Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.
Skater culture was huge in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Kids were watching show’s like Nickelodeon’s Rocket Power, teens were fixated on the newly formed X Games, and the rise of the internet was finally allowing people to share videos from skating legends like Tony Hawk and Rob Dyrdek. This was the perfect time for a skateboarding video game and Activision had the answer. Today’s game is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Developed by Neversoft and released on the Sony Playstation in 1999.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, known as Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding outside of North America, is an arcade style skateboarding game. Players choose a professional skateboarder to play as and then pick a map. The player is then given 2 minutes to skate and perform tricks, with bigger combos racking up higher scores. The player tries to get the highest score they can before the 2 minutes is up. During the career mode, there are a number of other objectives as well, such as finding and collecting letters in the level that spell SKATE or grinding over all of some type of object found in the area. Completing objectives unlocks additional gear for customizing the skateboard and new levels.
Alongside the career mode, there are options for a single session, where players get two minutes to get the highest score they can with no other objectives or, free skate which gives no time limit. There are also multiplayer modes where two players can play versus matches such as the game HORSE, where players take turns getting the highest score in a specific area of the map, or Grafitti, where players perform high scoring tricks off of objects to claim those objects for their side.
Skating games were nothing new by 1999. Skate or Die and 720 were popular games back in the 80’s and there was no shortage of games between then and the late 90’s. While there were many examples of successful skating games, none had quite captured the public’s attention quite yet. Neversoft decided that they wanted to use the 3D space to capture what it felt like to be a skater, not necessarily what skating was actually like. They built levels based on imagined ideals of fun skating locations and the physics allowed people to do crazy tricks that weren’t possible in real life. Music was important so Neversoft licensed music from bands like Primus and The Dead Kennedy’s that they felt captured the skating feel.
Neversoft also felt that it was important to get a professional’s take on skateboarding and partnered with Tony Hawk to make that happen. While Hawk was offered a one-time licensing payment for the use of his name, Hawk famously declined this offer and instead opted for royalty payments and personal involvement with the game’s development. His feedback led to the inclusion of the other professional skaters in the game as well as many tweaks to the feel and physics of skateboarding.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was a massive success with critics and fans, leaving most simply wanting more. The arcade feel was perfect for skating and although many felt there could have been a greater variety in the music, it still managed to set the mood. The game was quickly ported to the Nintendo 64, the Sega Dreamcast and the Game Boy Color. It even got an N-Gage port in 2003. The console versions were all received well with most agreeing the Sega Dreamcast version was the best, since the graphics were much improved over the previous generation consoles. The portable versions were both criticised as not feeling like their console cousins at all.
Neversoft would continue making Tony Hawk games until 2007 and although the series has lost much of its luster, the franchise continues under different development teams to this day.
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