A Second Look @ Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (GBA)
(All images are taken from Gamespot)
If you've played any of the console versions of Pro Skater 2, you should have high expectations already. The sequel takes everything fans love about the previous game and cranks it up to 11. The same holds true for the GameBoy Advance version. I want to avoid using the word "port" since this is far from it. It's Pro Skater 2, to be sure, just mini. Same levels, same pros, same tricks. However that might not be enough to afford attention from someone who prefers the console versions.
As soon as the main menu wheel shows, you'll understand how much attention went into this game to be just like the bigger versions. The game contains a Career Mode, Free Skate, and Single Session. Upon first seeing the character selection, one might be disappointed by the pixelized pros. But don't be fooled, they stand up just as well as one should expect.
It will take some time to get used to the default control scheme, but if it becomes too difficult it can be freely changed in the menus; something that feels more natural to the player would be the best route to take. Things such as entering the nollie stance is done by pressing the same button used for kick tricks. The shoulder buttons, as well as the d-pad, rotate the skater left or right in the air. These can't be changed but there is no button interference when playing.
When you stick to it all the way through, you'll find the usual bonus characters, Officer Dick and Spiderman, on the character selection screen. One new addition is Mindy, not the same one from American Wasteland, added to replace Private Carrera.
The 45-degree angle that the game is presented in takes some getting used, eventually it becomes something the player just ignores and accepts. It works, and that's fine.
The biggest, and possibly only, gripe one might have with this game is the lack of character creation. It's understandable that it would have to be cut from the GBA, but we could all do without a few cheats, Mindy, and one less song. A simple character editor would be ideal. Change skin color, hair color, clothes color, and add a board from one of the pros and that would satisfy. I suppose having that option would be too much to put on a GBA cart though.
Pay close attention when performing a trick, you'll see the animations have practically been copied frame by frame from the console versions. The animations, such as Tony Hawk's 900 or Rodney Mullen's Casper to 360 flip, are excellent to look it. They're never just "rotating to 900 degrees" or "a manual that ends with a flip." Each trick is detailed to look exactly like the bigger versions.
Large areas such as the School in Florida and New York City have been shuffled around a bit to make it compatible. Others such as Marseille, France and the hangar in Mullet Falls are the same. As a slight bonus the Warehouse from Pro Skater 1 has been added, with only a few minor changes to level layout. Each change isn't enough to get angry over, it just takes some getting used to.
The sound is the best I've heard in a GBA game so far. From the main menu wheel to a skater hitting the pavement, it's all the same from the console versions. The only thing different from the consoles is the music: the midi-file music is similar, yet at the same time it feels as though it's best suited for this game alone. You still have that SoCal rock feel to it as well as a few hiphop basslines.
The replay value takes this game to about 10 hours, with breaks. Once you get used to getting 100% with one skater it becomes easy to get the rest of the careers complete. Achieving 100% game total, however, will take effort. Mindy can't be unlocked unless you find all gaps (up to Skatestreet anyway). Even after completing the game its still fun to take on-the-go and play every now and then, its something that sticks with you.
If one started with Pro Skater 2 on the GBA and never touched the console versions, there would be no need to fret. This IS Pro Skater 2, just smaller. It's the cherry on top for any fan of the series. Its an excellent game that's worthy of any addition to one's collection.