Skateboarding has often been misunderstood and misrepresented. To a degree, that’s part of its appeal. To skate is to exist out of step with traffic and pedestrians, moving through urban spaces in a way that architects and town planners never intended and reinventing mundane blocks of concrete as a canvas for play and creativity. It is a subculture as much as a sport, but skateboarding is also a welcoming home for misfits.
So many adverts and music videos that clumsily riff on skating have failed to understand what the sport is about. But in 1999, a PlayStation game came along that did more than translate the mechanics of skateboarding into superb gameplay. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater offered a portal to the subculture. It understood what it was to be part of skateboarding, to the point it felt near-documentary. The game was authentic yet accessible, welcoming a new generation to skateboarding while making household names of Hawk and his peers. Along with its sequel, it also had a tremendous influence on game design.
Some 20 years later, the pair are the subject of a brilliant rerelease that serves up a portion of Y2K-era popular culture alongside the modernised and updated games. Each original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater level is there, along with the cast. New tricks have been added from later series entries, letting you explore the spread of warehouses and empty schools with longer combs and individual flair – an improvement that adds nuance to the game without muddling its arcade purity. A host of contemporary skating pros join the roster, and while much of the original pop/punk-heavy soundtrack is in place, it is bolstered by additional music.
The trick-focused, combo-heavy gameplay remains fundamentally unchanged. You’re usually dropped into two-minute sessions where goals must be met – score enough points, collect enough things. And everything is where it was before, from scattered “SKATE” letters to hidden video tapes. There’s a brilliantly fun, if basic, online mode (due to be expanded), while the seminal split-screen multiplayer of the originals returns. Additional achievement-like challenges and fresh skater and park creation tools also now feature.
The most significant difference is that you can now move between both games with a single player profile, taking upgrades and progress with you. This remake presents Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 as a museum that you are free to wander through as you please. The visual design, from menus to fonts, leans heavily towards Y2K design. Today that might look cluttered and over-designed, and the fuzzy 4:3 skate videos seem downright archaic.
Even if you are not nostalgic for the originals and or interested in skateboarding culture, there is still plenty to enjoy. The levels feel small by modern standards and the systems behind the skating aren’t always well communicated, but the first two games remain deeply engrossing, refined creations. Chasing scores, puzzling your way to seemingly accessible collectibles and drumming up some friendly rivalry with another player is as exciting as it ever was. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 open a portal to a place, time and subculture – and it’s a delight to step through.