Just like Tony Hawk, the game delivered on all levels with its impressive skating physics and awesome level designs.
Played on the Playstation 1
Skateboarding in the 90s was the sport of the underworld. A group of renegades who didn’t give a fuck about the rules except their own. Skaters go wherever and whenever to get their thrills and the only ones who understood them were other skaters. No medium portrayed the world of skateboarding (or other action sports) correctly, that was until Neversoft had the balls to build a game with the greatest skater of all time, Tony Hawk, and try to win both the skating community and gamers trust.
Neversoft’s creation brought many risks, but they achieved to create the New Testament of action sports video games. Skating and other action sports games have graced their presence on previous systems, but nothing created a phenomenon like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (THSP). It helped shift video game culture into a different direction and spawned countless sequels and copycats. But it also brought bored/misinformed politicians and concerned/ignorant parents their worst fear: influencing video game-like behaviors on gamers. I admin: I was influenced by this game. I shamelessly picked up skateboarding to imitate what I have seen onscreen and was terrible at it; but I would never dreamt of skating in the first place if it wasn’t for Tony Hawk’s dark influences. I’m pretty sure I was not the only gamer to start skating thanks to the birth of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater‘s overwhelming influence (and success) on the masses.
THSP first graced its presence on the Playstation One on August 31, 1999. The immense success and positive reviews allowed the game to be ported to other systems for the rest of the gamers to play. The game always left a smile on my face for its incredible innovation, introduction of skateboarding, and the world of punk rock music. Neversoft introduced a revolutionary physics engine and control layout, leading to smooth controls and immaculate gameplay.
Gameplay was this game’s bread and butter. Grind on every ledge, jump off ramps to gain newer ground, and destroy objects to cause mayhem. Once you bail out, just dust yourself off and start all over again. Difficulty of the game never lets players play “catch-up”, and allows a smoother gameplay experience. Never was there a point in the game where I had to go practice over and over to fulfill an objective. I practiced because I wanted to. And that’s where the game shined most; it made you want to replay the game over and over again to become a god of the virtual skating world.
Different modes also kept me coming back for more. Free Skate, obviously, let’s you skate freely around any unlocked level. Practice to increase your skill level or just skate around just because. Career Mode takes a selected pro skater through each level and complete certain objectives in a two minute time period. Each level can be replayed again and again to complete every objective. There are also skate competitions to partake in to unlock more hidden secrets and levels. Multiplayer upped the ante by pitting you against a friend and skate (and trash talk) yourself to victory.
The graphics weren’t the prettiest around, but it’s probably because the developers focused most of its attention on the gameplay itself. Skater’s faces were hardly recognizable and mostly distinguished by their apparel. Levels looked pretty bland, since details were sparse. But even with its lack of graphical prowess, the level design more than made up for the pretty looks.
Players can sense the amount of time the developers spent on each level’s design. Each stage was incredibly laid out, leading to some amazing runs and unforgettable moments. There were plenty of locations to visit. Skate through an airport, grind up the mall escalators, and ollie over high school lunch benches. Each level balanced out vert and street skaters to create an equal playing field. Levels consisted of different levels with a slew of hidden rooms and levels to reach. Most hidden parts held objective items to collect, but others opened up the stage more to increase the replay value.
Each pro skater was given two signature moves at your disposal and can only be used once the special meter became full. Linking tricks together let newbies get into the game easily, but getting insane combos took time to master. The number of tricks available were incredible; it kept the trick combos from getting stale and provided a varied gameplay. Each trick had different timing and led to pulling off quick combos or a beautiful array of tricks.
The game would not be complete with extras (since these were the days before DLC) and there were plenty for players to look forward to. Extras included collecting different decks and wheels to show off and watching various videos of famous (and not-so-famous) skaters thrashing around (and bailing out). Everything in THPS displayed the culture of skateboarding beautifully.
Sound effects had as much effort given to as the graphics. It gave enough noises to distinguish a groan from a skater’s fall to the wheels rolling over a surface. However, the developers put an incredible amount of thought into the game’s soundtrack and that was all you needed. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater‘s soundtrack is one of the best I have ever heard. You had music from Dead Kennedys to Goldfinger, introduced the wonderful world of punk, ska, and rock. The music added to the overall experience and opened the door wider for video game and music industry to work together.
Nothing brings back more memories than skating around the Warehouse as Geoff Rowley, and backflipping over the half-pipe and using a combination of darkslides and flip tricks to blow up the scoreboard. The technical aspects of the game were easily head above the rest. Neversoft left a wonderful reminder that the final years of the Playstation One would not go out with a bang. Activision may have killed the Tony Hawk franchise recently – especially with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 – but they brought a franchise worth playing and remembering even after its fall from grace. Time to dust off the PS1 and the skateboard in my closet.