Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 – GBA – Review

Vicarious Visions
has done it again.  Ever since the initial launch title, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
2, VV has been taking care of development for the hugely successful
skateboarding series on the GBA.  This game marks the third installment of the
franchise on Nintendo’s handheld unit and believe me when I tell you that THPS4
is no Sunday skate through the park.  This game improves on the previous titles
in nearly every conceivable way.  Thanks in part to the new free-skate style of
progression that no longer restricts you to two-minute sessions.  The updated
visuals, intelligent level design, and wickedly entertaining in-game objectives
don’t hurt matters, either.  How the developers were able to pack so much of
that trademark action seen in the console ports of this game into such a tiny
bite-sized package is beyond me.  Nearly every combo that can be pulled off on
the 128-bit systems is also possible on the GBA version, it can be a little
tricky at times due to the undersized D-pad and sometimes-annoying isometric
vantage points, but alls said, I am hardly inclined to complain.


For those going
into THPS4 expecting a scaled-down yet completely faithful translation of the
console games of the same name: you will not be disappointed.  GBA owners who
have past experience with THPS2 or 3 will pretty much know what they are getting
into with part 4.  The true-3D polygonal skaters are a touch larger and more
detailed, and you can expect to see realistic motion-captured animations that
transition flawlessly, but essentially this game doesn’t offer a whole lot of
incentive to purchase compared to the recently released Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
on the GBA.  That said, this game is the best skateboarding experience you’ll
find on Nintendo’s cute little system, and the few enhancements that this
version has received do successfully enhance the overall enjoyment of the title


One of those
enhancements comes in the form of the aforementioned free-skate dynamic. 
Instead of being given a scant two minutes to skate around, fulfilling as many
objectives as time will allow, you are instead given the ability to skate around
freely and tackle objectives at your own pace and discretion.  In order to get
the clock tickin’ you’ll need to talk to a bystander and then attempt to do
whatever they tell you.  Hitting the L-trigger when near a person will initiate
a conversation.  The objectives you’ll need to perform range from seeking out
the secret tape, getting a pro-score, tracking down all the letters in
S-K-A-T-E, or pulling off high-score combos.  This new method of completing
objectives is an excellent addition to the series, it was a great idea in
Aggressive Inline and it proves itself here as well.  Though fans of the console
versions may be disappointed to find out that the cool tennis and baseball
mini-game objectives were not included on the GBA game.  This may have been a
necessary sacrifice but the off-kilter action that these objectives purport
really made part four stand out on the console platform.


Since THPS2, the
one feature, in my opinion, that was really missing from the series was the
ability to land high-flying yet ill-positioned vert-tricks on flat-ground. 
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to notice because Tony Hawk 4 addresses this
issue and literally squashes any complaints regarding it.  By holding L and R
while in the air you’ll be able to reposition your skater so that when he lands
it’ll be on all four wheels instead of his head.  This same method of gameplay
can be used to easily transition between two back-to-back vert-ramps.  It is a
gameplay addition whose ease-of-use is only outdone by its usefulness.  Again,
another advent that Aggressive Inline introduced that is used to great affect in
this title.


As you progress
through the game by completing more and more objectives you’ll be able to unlock
a plethora of goodies.  These include the obligatory new stages, boards, and
cheats, but you’ll also be able to watch movies of all the available skaters,
unlock new outfits, and even a hidden park.  Multiple slots are available to
save careers on and the auto-saving feature comes in handy for gaming in short
bursts.  There is even an included contrast slider in case you do not have the
most optimized lighting solution at your disposal (ie: a high-powered


Visually, THPS4 is
a definite improvement over the previously released Tony Hawk games for the GBA. 
Levels are laid out in a more playable fashion, fans of the past games know what
I’m talking about here as the fixed perspective in the past titles could make
for some really confusing maneuvering.  That problem is still present but it is
not nearly the issue it was with THPS3 and particularly THPS2.  The animation is
very fluid and the transitions between tricks, especially vert-tricks, seems to
have received an added boost in amount of frames used.  Unfortunately, the cool
musical tracks found in the console versions are MIA, though it is to be
expected since including them would have meant an inflated overall size beyond
what is feasible for the solid-state memory used in GBA games, ‘nother words, it
would cost too much money.  The music they have used in place of the licensed
tunes are appealing and entertaining enough, lending themselves nicely to the
experience.  Sound effects on the other hand sound eerily similar to that of its
128-bit big-brothers.  The sound of grinding on metal, landing tricks, and
bailing feel like direct digitized-facsimiles of the console versions.


As far as
skateboarding games on the GBA go, you really can’t do better than Tony Hawk’s
Pro Skater 4.  Owners of the previous game may not be able to justify a purchase
on part 4 since the upgrades the game have received in the transition are
marginal at best, but the new spine-transfer move, updated visuals, and highly
improved level design do make Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 the hands-down best
skating experience on-the-go, period. 



Gameplay: 8.7

Pulling off mad-stunts is done with relative ease despite the GBA’s somewhat
limited gameplay functionality.  Nearly any combo you’ve grown accustomed to on
the console ports can be replicated on the small-screen with minimal effort. 
The added spine-transfer maneuver adds a whole new sense of strategy to the
game: you can finally land miscalculated vert-tricks on flat ground!


Graphics: 8.2

The 3D skaters seem to have received a slight bump in polygons and look somewhat
larger as well.  The static background images are crisp and clean, and brimming
with detail.  Overall though, not a huge technological leap in contrast to


Sound: 7.9

The instrumental tunes that have replaced the console version’s licensed musical
tracks are completely fitting, though the music plays a large enough part in the
128-bit series to make their absence really felt in the handheld version.  Sound
effects, thankfully, are spot-on with realistic digitized clips for nearly every
on-screen action.


Difficulty: Medium

Most of the included objectives in THPS4 can be completed with minimal
initiative, but some of them will keep you fervently banging away for longer
than is optimal in order to progress.    


Concept: 8.2

By now, releasing a new Tony Hawk game to coincide with the console versions is
practically instinctual on the part of the publisher.  We know it’s coming and,
for the most part, we know what to expect.  Nevertheless, the novelty has yet to
wear off and the game is of such high-quality that there is no room to complain.


Multiplayer: 8.6

Expect precisely
the same m-player options in this game as that which was found in part 3: HORSE,
Tag, King of the Hill, and Trick Attack.  Multiple carts are needed but this
time around four people can simultaneously get in on the action.


Overall: 8.6

The fact that you are no longer limited to two-minute runs coupled with the
ability to land vert-tricks on flat ground make THPS4 a game that must be
experienced for Hawk fans.  Those new to the series will find that its
satisfying trick-system and simple-to-learn gameplay will prove to be quickly
addictive.  No matter which side of the fence you’re on, this is definitely a
title you won’t want to miss.