There are just some things in life that make a profound impact on someone’s life. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater landed at a time when I was just starting High School, and the summer before, I got a demo disk for the original Playstation that would kinda change parts of my life. When most people talk about “wearing out a disc” they mean they played a single game over and over and over again. And that’s exactly what I did with the Summer ‘99 edition of the Playstation Underground Jampack. That is the disc I wore out.
Right when xtreme sports were really taking off, this game turned a whole lot of bored kids into wannabe skaters, I was among them as well. Seeing Tony Hawk make the 900, an incredible feet that wasn’t just big in the sports realm, but Tony Hawk became a name that everyone knew. It was part of real world news and shined a spotlight onto the skater culture. It made me go out, grab a board and start learning how to ollie and kickflip. While I never landed a proper kickflip, and only was able to grind curbs on my street… I was still obsessed with this game.
Pro Skater allows you to take control of ten different skaters, and after you choose a deck, the tightness of your trucks, allowing for better turning, and the color of wheels, you are dropped into nine different levels, each with special requirements to unlock the next few levels. There is a two minute timer for each main level with objectives. Two of those objectives are points based, making sure you get a certain amount of points, and as the levels progress, they become more. Then there is a objective that is specific to that level, for instance, San Francisco Streets level require you to drive 5 cop cars, or the Downtown level which requires you to take down 5 “No Skateboarding” signs posted around the area. The last two objectives are probably my most favorite, one is collecting the letters S. K. A. T. and E. to spell out SKATE, and last the Hidden VHS tape.
Out of those nine levels, three of them were competitions, where you were placed into a special skate park that gave you one minute to rack up the most points, but you were graded on tricks, variety, points and not bailing off the board. Each run is a minute, and you have three tries, out of those three tries, and you are scored on the best two runs. These levels are ok, but become a bit tedious and boring after a while.
If you unlock all levels and get a medal in all the competition runs you are treated to a compilation video of bails, skaters falling basically. This was novel at the time, but as I’ve become older I feel less inclined to watch people get hurt. If you get Gold medals in all the competitions you are able to watch a video of the skater you are playing as, and again back in the time before video was a click away, these were really the highlight of the games. Spending the time to complete every single task in the game for your skater will unlock a special character, a skateboarding police officer named Officer Dick, and if you run through the entire game, every objective with every character you unlock a special video of the developers trying to skateboard and bailing out.
I have played countless hours of Tony Hawk over the course of the last twentyish years, and it’s not going to stop. These games built a formula, while over time has become a bit stale with the massive amount of games they pumped out over the years, they still have an undeniable quality to tight controls and solid level design, along with an insanely catchy soundtrack that also got me to listen to some newer bands and fortified my love of Ska music. Lightning in a bottle is what a lot of people talk about when discussing this game, but you can see the developers did love and care for this game, they continued to improve it over the years, but nothing was chance, it was the culmination of a lot of hard work and it really paid off to cement a staple of a new genre of games.