date on any handheld available which are a marvel to play with and experience.
Music/Sound: -9- Even though the GBA translation of THPS2 doesn’t have lyrics, the beat goes on with funky tunes that you’ll be humming subconsciently in no time. The music is usually alternates between rock or techno which suits the playing environment well and just makes you feel more like playing, a good thing. GBA’s mono speaker doesn’t handle bass to well, so if you have good headphones, plug ‘em in and see (actually, hear) what you’re missing. That’s why music only got a 9, although there isn’t much Activision could have done about that.
Sound is very well done as well, from the satisfying noise when you grind a steel pole, and the agonizing “Ungh!” when you fall on your head from 20 feet, everything is done quite nicely.
Fun Factor: -10- This game is incredibly fun, and once you start, unless you can’t quite grasp the controls, you won’t be able to put it down. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for GBA sets the standard for fun in games and sets the bar high (which Tony Hawk 3 will surely attempt to grind).
Replayablility: -10- With several playing modes, more than a dozen skaters, tons of things to do and more to discover, THPS2 will have you coming back time and time again for more grinding action. Free Skate adds much replayblilty even after you’ve beaten the game with every character, found all the gaps, unlocked all the cheats, boosted every skaters stats and boards to the maximum level, developed and memorized perfect combo schemes for every level and competition, customized every players moves to your liking…need I say more?
Buy, Rent or Stay Away: -Buy- THPS2 has so much to offer in terms of gameplay, graphics, music, control, everything you want (and need) in a game is here in a tiny GBA cart. Fan or not of extreme sports games, pick this up and you wont regret it. A great addition to anyone’s video game library, don’t let Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for Game Boy Advance grind by without grabbing a copy.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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