Sunday, February 8, 2015

Game Boy Advance Bargain Gems: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

Console: Game Boy Advance
Genre(s): Sports
Players: 1
Developed By: Vicarious Visions
Published By: Activision
Released: 2001

If you haven't heard of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series of games, seriously, you've been living under a rock. Since the initial launch of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater in 1999 for the Sony Playstation, the series has developed over 19 different games for just about every major console and handheld system. With the incredibly popular console versions available, it becomes very easy for a handheld port to be overlooked. Let's be honest, though, a lot of these ports are not very good. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, however, is not one of these poorly done remakes ported over to a handheld. No, this game is awesome.


If you've played the console version of this game, then you know exactly what you are getting into, an incredibly fun and addicting experience that is destined to eat up the rest of your day. The handheld version is no exception. You begin the game by selecting one of three game modes: Career Mode, Free Skate, and Single Session. Initially, you will spend the majority of your time in the “Career Mode”, where you will skate your way through a total of 6 locations and skate parks, all of which are incredibly accurate to the console counterpart. You will need to unlock all of the parks in career mode in order to unlock them in the other modes. 

Unlocking parks is not as easy as one would think. A hit list of tasks will need to be completed at each location in order to move on. These include collecting S-K-A-T-E, finding the secret tapes, airing some gaps, and many more. They are not always the easiest tasks to complete and you will find yourself letting out a celebratory cheer upon completing some of them. The Pause → Retry combo will become frequently used. 

There are a total of 13 skaters to choose from in this game. They include all of your favorites from Tony Hawk to Bob Burnquist and each have their own unique set of attributes and special tricks. The special tricks, of course, can be performed after filling your “Special” meter by pulling off high scoring tricks in succession without eating it. To perform the special, you must use the correct combination of d-pad commands followed by the desired action button. 

Let's move on to one of the most unique features of this game, the view. Anyone who has played the console version, was treated to some great 3d graphics with a chase camera perspective. The GBA version is completely different. The view is an isometric, overhead view point that follows your skater throughout the per-rendered skate parks. Surprisingly, this works amazingly well for this game. There is, however, a short learning curve for how the controls work with this view and figuring out the depth perspective within the game.


Vicarious Visions did an amazing job with the graphics in this one. The parks have a ton of detail and all the ramps and rails are easily distinguishable within the levels. All of the skaters have their own looks and styles as well. Of course, some sacrifices had to be made when compared to the console versions, but overall, the graphics are fantastic!


I was a little disappointed to not hear any of the recognizable music that we all grew to love with the console versions, but I do understand that audio takes up a lot of valuable space on carts and a sacrifice needed to be made. However, there are a variety of different tunes that play throughout your session that help set the tone.

The sound is good and recognizable. Ollie's have that distinguishable “Pop!” sound you would expect to hear and grinding rails has that metal on metal sound as expected. Overall, the sound is great!


This is the part that will take some time to get used to. Given the button layout of the GBA, with only two action buttons and two shoulder buttons, the layout becomes a bit tricky. After a quick brain reflash, you will master the controls and will be ripping some amazing combos. After mastering the controls, you will begin to appreciate how well Vicarious Visions was able to match the feel to that of the console counterpart. It's almost identical and will begin to feel incredibly natural.

The default button layout is as follows:

D-Pad: Control Skater
A Button: Grind
B Button: Couch & Ollie
L Button: Flip Tricks
R Button: Grap Tricks

Final Impressions:

This game is incredible! It's very easy for a great handheld title to go unnoticed among a slew of great console titles, but this one should not. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for GBA should be considered one of the greatest titles within the series. The replayability is amazing. This type of game is perfect for a handheld. You can pick it up and jam out a quick session or two and then proceed with the rest of your day, or class, or whatever you are doing with your time. With the price of this game typically coming in under $5, makes this one of the best bargain gems you will come across. You will not be disappointed.

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