Skate-a-thon starts off with the one that started it all! However, does it hold up, or should you just skate past to the newer entries in this legendary franchise?
Played on: PS1, N64
Also on: Dreamcast, Xbox (All levels Unlockable in THPS 2X) GBC, N-gage
LET’S RIDE, RIDE HOW WE RIDE
Date posted: February 1, 2018
It’s the late 90’s- 1999, to be a matter of fact. Guess what’s “in”. Yes, that thing you just said! But also- Skateboarding! You couldn’t go anywhere in the latter tip of the nineties without seeing some punk ass kids on their skateboards, most likely beating up old people and stealing candy from babies. Ahh, Nostalgia!
Of course, no skateboarder was as big as Tony Hawk- some tall white guy, that, you guessed it, is a skateboarding legend! Now, I don’t know a lot about skateboarding- all I know is that I nearly died at least 103 times back in the day trying to use one- but I knew that Tony Hawk was a pretty good deal- especially after he got his own game!
Released to the world on August 31, 1999, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, or THPS for short, would change the admittedly small world of extreme sports video game, causing a boom in not only skateboarding video games, but other extreme sports as well. Snowboarding. BMX. Rollerskating. Surfing. All would receive a slew of games for each genre- and of course, THPS itself would get multiple sequels (Spoilers: some being my favorite games of all-time!) before ultimately dying a greedy, gruesome death almost two decades after it first came out (oh, trust me. We’ll get to that!)
So let’s find out all the cool stuff that THPS brought into the world of gaming- and some things that should stay in the past….
Right off the bat, THPS controls were innovative from the get go. Holding a button pushed you in forward momentum- letting go allowed you jump though the air, letting you Ollie off of ramps, onto rails, and off quarter pipes to do some pretty sweet tricks. It a game where the controls make movement fun in itself- it feels good, like your actually skateboarding or something!
Along with this is good stable of tricks to pull off. There are grabs, which usually require a good amount of air to pull off, flips that are good way to combo tricks together, and my personal favorite, grinds, that let you grind rails, signs, or basically almost every edge in the game. This makes every stage your personal playground. Go nuts!
The games big focus, at least for me, was it’s career mode, where you travel to several locations, tearing things up and doing all sorts of goals, which you only have two minutes to achieve. Every level has a couple things in common- for example, SKATE letters must be collected, or a certain score has to be met- a high and pro score- which go up as you progress, demanding you to “git gud”, so to speak. There’s also a secret tape somewhere in the level, and some, like the one in San Fransisco, take some creativity in order to get. Doing each of this goals gets you a tape, which opens new levels and competitions!
The regular give way to what is essentially the “boss” levels of the game- skate competitions. Here, you have one minute to rack up a high score, but don’t bail, as that’ll cost you points! Best two out of three rounds are counted- come in third or better overall, and you get a medal, needed to progress. You need more and more points the deeper you get in the game, so learning where the “gaps” are, and learning combos is crucial!
The level variety is quite good, I think. You start in a small warehouse- pretty iconic, although it is pretty tiny. Next, your skating around a pretty good sized school, that even has a pool and a big screen showing music videos. Pretty sweet! Onwards, you have the Mall- a linear course with escalators, a cool jump over a fountain, and a outdoor area. You first comp is in an actual indoor skate park, and the second is at an outdoor one under an underpass of all things. My favorite levels are the city levels- Minneapolis and San Fransisco- both are big, sprawling maps with a lot to discover. There’s also Downhill Jam- a ride down a mountain/dam that is, of course, all downhill. The last level is strictly confenditional- your going to have to find out about it on your own!
There’s also a good amount of things to unlock! All the levels are locked except Warehouse, so you have to play though the career to unlock them. You also have two secret characters to unlock, boards for every character, and finally videos, which can be received for each pro skater after getting all golds. This gives you a good incentive to play though the game multiple times- and we’ll see later that they take this concept, and turn it up to eleven!
Finally, there’s the soundtrack. All mostly punk rock songs, THPS soundtracks are pretty much iconic. They really add to the overall atmosphere and tone of the game- perfectly encapsulating the vibe of the late ninties/early 2000’s skateboarding scene. Indeed, playing THPS is a lot like opening a time capsule- it doesn’t get more early 2000’s then this! Listen for yourself!
Well, I knew this was coming. THPS1’s flaws come from a strange place. You see, after playing a lot of THPS 2 and THUG, it gets harder and harder to go back and play the older games, for a few reasons, the biggest being controls. You see, over time, the Tony Hawk series actually got better and better as it went on- reaching it’s peak around THUG and THUG 2. Going back, and having things like reverts and manuals taken from you is ROUGH- but manageable. Don’t get me wrong- THPS 1 is still playable- but in comparison to the games that came after it, it’s a lot harder then you think. You pretty much have to play the game differently then the others. Mileage will vary here. I suggest people play the game in chronological order, just for this reason.
One other thing I have to mention is the eerie emptiness in the levels. This sadly carries over to THPS 2- there is usually no other NPC’s in most levels, except for the occasional moving car. This makes the game kinda creepy- seriously, turn off the music, and watch the game become silent hill. Not a big deal, but it’s defiantly noticeable.
Also wish there was more levels/skaters to unlock. As the series went on the stuff you can unlock was just insane- I won’t spoil anything- yet! THPS 1 has no secret levels. Bummer. Not a total loss- wish there was just something more.
Welcome to Portlandia!
This is a new thing I’m doing for games that have a bunch of ports. Basically, I tell you which ones are good, and which one’s you should avoid. THPS is a good starting point for me, as it has a bunch of different releases!
First, the standard PS1 release. This is the game that most people played- it has it’s entire soundtrack in tact, has unlockable FMV videos, and is how most know the game. Quite Solid!
Then we get to the N64 version, which was sadly gimped in a few places. First, all the FMV’s are gone, as there was not enough cart space. The music also takes a hit- most of the tracks shortened or omitted completely. Also, no blood. Thanks Nintendo! Thankfully, there is a silver lining- almost no load times, along with N64 being somewhat smoother means it’s actually not to bad. Sadly, I have to say it’s the most gimped of all the ports.
I haven’t played it, but apparently, the Dreamcast wins again- heard it was the best of all the ports. Improved visuals, and all the content from the PS1 intact. Sweet!
It was also released on the N-gage. PHFFFHHAAAAHA! Remember that thing? Neither do I ! BWHAHA!
There is also a GBC port, but it’s completely different from all the rest. Not sure if it’s worth playing.
Here is a breakdown-
Clear Winner– Dreamcast
Bad/WTF?– GBC, N-Gage (actually might be good. Don’t know though, sorry)
It may be rough around the edges today, but overall, I think THPS has held up somewhat well. If not, it actually has a great soundtrack worth rocking out to. Those who can get over the fact that things like manuals and reverts and what not are missing, then you can expect a somewhat challenging and humble beginning of one of my favorite game series of all time!
Agree? Disagree? Good! Leave a comment about how terrible my taste is in the comments below!