The original Tony Hawk for the Dreamcast was hardly a surprise. The game had already received rave reviews on both the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64, so all Dreamcast owners had to do was sit back and wait patiently for the best version of the game. Then, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 came to both the PlayStation and the PC, and it received similar reviews. Now, after waiting patiently once again, Dreamcast owners can enjoy what is easily the best version of the game to be released thus far.
Tony Hawk 2 is a textbook example of how to make a sequel. It takes everything that made the first game great and basically bumps it all up a notch. As a result, levels are larger, the level goals are much more varied, there are more tricks, more options, and so on. All the professional skaters from the first game have returned, and new skaters like Rodney Mullen, Eric Koston, and Steve Caballero have been added to the roster. Also, you can create your own skater by choosing from different skin and model types. All the first game's modes are back. You can opt to skate a two-minute single session, freely skate around a level with no time limit, or enter the career mode. The career mode here is much more than the first game's. Completing level goals in career mode earns you cash, and you spend that cash on higher attribute points, new boards, and new tricks. This makes the game pretty customizable - if you don't like your skater's tricks, a little money and some time on the trick screen and you can set any trick to almost any button combination you want.
With the exception of the three competition levels, each level in the game has ten different goals, each with a different dollar value assigned to it. Three of the goals are score based, and you still have to spell skate and collect a hidden tape as well. Four of the goals are fairly level specific. In New York, you'll do things like collect subway tokens, 50-50 grind on a sculpture, and grind on a set of subway rails. In Philly, you'll have to drain a fountain, find four lips and do lip tricks on them, and collect small Liberty Bells. In Venice, you'll ollie over five "magic" bums, tailslide the Venice Ledge, collect spray paint cans, and find four specially marked transfers. Finally, the last goal in each level is completed when you've completed the other nine goals and collected every piece of spinning money. In competition levels, you earn 90 percent completion by earning the gold medal, and the remaining ten percent comes from collecting all the cash in the level. Later levels are opened up when you've collected a certain amount of cash or medals. You don't need to get 100 percent completion in each level to beat the game's final level, but you'll be too addicted to the game to settle for anything less.
The multiplayer game is just as exciting as it was in the original. With the exception of horse, all of the other modes are played simultaneously. Trick attack is a timed score contest. Graffiti mode tags a surface with your skater's color when you include it in a trick - if you do a better trick on a surface owned by your opponent, it switches to your color. Tag gives each player a timer, which only counts down when you're "it." The first player to run out of time loses. The game runs at the same speed in split-screen mode, but the frame rate definitely takes a hit. However, the game is still ultraplayable. Also, most of the levels have been altered a bit for multiplayer - for instance, the Skatestreet level loses its outdoor areas, Philly loses its skatepark, and the Bullring no longer lets you get up into the stands. It would have been nice if the chopped levels were broken up into two separate levels in multiplayer, which would then have allowed you to choose between the fountain section or the skatepark section of Philadelphia, but there's still plenty of different arenas for your multiplayer pleasure.
The first Tony Hawk on Dreamcast didn't go too far above and beyond the call of duty, when compared to the original PlayStation source material. The models and textures were cleaned up, end-of-level animations were added, and that's about it. Tony Hawk 2 goes a little further. The game is extremely more colorful when compared to the PlayStation version, and the textures are amazingly clean. But more impressive than that, the models have been tweaked and redone a bit. Now, things like T-shirts flap around in the wind as you skate, and the animation just looks simply amazing. The draw-in distance is nice and far away, letting you see most of the enormous parks at any given time. The frame rate, save for a few minor, hard-to-find spots, is rock solid. The only real problem with the original Tony Hawk's audio was that the soundtrack was a little singular - if you didn't like that style of music, you were essentially out of luck. Tony Hawk 2 breaks up the monotony nicely with a wide range of artists including Naughty By Nature, Powerman 5000, Rage Against the Machine, Dub Pistols, Papa Roach, Anthrax (featuring Public Enemy), and Bad Religion. The game's sound effects are outstanding, mixing a nice balance of ambient sound (nearby cars, trains, announcers at the skate competitions, and so on) and the sounds of skating, such as the clink of your trucks hitting a rail, the different textured sounds of varying surfaces, and, of course, the sound of your skater's body slamming to the pavement. When compared to the PlayStation version, the Dreamcast release has higher quality sound - everything just sounds a whole lot clearer, crisper, and cleaner.
While much of the core gameplay of the original remains, that's not to say that Tony Hawk 2 is without improvements. The most influential of these improvements is the addition of manuals - essentially front or back wheelies - which you can use to link trick combos together over a much greater distance. Now, you can do a set of rail tricks, land in a manual, and roll over to another set of rails, all in the same combo. This complements the game's large, occasionally open level design amazingly well, and it doesn't unbalance the game a bit. While manuals are the key to insane scoring, you don't need to really rely on them constantly to succeed. The first game had lots of gaps - small bonuses that gave you points for transfers, jumps, and long rails. Tony Hawk 2 is packed with these gaps; some levels have more than 40 different gaps. A gap checklist on the options screen helps you keep track of which gaps you've yet to find.
Another amazing addition is the skatepark editor. The editor gives you an empty room and lets you fill it up with rails, ramps, pools, boxes, and just about anything else. It's extremely easy to use, and you can set it up for both single- and multiplayer play. It would have been nice if the game took advantage of the Dreamcast's online capabilities, which would have let you play online, register your high scores, or even transfer your skateparks to friends or a centralized server, but alas, this is not the case.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is a must-own Dreamcast game. The game's career mode presents an awesome challenge, yet it's a challenge that you'll want to undertake again and again, unlocking characters and cheats as you progress. But even after everything is unlocked and completed, Tony Hawk 2 is enough of a pick-up-and-play type of game that you'll be coming back to it months after you've completed the challenges.