Monday, December 12, 2011

CHRISTMAS FUNTIME 2011: Tony Hawk In Review

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series is coming back as a downloadable title compiling select levels from the first two games. So far only "School" and "Downhill" from the first game are confirmed.

For Christmas Funtime, I'm going to a rough retrospective.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 is probably the one game I keep coming back to. I remember renting it back when it first came out, and barely knowing how string a combo. I didn't get far, but more than anything I loved the soundtrack: "Superman" by Goldfinger, "Police Truck" by The Dead Kennedys and "Jerry Was A Race Car Drive" by Primus, are all great songs- that got cut to shit on the Nintendo 64 version due to its limited storage capabilities. As I've mentioned before, I'm a sucker for getting a game just for the soundtrack, and of all the THPS I've ROM'd, this is the one I always go back to. The only difference it feels so limiting after the sequels.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 was the first THPS game I bought, and the first time I played through career mode, in the first level, The Hangar, I thought "This is bullshit, it's Warehouse, But Also Again. Then I launched off the vert ramp at the far edge of the wall, and crashed through a window.

"Oh. Nevermind. :(" I can speak in emoticons. What?

The best memory I have this game was trying to 100% everything in the game while my right wrist was in a cast summer of 2001. I think I got all the goals, but then I went after the gaps. Kids, this was life before Trophies and Acheivements. Oh, crap! I just remembered that Tony Hawk HD will have Trophies and Achievements!

The manual was a more welcome addition the more I got used to it, and it seemed like this game was more suited toward "street" skating.

THPS 2 for the Game Boy Color was just eh, and the GBA version was a little frustrating with the top down view.

THPS 3, I played on the Gamecube the winter after my family got the Gamecube. I remember we went on a trip to Niagara Falls, drove there, and me and my brother could each rent one game to keep us occupied while they were at the casino. My choice was, obviously, THPS3. I also played a bootleg version of it for the PC.

Being able to Revert was a huge deal. You could go up a ramp, do a trick or 7, come down, Revert, then manual, and still keep a combo going. It felt like cheating but it was SOOO GOOD, and brought vert ramps back into play. The levels were bigger still. but it kept 2 minute time limit and you can tell that it was getting to be a little constraing. Most of the time I'd one PERFECT spot to rack up a lot of points, but getting there took up half my run time.

Which brings us to THPS4. Another rental, but I didn't get too far into this one. There was an open world, and if I remember right, there were some overall goals (i.e. get XXX,000 points, etc.), so there was something to do in between the challenges you got in the course, and you can progress without beating them.

Now to what I thing to be the series' peak: Tony Hawk Underground. Other than two minor complaints, I loved everything this game had to offer: The levels (from a place in New York I actually recognize!), the soundtrack (Dropkick Murphy's "Time To Go"!, Social Distortion's "Mommy's Little Monster"!, Rubber City Rebels's "Pierce My Brain!", KISS!), and while in previous games, the levels got slightly bigger, only hinting at a sense of progression, the story gave everything a little more oomph (forgive me, I was in high school), like I, the Rhythm Bastard, were making it big in the world of skate.

The two minor things I mentioned earlier:
1. There was a feature where you could upload a picture of yourself to a website, and your custom skater would be able to play through the game with your face. It was fucking broken.

2. Speaking of fucking broken, by hitting (DOWN+RIGHT) and tapping Grind button twice, you could execute the Darkslide, and it automatically set your balance bar back to the middle. That would get abused ALL THE TIME in online games, especially on the Moscow level. I'd finish a run, and for another five minutes, people would still be skating around. It wasn't uncommon to see 7-digit scores. There was some clan, I remember, where you were assigned a letter based on your score. The lowest to join was, 1,000,000 and you got a letter of Z. People were getting 26,000,000 points on a "two" minute run.

The next game I played the hell out of was American Sk8land for the DS. It was portable classic Tony Hawk. I loved it.

However, the most important thing that came out of this game was that because I listened to these two songs so much, I knew them so well, (due to playing Sk8land anytime I was in a waiting room, bathroom or car ride), they became the first songs I learned how to play on guitar:

"Holiday" by Green Day and "Clash City Rockers" by The Clash.

Really, that right there ties all of this into a nice little retrospective bow, and so many nice, warm memories came back to me writing it.

But then I got a free copy of Tony Hawk Ride with my Xbox 360. That game was broken as shit, and it can go fuck itself, and the only thing of value was that I traded it into Blockbuster where I got $30 credit toward Beatles Rock Band Deluxe.

THPS HD, barring any horrific changes, is a Day 1 buy for me.

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