Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 Preview
We take a hands-on look at the N64's rev of the skating classic.
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Amid the ruckus of newer, more powerful consoles picking up steam and getting ready to launch, it's easy to forget about the Nintendo 64. As Nintendo turns its focus to the Game Boy Advance and the upcoming GameCube launch, N64 releases have slowed to a dead stop. But there's still one last hurrah in store for die-hard N64 fans, as Activision and Edge of Reality are putting the finishing touches on an N64 version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2.
THPS2 picks up where the first game left off, adding new tricks, larger levels, an enhanced goal set, and a couple of modes. The new trick that really alters the face of the game is the manual, which is essentially a small wheelie. You can land into manuals when coming out of most tricks, and this lets you continue your combo over flat land. For instance, you can grind a rail, jump out of it, land into a manual, and roll over to another rail to continue grinding--and this will all be counted as one combo. Skaters are much more customizable this time around. As you progress through the career mode, you earn money that can be used to upgrade your skater's stats, purchase a new board, or even purchase new tricks and specials. Adding to the customized feel of the game is a create-a-skater mode that, like any good wrestling game, lets you experiment with different combinations of skin tones, shirts, pants, and hats until you've created the perfect skater. Additionally, you can create your own small skateparks using a collection of prefabricated pieces.
Like in the original game, Tony Hawk 2 contains a collection of professional skaters. The roster consists of Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Steve Caballero, Kareem Campbell, Rune Glifberg, Eric Koston, Bucky Lasek, Rodney Mullen, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Geoff Rowley, Elissa Steamer, and Jamie Thomas. Each skater has different starting stats and different specials, though with enough money, you can customize a skater's tricks any way you see fit.
The levels of Tony Hawk 2 are significantly bigger than the first game's, and a lot of flat, open space has been included to encourage you to take advantage of the manual. The levels are also packed with goals, as well. Aside from the three competition levels, each environment has 10 goals, each with a different dollar amount attached to it. Level goals are similar from level to level, including score goals, collection goals, and trick-based goals, such as executing a kickflip over a certain section of the level. Like the tapes in the first game, later levels only open up as you reach certain dollar amounts. Completing every goal and finishing the game unlocks different things, such as an '80s-style Tony Hawk model, various cheat modes, or hidden skaters, such as Spider-Man.
Graphically, Tony Hawk 2 appears to be on par with the original. The game has a blurry look to it, and the larger levels have quite a bit of pop-up in them, but the game runs at a smooth frame rate that definitely helps the game's playability. Skater animations are smooth, and they transition pretty well from one trick to the next. The sound department is also pretty nice, as each level has its own ambient sound. The sounds of skating--from the clink of your trucks when they hit metal rails to the different sounds your wheels make when they hit different textures--are also well done. The game contains the same licensed music that was in other versions of the game, but the music has been cut back quite a bit to better fit the N64's cartridge format. As a result, most songs have been reduced to short, almost instrumental loops.
It may be one of the last Nintendo 64 games to be released in the US, but it's likely to be among the best. Look for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 to hit store shelves in September.