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Game Profile
Game Boy
Vicarious Visions
GENRE: Extreme Sports
PLAYERS:   1-4
March 04, 2002
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More in this Series
 Written by Ilan Mejer  on February 21, 2003

First Impressions: Everyone's favorite skating icon hits the road thanks to this Gameboy Advance title.

After the stunning success they achieved with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 at the Gameboy Advance launch, Vicarious Visions are reprising their role as developer of the exciting sequel. While VV did not exactly build an entirely new game engine for THPS3, they have tweaked it enough to provide us with the three most important features missing in the previous game: Custom skaters, link play, and increased stage activity. The console version of THPS3 played significantly faster on the consoles than its predecessors but this version of the game will only run slightly faster than THPS2 for GBA. However, with more interactive backgrounds and texture-maps on the fully motion-captured and polygonal skaters it is surprising that the game doesn't run slower.

Neither the perspective nor the controls are changing much for this sequel. The action is still being depicted from a skewed, isometric viewpoint and the face buttons will still control your ollies and grinds as the shoulder buttons still control the tricks. However, when landing from a vertical trick, R will now execute the Revert, a powerful new linking move that can be combined with the Manual to create the complex combos we learned on the GameCube. While the pedestrians and spectators are sprites, they will be present this time around and can be interacted with. The addition of cars and other moving obstacles is a much welcome feature to the GBA version. The simply polygonal skaters from THPS2 have been replaced with more detailed and better textured skaters. The texture quality is still sub-par, but since the game retains such a far zoom the look is much more convincing and pleasant than before. It also looks like VV has been able to incorporate a rudimentary lighting system that reflects background glows.

The new texture-mapped polygon graphics are a significant leap for the GBA. THPS3 skaters will have faces, hair, customizable clothes, and logos on their boards. The new level of detail is also facilitating the inclusion of the Create-a-Skater mode that was sadly lacking in THPS2 GBA. The game's battery save will allow you to modify and store up to four different looks for your custom character. It is expected that six or seven main career levels will make the port with one or two possibly available as unlock-able secrets. All dozen professional skaters are scheduled to make the cut, however it is unknown just how many of the secret characters from the console versions will be available.

The inclusion of link play is sounding like a fantastic addition to an already incredible series. It sounds extremely exciting and should add a much needed replay element that was almost completely lacking in the THPS2 GBA. It is unsure how many will be able to link up and play together but if it remains unchanged from the GCN version then I expect no more than two skating together. Once again, the contemporary tunes from the PS2 and GCN incarnations are being dropped, due to the limited space on the cartridge format. Those pleased with the original music composed for THPS2 GBA will be thrilled to learn that the German company, Shin-en, are reprising their role in composing this game's musical score. Therefore, you can expect a suitably upbeat soundtrack to accompany the exciting skating action.

Final Thoughts
THPS2 was the first game I purchased for my Gameboy Advance, namely because it was amongst the first games available. It was the game that introduced me to the wonderful world of extreme sports and eventually prompted me to purchase THPS2 for the N64 and THPS3 at the GCN launch. I am thrilled at the prospect of playing a handheld version of THPS3 that is more complete and intact than the last game was. Vicarious Visions has succeeded in proving that the GBA is a system that is much more powerful than many other developers initially gave it credit for, and should once again be pushing some more boundaries with this game.

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