Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater released on September 29, 1999, on the PlayStation Entertainment Console from company Activision by developer Neversoft. THPS is a 3-D skateboarding game taking place in the golden age of street skateboarding. It was met with critical acclaim, with IGN praising the game for its “steady and consistent learning curve” and “jaw-dropping physics” along with GameSpot commending the game’s graphics, frame rate, and camera, deeming it to be a “worthy addition to the PlayStation collection.” While Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater may not be the first skateboarding game of the 5th generation of consoles, it is fondly remembered as the best.
THPS puts the player in control of their favorite famous skateboarders from the late ’90s and takes place in third-person. The overall goal of the game could be summed up as ‘pull off as many sick tricks and combinations as you can within the time limit set out.’ But that would only scratch the surface of what this game has to offer. Career mode offers the player five objectives, represented by video cassette tapes, in each of the levels within a two minute time period. The player doesn’t have to achieve the objectives in a single playthrough of a level, with the game saving completed objectives. This allows the player to complete all five objectives on separate playthroughs. There are also three “competition” levels which have the player performing for judges attempting to accumulate the highest score in three one-minute rounds. The game also includes a quick play style mode where you can play any level for 2 minutes as well as a free skate practice mode with no time limit. There is also a multiplayer included in the form of three game modes; “Graffiti,” “Trick Attack,” and “HORSE.” For example, Graffiti is akin to capture-the-flag, where players are able to control small elements in a level by doing tricks in them. The opposing player must perform a higher scoring trick to take control of territory already in control by another player.
One of the more notable aspects of the game is how hands-on the namesake of the series was in late production of the game. Tony Hawk would periodically play though the game’s current build and provide feedback, as well as handpicking at least some of the professional skaters featured in the game, choosing them for their diversity, personality, and skills. Tony Hawk was offered a one-time buyout from Activision to use his name, but Hawk opted to receive royalty cuts, earning 10 times the amount of money that Activision had offered him in under 2 years. This royalty also extended to the other pro-skaters in the game, thanks probably due to Tony Hawk himself. A smart move in a career where one bad landing could spell the end of your income.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater received many ports in early 2000, with Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color versions dropping in March and a Sega Dreamcast version developed by none other than Treyarch was released on May 24th. There was also a version for the taco-phone known as the N-Gage released on Oct 13th, 2003. But… uhh…. Let’s move on from that one. The Sega Dreamcast port of the game is widely considered to be the superior version of the game, with extremely polished graphics and silky smooth framerates. It is also the highest-rated version of the game, with reviews ranging from 95% to perfect 5/5 scores.
Reflecting these scores was shown in the sales of the game, with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater becoming the third best selling game for the Playstation Console in the year 2000, with its successor taking the second spot. For the Nintendo 64, THPS became the sixth highest-selling title in late November 2000. Total sales for the game were over half a million copies in the first year, and it earned the esteemed “Platinum” sales award from the ELSPA, indicating 300,000 copies were sold in the United Kingdom alone.
Retro gamers should definitely have a copy of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in their library, as well as its sequels on the PSX console. Sadly, the game has fallen on hard times with the removal of Neversoft as developers, with Activision transferring the IP to Robomodo in 2008. As is the life of classics, like the Terminator and Alien series, Tony Hawk’s video game career has been sullied with more bad games than good ones. Objectively speaking, that is. I’m sure the later games have their fans, but the heyday of the franchise was definitely the early 2000’s.
I recommend picking up Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1, 2, and 3 for your PlayStation collection if you already haven’t. The game now looks a bit dated, but it’s definitely in the upper half of graphics for the PSX. And the soundtrack for the game is absolutely amazing. Old school punk rock. It’s right up there with Twisted Metal for best video game soundtracks using real-world music.