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In Praise Of The ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2’ You Probably Didn’t Play

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In Praise Of The ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2’ You Probably Didn’t Play

The new release of the pretty superbly remastered Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 has got a lot of people very excited indeed. And for good reason, because it turns out that these extreme sports titles of the late 1990s and early 2000s hold up fantastically well in 2020. Sure, there are tweaks, nips and tucks, a little more going on under the hood than just a new coat of paint on the top of it. But let's not kid ourselves: this is the games you loved on the PlayStation 1 (or Dreamcast, or Nintendo 64), looking and playing brilliantly on the PlayStation 4 (or Xbox One, or PC).

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Wanna know more? Read our review - or better yet watch it, below. Suffice to say that this particular remaster has really surprised us - not just in terms of how great it is to play right now (brilliant), but how perfectly it presses all the right nostalgia buttons. This is less the game that we actually played back then; more, the game our memories think we played back then, with all the fuzzy details fleshed out and coloured into HD. In that regard it's more like the remake of Shadow of the Colossus, rather than Final Fantasy VII - entirely what we already knew, and what we already loved, but with wonderful new life breathed into it.

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But not everyone played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (1 or 2) on a Dreamcast, PlayStation or N64. The remake's developers, Vicarious Visions, actually cut its teeth on all things Pro Skater with a Game Boy Advance port-slash-demake of THPS2, in 2001. And while the smaller-screen, strictly-isometric version of the 3D shred 'em up mightn't immediately look like a game worth championing, lemme tell you something: it's brilliant, actually.

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Releasing in the summer after THPS2's autumn/winter 2000 debut on PS1, Dreamcast, PC and Game Boy Color (okay, that is a version to leave in the past), Vicarious Visions' GBA take on the runaway hit shrunk it down to a fixed perspective, but otherwise left the gameplay largely intact. Indeed, it's a fairly magical thing to behold: effectively a SNES-like adaptation of a current-gen 3D game, delivered with very few meaningful compromises.

THPS2 on the Game Boy Advance / Credit: Activision, MobyGames.com
THPS2 on the Game Boy Advance / Credit: Activision, MobyGames.com

You steer your skater around the same locations as this port's bigger brothers (albeit with some levels removed due to storage constraints, but one exclusive one added), and the usual collectibles in each are pretty much where you expect them to be, albeit not always so easy to line up with when you're getting some air. Which is to say: pick this up today, for the first time, and you'll soon enough spell out SKATE while grinding over a helicopter in the Mullet Falls hangar.

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Tony Hawk and Bob Burnquist and Kareem Campbell, they're all here. So too Eric Koston, who we recently spoke to about the return of the Tony Hawk's series. The GBA version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 manages to feel as complete as it needs to be, with the restrictions of its hardware appreciated. The only thing that's really missing is the iconic soundtrack of the PlayStation (et al) THPS2. There are crunchy riffs and rollicking drum fills aplenty in the GBA game, but it's just not the same without Lagwagon and Rage Against The Machine.

THPS2 on the Game Boy Advance / Credit: Activision, MobyGames.com
THPS2 on the Game Boy Advance / Credit: Activision, MobyGames.com

With its twin face and double shoulder buttons, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 on the GBA could have been a moveset-stripped adaptation that went big on dramatic tricks but light on string-them-together combos. But however Vicarious Visions managed to make it work, make it work they did, as you can run up some truly epic scores on this thing. Mixing melons into ollies via long-lasting manuals that surely aren't possible IRL (goes to YouTube; sees that they are), the simplified inputs still allow for some surprisingly nuanced action.

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Much of the time, console launch titles are fun for a while but fail to stand out as one of their parent hardware's absolute essentials a few years later. Breath of the Wild is one argument against that assumption, and THPS2 for the Game Boy Advance is another. The new, upgraded version of Nintendo's handheld heavyweight launched with an impressive 15 games, including Super Mario Advance, Rayman, and F-Zero: Maximum Velocity. But THPS2 was the pick of the bunch in week one of the GBA's lifetime, and almost 20 years later it remains one of the very best games you can play on the still-popular portable.

Featured Image Credit: Activision

Topics: Vicarious Visions, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Game Boy, Tony Hawk's, Nintendo, Activision, Retro Games

Mike Diver
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