By Robert Johnson Jr.
Arts and Features Editor
If you’re reading this newspaper, and are of a certain age to have an attachment to him in some way, you probably know who Tony Hawk is.
The legendary, internationally renowned skateboarder who, aside from landing the first successful 900 at the 1999 X-Games, became a hero to millions of young kids and rebellious teenagers, providing them a glimpse into what skateboarding really can do to a person’s life.
Of course, with all this newfound, mainstream fame, came endorsements, and one of the most iconic endorsements of Hawk’s career – so far, anyways – is the “Tony Hawk’s” series of games, which include “Pro Skater,” “Underground,” and a number of other games under that umbrella.
However, throughout the last decade, the “Tony Hawk’s” series was not in a good place. The franchise was far from the media juggernaut it once was at the turn of the millennium – and no thanks to Robomodo’s failed attempts to capture the attention of skate fanatics with 2009’s “Tony Hawk: Ride,” 2010’s “Tony Hawk: Shred,” and, the straw that snapped the board in half, 2015’s critically panned “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.”
After five years and another change in developer, Vicarious Visions (VV) – with a little help from Beenox – brought back the series in a big way with the remade – and “remastered” – compilation release of “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2.”
As the title suggests, this release bundles the entirety of 1999’s “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (THPS1)” as well as 2000’s “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (THPS2),” but with a 2020 lens to it – improved visuals, new skaters, new music – courtesy of Machine Gun Kelly, A Tribe Called Quest, among others – and just a whole lot of “new” across the board.
When you first Ollie into the game, be it on THPS1’s Warehouse or THPS2’s Hangar, you will stumble and fall a lot. You will be kicking yourself, wondering why you can’t chain a grind into a wall jump, into a Wallie, into a special grind for big points like you used to when you were a kid. You will groan in disgust, similar to how I did when I finished my first two-minute run, scoring less than a six-digit point value, wondering how I had “lost my ability to play.”
After all, I did play the original “THPS1” and “THPS2” on a Nintendo 64 controller – we can’t all be winners.
That’s OK, though – it’s supposed to be that way, just like real skateboarding. Before long, you’ll notice yourself getting better, and that’s the magical part about the initial struggle of playing “THPS1+2,” which plays and controls smoothly enough that it feels like doing an Airwalk – everything just feels right.
There is a lot of content in the single-player campaigns for both games, featuring all the Park Goals that you know, along with individual challenges a player can complete. However, in order to complete the 714 challenges in the game, you have to get your hands dirty with the Multiplayer and Create-a-Park offerings.
I am pleased to say that the Multiplayer, while not entirely perfect at the moment, is an absolute blast of adrenaline to play, offering online game types such as Combo Mambo and Graffiti, as well as local, split-screen games such as H-O-R-S-E and Free Skate.
At the current moment, I feel that some online game types in Online Jams, such as Combo Challenge and Score Challenge, could use some adjusting to their criteria – some rounds can either wear out the two-minute time limit, or the round can end in the matter of 10-to-15 seconds. However, Competitive Mode is totally fine, given that the point of Competitive Mode is to be a harder variant of Jams.
Create-a-Park is easier than ever, now with the inclusion of Smart Rails and Ramps to ease the process of making your own, unique skate parks. You can even upload your creations to the cloud, so other players can try it out and remix it to their liking, afterwards.
The character creation suite may lack in terms of customization with no variable body types, for instance. But, there are still many options to choose from, in terms of what your skater can wear. It also helps that there are a plethora of unlockable grip tapes and board designs that you can obtain to add some flavor to your skater’s appearance. The shoe selection is pretty nice, too, if you’re into that.
However, in the case of the Pro Skaters, all the usual suspects are here – the Hawkman himself, Bob Burnquist, Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero, and Elissa Steamer, to name a few – as well as some new blood in the form of Aori Nishimura, Riley Hawk, Leo Baker, alongside other modern-day skate prodigies. Baker’s inclusion is especially cool in the sense that a non-binary individual is a playable character in such an iconic and mainstream series such as “THPS.”
All the skaters in the game are unique in their own way, ranging from the style of skateboarding that they prioritize – Street, Vert, or Ramp – as well as their personal clothing styles.
“THPS1+2” is a brilliant offering from a company that’s still riding off the highs of working on “Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy” and it definitely shows. The production value just exudes quality from all corners – it is far from the cash-grabby attempts of the Robomodo days of the series, where games were just quickly put together to capitalize on nostalgia.
Just from looking at the Pro Skater-focused vignettes that one unlocks from obtaining all of a character’s stat points, you can see Vicarious Visions’ willingness to present this game with its best foot forward to win the crowd back – or, in skater terms, goofy or regular, depending on which foot VV decides to push the board with.
If Vicarious Visions can re-make all the games in the series, I would not mind that one bit.
To quote Zack de la Rocha: “…Turn that s*** up!”