In the realm of comfort food, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is pretty up there for me. I'm a pretty huge fan of the THPS series, and the second game was my introduction to the games. It was my roommate in college who brought THPS2 to my attention on his newfangled Dreamcast. We'd both have class during the day, work at night, and then come back to our apartment and play Tony Hawk all night while listening to Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse (before they were cool). Looking back, I'm not quite sure why we listened to music besides the in-game soundtrack, but y'know. We were young and dumb.
That was my buddy TJ, and to this day it's really hard for me to play this game and not think of him and our college experience. So do realize that there's nostalgia on top of nostalgia attached to this game for me. At any rate, in the years since I've played and replayed multiple version of THPS2. Mostly on Dreamcast and Playstation. But I had also played the GBA port about a decade ago and I remember thinking it was damn impressive given the hardware.
What makes the GBA version so cool is that it's a complete demake built from the ground up. You get the full levels and everything, but it's recreated as an isometric game which is really interesting. The controls are a bit simplified given you have just a d-pad and four buttons. And obviously the music is no longer the full CD quality licensed tracks. But all of this adds a bit to the charm of this version. At least for me.
I will say that the game feels markedly more difficult here, in part because of the control scheme but also because of the lower resolution meaning that you just can't see as much of the map at once. Everything just feels more condensed.
Because this is a comfort food game I've played a billion times, my goal right now is not to 100% everything (which I've done in the past on all four THPS games, so whatevs), but rather just get through to credits for now. Luckily, the two minute runs make this a perfect game for playing on GBA as you can easily do a few runs in spare minutes here and there.
So far I've cleared out the majority of goals on the first map, and have unlocked the school.
The school level is a pretty good example of what makes the GBA port so unique. It has all of the major elements of the console original level, and yet they've been remixed to better suit the isometric view. In some ways this totally throws me off because I'm expecting the level to be laid out the way I know it well. But it's still a testament to out thought out this port is. The developers definitely took their time in figuring out how to translate the FEEL of the level into what will actually work on the system.
One obvious omission is the dude riding around on the golf cart. He didn't make the jump to GBA. And I'm guessing it's just a matter of system resources dealing with a second moving thing rather than just static levels. But the level still feels familiar even when it's clearly different.
I'm still wrapping my head around the controls. Years of muscle memory are shot because the button configuration is so different. But I'm starting to get some solid combos going. I need to put some points into upping my manual and rail balance, though. Then I'll really be golden.