Summon the ghosts of Etnies past, strap on your pads and helmet, and put Lagwagon’s “Let’s Talk About Feelings” on repeat: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is everything it should be and more.
The Past: The Legend Begins
Most gamers around to play them have many fond memories of the first two Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. Released in September 1999 and September 2000, they introduced millions of people to skateboarding culture: its history, its legends, its terms and tech, its brands, and its music.
The THPS games were a complete culture shock for 12-year-old Kerry. I had never played, much less seen or heard, anything like them before. I grew up deep in suburbia, where things were blissfully boring pretty much all the time. These loud, in-your-face games with their thrashing music and reckless disregard for normal movement and safety hit me like a lightning bolt out of a clear blue sky. I was hooked, forever and ever, amen.
(There’s an entire article lurking here about how the THPS games introduced me to punk rock and hip hop, shifting my entire musical axis toward harder, subversive genres and leading me and my equally THPS-addicted best friends to form a punk rock band of our own—which in turn led to me meeting the person I would one day marry—but I digress.)
The Present: The Return of the King
This remastered package of the two best games in the Hawk pantheon is top-to-bottom incredible. I grew up playing these games religiously, but I’m confident newcomers to the series will feel at home within minutes. The game’s bones are solid no matter how many console generations have passed; picking up a controller and busting out a 540 benihana before popping a double heelflip across a gigantic gap feels as natural as walking after a little practice.
The levels are masterpieces of game design as well. Whether you’re shredding gnar in the Hangar or Marseilles, they’re packed with natural trick transitions and little spaces that will quickly become your secret spots for maxing out points. Nothing beats the classic two-minute round from the core game, but free skate opens up these levels for optimal exploration. Factor in the whopping 700+ challenges, unlockable swag like new boards, clothes, and trucks, and secret goodies galore and you’ve got a truly addictive experience that’ll keep you on that virtual skateboard for weeks.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without a truly rad soundtrack. The songs and musicians in the original games have solidified into genre icons, leaving developer Vicarious Visions with the almost impossible task of recapturing the energy of the original games’ soundtracks without becoming a total nostalgia trip. The new game’s soundtrack is a smashing success: instantly recognizable songs like Millencolin’s “No Cigar” and Naughty By Nature’s “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” fit perfectly alongside newbies like Cherry Kola and Pkew Pkew Pkew. (Other bands that should’ve been in the original games like punk rock eternals MxPx and the inimitable A Tribe Called Quest are here now too!)
The Future: The Start of Something Beautiful?
So the question now: where to now? The video game industry has seen a wave of popular, well-reviewed remakes and remasters over the past five years like Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. We’ve also seen spectacular games based on classic franchises that function as series reboots like the new Tomb Raider trilogy. These games provide a blueprint for the future of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Why stop with this remaster?
Vicarious Visions, the studio responsible for the game, has an obvious love and reverence for Neversoft’s classic games. It’s hard to imagine a more triumphant return for a beloved series. Consider this: the first two games are bona fide classics, and the next few games through Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland were popular and well-reviewed too. That’s a really solid foundation for brand new games; this could be the beginning of a new series of games in the THPS canon!
To sum it all up: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is one of the very best remasters of a beloved game I’ve ever seen. It looks great, plays like a dream, but most of all, it’s fun. Here’s to countless more hours dropping into bowls and halfpipes. In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to remember how to pull a Christ Air.