Cthe kiteboard has often been misunderstood and misrepresented. To some extent, this is part of its appeal. To skate is to keep up with traffic and pedestrians, to move in urban spaces in a way that architects and urban planning never intended, and to rediscover secular concrete blocks as a canvas for play and creativity. It’s a subculture as much as a sport, but skateboarding is also a friendly home for the unsuitable.
So many commercials and music videos that clumsily riff on skates have failed to understand what the sport is all about. But in 1999, a PlayStation game appeared that not only turned the mechanics of skateboarding into superb gameplay. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater offered a portal for the subculture. He understood what it was like to be part of a skateboard, to the point that it felt almost documentary. The game was authentic but accessible, welcoming a new generation of skateboarders while creating home names for Hawk and his peers. Along with his sequel, he also had a huge influence on the design of the game.
About 20 years later, the couple is the subject of a brilliant reissue, which serves part of the popular culture of the Y2K era along with modernized and updated games. Every original level of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is there, along with the cast. New tricks have been added from later recordings in the series, allowing you to explore the proliferation of warehouses and empty schools with longer combinations and individual flair – an improvement that adds nuance to the game without confusing its arcade clarity. Many modern skating professionals are joining the list, and although much of the original pop / punk heavy soundtrack is in place, it is backed by additional music.
The focus focused on the combination, heavy gameplay remains essentially unchanged. You usually drop out in two-minute sessions where the goals have to be met – score enough points, collect enough things. And everything is where it was before, from scattered letters “SKATE” to hidden videotapes. There’s a brilliantly fun, albeit basic, online mode (needs to be expanded), while basic split-screen multiplayer of the originals is back. Additional challenge-like challenges and new tools for creating skaters and parks are also now available.
The most important difference is that you can now move between the two games with one player profile, upgrading and advancing with yourself. This remake presents Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 as a museum where you can walk freely as you wish. The visual design, from menus to fonts, leans heavily on the Y2K design. Today, this may seem cluttered and over-designed, and the fuzzy 4: 3 skate videos look downright archaic.
Even if you don’t feel nostalgic for the originals or are interested in skateboard culture, there is still something to enjoy. The levels feel small by today’s standards and the systems behind the skates do not always communicate well, but the first two games remain deeply captivating, sophisticated creations. The pursuit of results, the puzzlement of the path to seemingly inaccessible collectibles, and the drumming of a friendly rivalry with another player is just as exciting as it ever was. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 opens a portal for place, time and subculture – and it’s a pleasure to go.