Platform: Gameboy Advance

Genre: Sports

Publisher: Activision

Developer: Vicarious Visions

ESRB: E (Everyone)

Released: Q1 2002

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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Score: 9.3/10

 

Pros

-Graphics hold up to some of the best on the GBA
-Pulls off some 3D-like gameplay in the 2D world
-While not as large as their console inspirations, levels are big

 

 

Cons:

-Those familiar with the console version will need to get comfortable with
the controls
-All that 128-bit goodness can't be crammed into the restrictive handheld format

 

 

Related Links:

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (Gameboy Advance)

 

"Even if you already own the GBA version of THPS2 go out and buy this terrific title that more than does justice to the long lineage of Pro Skating greatness that has preceded it."

 

It's a tough enough task for GameBoy Advance software developers to port over 128-bit console games to the Nintendo handheld. It's even more difficult when the game in question is a stellar mega-hit like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (THPS3). And it's yet even more of a challenge when the development team that created the original passes over the creative reigns to another software house to handle the conversion. But don't fret THPS fans. While Neversoft has been the developers of the THPS series since its inception in the home console realm, Vicarious Visions gives all GBA gamers a worthy successor to its remarkable version of THPS2 on the GBA. They continue the proud tradition of another excellent title in the Hawk series, which has quickly become in the world of videogames one of today's best in any genre on any system.

 

thps3-gba-1.jpg (22177 bytes)          thps3-gba-2.jpg (22087 bytes)

 

Vicarious Visions gives a good attention-to-details look to the game, and as it did in THPS2 for the GBA manages to squeeze out some sweet 3D-appearing visuals in the 2D GBA world. Not as colorfully vibrant as its console doppelganger, the world of THPS3 on the GBA still gives off a shiny gleam of graphical excellence that stretches the rendering power of the portable Nintendo machine. Skaters have a little jagged edginess to them, almost along the lines of what you would expect from a PlayStation One game, basically average compared to some of the GBA's best titles and not as polished as THPS3's levels. To compensate for a limited camera, some of the obstacles and ramps have a transparency effect so you can see where your skater is. The game pulls this effect off nicely, surprisingly not complicating the gameplay.

 

 

Two less levels are available in the game than turn up in the console version (three less from the Xbox), missing the Cruise Ship, Skater Island and the Oil Rig from the Xbox version. The levels that do appear however are large, giving a lot of room to explore considering the more restrictive GBA format. They aren't exact copies of the console levels, which just isn't feasible. Can you imagine the impossible undertaking it would be for Vicarious Visions to try and match the neon-filled Tokyo level on the GBA? Instead, what we GBA faithful get is a good representation of the elements that make the creative console levels so much fun. As in the console version, there are interactive obstacles in the form of cars and pedestrians throughout each level to avoid if you want to have a successful skate session.

One thing unfortunately missing from the GBA version is the lineup of punk and hip-hop tunes that grace the console soundtracks. But it does its best at providing digitized tuneage that at least is in the same ballpark beat sounding-wise. You'll get some good thumpin' techno/punk/hip-hop hybrid instrumental-only songs to grind and skate around the Hawk handheld universe.

My biggest adjustment after spending so much time playing the Xbox version of the game was getting used to the more-simplistic control scheme that the game needs to have for the evident reason of less controller buttons. The "B" and top left button control your air sessions while the "A" button controls grinding tricks. One thing that I found was that there wasn't a completely fair balance of air and grind scoring tricks. It's relatively easy to score huge grind trick points with minimal effort once you get the control system down pat. On the flip side of the board, air tricks, while not difficult, don't have the same point payoff without a more involved learning curve. Although both new air and grind tricks have been included in the game including the new revert, grinding simply seems to allow more opportunities to rack up some serious points, which is a necessity to garner gold medals in the two competition levels of Rio and Tokyo.

 

thps3-gba-3.jpg (21132 bytes)          thps3-gba-4.jpg (19968 bytes)

 

The game's multiplayer is much better than its console counterparts (the Xbox especially) simply because each of the up to four players have their very own screen to themselves, which makes playing much easier. This is technically available with an Xbox multiplayer game, but only if each player has not only their own Xbox through the system link but their own television or monitor. Which isn't very practical without even mentioning the large amount of money needed to be spent on four Xboxes, four televisions or monitors, and four copies of the game. With one copy of the game, four GBAs and one GBA game link cable you can get a great (and affordable) handheld multiplayer game going. As usual, you have all the more-than-one player selections that THPS is famous for: Trick Attack, H-O-R-S-E, King of the Hill, or Tag. If you want to go it alone, the career mode has been overhauled, including more character-specific goals that vary from skater to skater, depending on their skating style. Create-A-Skater is still around if you don't choose one of the 13 included pros. (Bob Burnquist leaves this year, replaced by Bam Margera of MTV's Jackass fame).

While not on the same level of brilliance as the console version of THPS3 because obviously you just can't stuff all that 128-bit gaming goodness into a GBA, Vicarious Visions nevertheless does a great job of giving skateboarding handheld game fans a reason not to feel shortchanged. Even if you already own the GBA version of THPS2 go out and buy this terrific title that more than does justice to the long lineage of Pro Skating greatness that has preceded it.

-Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

 

(April 15, 2002)

 

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