Retrospective: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
My eyes have been spoilt by HD. I first played Tony Hawk’s back in the 90’s; I pulled an all nighter at a friend’s house and played pretty much to completion. Back then, everything looked lovely. Playing today and it feels like I’ve downed a litre bottle of Jack Daniels whilst trying to do handstands on a speedboat. As is often the case when going back to early 3D games, things no longer look too healthy. The question is, can we look past this, and, how does the game play?!
The soul of the series was all created here. High scores, challenges and S-K-A-T-E letter gathering are all present and accounted for whereas things such as the manuals, flat ground tricks, revert and even the balance bars were added in subsequent titles. This was a simpler time, before the birdman discovered how to walk and before he decided to try and become the next member of Jackass.
The opening level, the classic Warehouse, truly does act as a tutorial this time as I struggle to get back into a grove. Ignoring the graphics, the biggest loss from future games has to be the manual and the revert. Without these two key combo boosters you have to rely on short but sweet combos formed over a few jumps, grinds and verts, jumping over various obstacle gaps to gain some points. As I said, a simpler time and probably a lot closer to real life skating than the series has been since. And being honest, starting THPS again 100% mirrors my real life skating experience as I struggle to stand up and spend most of my time smashing my blocky face into the floor.
After playing the recent HD update of the early games I will readily admit to being slightly frustrated when going back to the original. The HD version saw me obtain the platinum trophy, the 1000 gamer score and also had me placed highly on the online leader boards. I have always been fairly good at these games; yet going back these 16 odd years later is extremely difficult to start with, forcing me to practice at a series that usually comes naturally. After a while I manage to see through the flaws and explore the beauty underneath, obtaining all the VHS tape objections and moving on to the next level.
Often when I write a Retrospective I comment on how old I feel. The scary thing with this game though is the fact that I have just mentioned VHS tapes and have realised that some of our dear readers won’t even have a clue what VHS tapes are. Some weren’t even born when DVDs first took over and now we move on to Blu Ray. Clearly this is how our older generation felt when talking to us about the war and days gone by. At least they had something important to feel nostalgic about.
Anyway, back to the game, should my arthritic hands allow. Following the usual rules and completing challenges allows progress by opening up the next level that comes set with its own challenges. Earning enough tapes opens up a three round competition against the fellow skaters, each going for the high score and gold medal.
After prolonged play I start to enjoy the game once again. There are still things that I really miss like the manuals, flat land tricks, and of course, my favourite skater, Rodney Mullen. Thankfully though I do like Kareem Campbell so am happy with my skater. The lack of flatland on the other hand makes high scoring combos a bit more difficult, occasionally increasing the number of retries needed to pass the challenges. This is a good thing as there are fewer objectives than in the newer games. 5 per level, 2 of which are score related, 1 is a hidden tape to collect as well as finding the classic S-K-A-T-E letters. The final thing to do is level specific but requires discovery of 5 objects that will need smashing or grinding on or something like that.
One thing that is not up for debate is the music. Despite being a shorter track list than the ones that follow it still kicks as much ass as always. The entire world surely knows by now what a fantastic fit “superman” is to a game soundtrack. Had my ear bones not been vibrating along to such awesomeness I may have been a lot more frustrated initially.
I also really enjoyed visiting some of the classic pro skater levels. I have already mentioned the Warehouse, add in the Mall and Downhill Jam and we are talking, even if Downhill Jam can be annoying I have always loved it.
Completion may not take too long at all, with the rewards being a fails video and a compilation video for the playable skater of choice. Replayability comes from unlocking all the videos for all the skaters as well as the same screen multiplayer. The best mode being HORSE. Each player takes it in turns to set a score and have the other attempt to beat it until someone fails and gets a letter. The first to get horse is the loser in a mode that will always be great fun.
For any newcomers to the series I would strongly recommend starting on THPS4 or THPS3. For me, the PS2 games took things to another level and these two, 4 in particular, are my favourites. For others that want to experience the history I would say go for it. Ebay has plenty of cheap copies for sale and despite not having the later improvements (as well as later flaws); the origins of the series are present. The music is fantastic along with some levels that are still much loved to this day.
I had fun with my trip down memory lane and look forward to replaying the others. One last thing to mention is the deliberate mistake in this article. The European title was Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding; I originally played the US version and have always known it as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. I award a VHS tape to those of you that noticed.