By nature, trends are cyclical. Fashions, hobbies, music, and the like come and go. If you were an '80s child, then you might recall the skating craze that hit America from the middle to the end of that decade. "Skids" and "Airwalk" were two brands associated with skating back then. Kids in every neighborhood were riding wherever they could—that is, until authorities and parents started to restrict, and even ban, skateboarding. And in the land of video games, Skate or Die (NES) and 720° (NES) loomed large.
Fast forward to the end of the 1990s. Just as any trend line would predict, skateboarding has started to make a comeback. Extreme sport games have started to put the limelight back on skateboarding. "Tech Decks"—miniature finger skateboards—are flying off toy store shelves. And Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for PlayStation became one of the top-ten selling games of 1999.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, originally developed by Neversoft Entertainment, was ported to the N64 by Edge of Reality, which programmed Monster Truck Madness 64 for the system. Ports from the PlayStation to the N64 can go either way, and fortunately, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater has ollied to the 64-bit system with excellent results. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is, without a doubt, the most realistic, engrossing, and enjoyable representation of skateboarding to date.
Gameplay & Control
Three things stand out that make Tony Hawk's Pro Skater so awesome. First, all the levels are fully skateable, meaning you can grind every edge or rail and you can get air off any surface. Second, the near-Tony Hawkperfect camera always gives you the best view possible while remaining dramatic; it's especially noticeable when pulling a Varial, Madonna, or any other number of tricks 20 feet up in the air. Third, the system to pull off a single trick is simple, but it takes more skill to perform crowd-pleasing combination tricks.
You have your choice between ten pros in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. The legendary Tony Hawk, a 16-year pro who is the only person to land a 900° successfully, headlines the game. Bob Burnquist, Kareem Campbell, Rune Glifberg, Bucky Lasek, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Geoff Rowley, Elissa Steamer, and Jamie Thomas round out the rest. Each skater is rated in four categories: ollie (jumping), speed, air, and balance. You can choose a loose, medium, or tight truck for turning. You even can choose your board design and your wheel color.
The game levels in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater span across America. They range from small, enclosed locations with half-pipes and ramps to realistic outdoor locations where one might skate recreationally after school.
For instance, the first level is an abandoned warehouse in Woodland Hills, CA. It's full of ramps, pipes and rails. The second level is the school ground of a Miami school. You can grind lunch tables and catch huge air in a drained swimming pool. The third level lets you skate inside a mall in New York, which is a more straightforward romp down flights of stairs and escalators. Other levels take place in a Skate Park in Chicago, in downtown Minneapolis, in a river gorge outside Phoenix, and more. At least eight worlds exist where you can skate.
Smooth, responsive, and intuitive control is a mark of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. You have your choice between the Control Pad and Control Stick, although the Control Pad is suited better. Then you'll use the L and R buttons to turn in the air and the C buttons to perform actions and tricks. Neither the A button nor the B button is used with the default control scheme.
As far as the C group goes, Bottom C is an ollie (jump), Left C is a flip trick, Right C is a grab trick, and Top C is a grind. Holding down Bottom C makes you crouch and go faster. Then you release it at the top of ramps for big air. Pressing Top C near an edge or rail makes you grind. More specifically, you can perform nollies, fastplants, wallrides, and more. The designers promise noseslides, tailslides, and more bluntslides in the forthcoming sequel.
Tricks are accomplished in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater by pressing one of eight directions on the Control Pad (or Control Stick) in combination with a C button. Left C does kick tricks, Right C does grab tricks, and Top C does grinds. That means down on the Control Pad plus Right C would be a Tail Grab. Or diagonally to the upper left plus Left C would be a Kickflip to Indy.
For skaters out there, some of the other tricks you can perform include Sex Change, Japan Air, Stalefish, Nosegrind, Indy Nosebone, Smith Grind, and many others, including 180s, 360s, 540s and more. Varying these tricks gives you higher scores. Score points boost your power, which, in turn, let you attempt special tricks when powered up. For example, one of Tony Hawk's special tricks is a 360 Flip to Mute. Another example is Bucky Lasek's special, which is a Fingerflip Airwalk.
One or two players can play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Several modes for single gamers and for double gamers have been included. Your one-player options are Career Mode, Single Session, and Free Skate. The two-player gameplay modes are Graffiti, Trick Attack, and Horse.
The one-player Career Mode is fantastic. You take your favorite skater and embark on a quest to collect your best sessions on videotape and to attain medals from competitions. Along the way, you'll unlock new levels, new board designs, and better attributes for your skater. The first few levels require you to achieve goals for videotapes. Typical goals on each level are spelling out "Skate" by locating each individual letter, finding a hidden tape, reaching score plateaus, and meeting other objectives, such as grinding lunch tables or destroying signs. Competition invites, which require you to showcase your "phat" skills, will come after collecting a certain number of tapes.
The two other one-player modes are Single Session and Free Skate. With Single Session, you choose one level and skate for two minutes to get a new high score for saving. In Free Skate, you won't find time limits or high scores. You just practice as long as you want without any restrictions.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater contains three unique two-player modes. The screen only can be split vertically, not horizontally, but you'll see this is important because of all the big air. Overall, though, the two-player mode is nearly identical looking to the full screen view, except the viewing distance isTony Hawk a little more limited.
The first two-player mode, Graffiti, is a two-minute race to see who can "tag" the most objects. You get a point for tagging an object—ramps, pool lips, edges, rails, obstacles, and so forth—by performing a trick on, off, or over it. But watch out, because your opponent can steal it from you with a bigger trick (point wise). The object will turn your color (blue or red) to show that you tagged it. Also, the darker the color, the bigger point total it will take to steal it.
A Trick Attack mode exists so you can see who can get the most points. Once again, you have two minutes to strut your stuff.
Interestingly, you also can play a version of "Horse." How it works in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is that one player busts a single trick. Then the second player tries to better it. If they're successful, then the first player can try to beat the other player's score. If they do, then the second player has a chance to improve upon the first player's score. It keeps going back and forth until someone comes up short. Whoever bails first gets the letter. Predetermined locations exist for where you'll have to attempt these tricks on each level to make things fair.
Finally, here are a few notes about the two-player mode. One, both players cannot choose the same skater. Two, the game keeps track of wins, losses, and streaks, which is cool since you'll play many two-minute games in a short time period. Three, increased attributes cannot be applied in the two-player mode. But new board designs (only for each character you use in the Career Mode) and new levels will be available. Four, you can run into each other to try to knock each other to the ground.
Graphics & Sound
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater has a unique look. Almost nothing was lost in the translation from the PlayStation version. The textures still vary widely, environments are still large and fog-free, skaters are still animated nicely, and everything is still smooth as silk. In fact, the N64 version actually looks better than the PlayStation version. With the Expansion Pak, the graphics are even clearer and smoother. Better yet, the two-player mode feels identical in speed and response to the one-player mode. Moreover, since the camera system is so good, it should be mentioned again that the view is always perfect and dramatic. It just reaffirms the attention to detail and polish given to the game.
For those expecting the audio to be dramatically worse, you're in for a surprise. True, the CD-spooled music wouldn't be translated to the cartridge format with perfect results. But eight songs have been included. The digitized, compressed format is even a little higher quality than, say, the tunes in Top Gear Overdrive. Overall, many of the songs don't have lyrics anymore (although a few do) and all the songs have been trimmed in length. But the punk music—from the likes of Primus, The Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies, and others—is still well represented in this version.
Sound effects are this game's number one star, however. There's a high-quality sound effect for almost everything in the game, from grinding to skating to bailing. You'll hear what it sounds like to skate on different types of surfaces. You'll hear a sound when you smack into a rail. You'll hear the typical skating sounds of jumping, grinding, and landing. You'll hear glass break when flying through it. The sound effects are just incredible.
Rating: 9 of 10
Visuals: 9/10 | Sound: 9/10 | Controls: 9/10 | Gameplay: 9/10 | Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Author: Scott McCall
Reviewed on: 2000/04/04