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Sometimes retro gaming is not just about re-experiencing old games that were good. In the case of this month’s game, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, it’s about re-experiencing an old series that used to be good. In recent years, the Tony Hawk skating game franchise has done itself approximately zero favors. Wacky peripherals, questionable game design, and a lack of quality have tarnished the reputation of this once sterling IP. This month, Together Retro looks back to the video game that made Tony Hawk a household word and established the formula for high energy, arcade style sports games that would be the norm for years to come.
Skate. That is it. Your skater is placed into an urban location such as a warehouse or a school and is set loose upon all horizontal and inclined surfaces. Scattered throughout are items to collect and barriers to break through. All the while the clock is ticking while you perform skateboard stunts one after another to increase your score. If this sounds simple, that is because it is. That simplicity is what makes THPS2 so addictive.
In its day, THPS2 was hailed for having incredibly intuitive control schemes. THPS2 is a perfect example of a game that is easy to play, but hard to master.
You use the D-pad to accelerate forward or slow down. Pushing left or right will make your skater lean. Almost all steering is done while in motion so the player will have to plan ahead to navigate effectively. Tricks are mapped to the other buttons. On controllers with four face buttons, one button will be dedicated to jumping, grinding, grabbing your board, and kick flipping your board, respectively. Shoulder buttons are used to rotate your skater while in the air. Special moves are performed with an almost Fighting Game esque scheme, utilizing directional button inputs to get what are essentially ‘powered up’ versions of the four basic tricks.
Like the original THPS, THPS has a high energy soundtrack of punk, rock, and rap songs and makes great use of the licensed likenesses of several professional skaters. In addition, THPS2 introduced a very important element: Create-a-skater. If you decide you do not want to use one of the pre-determined skaters, you can design and dress your own. An RPG like stat feature lets you allocate ability points to augment the skating style you prefer.
One of the most impressive features is the Park Editor. THPS2 allowed players to design their own custom skate parks. Because of how easy it was to copy files between memory cards, it was common for groups of friends to share their designs and challenges, exponentially increasing the replay value of a game already crammed with replay value.
When the original THPS2 was made, developer Neversoft had access to Marvel IP’s. Do not be surprised if you see a certain red and blue clad super hero swinging around the skate park.
Let’s not talk about this, okay? In all seriousness, this month’s Together Retro conversation will probably be as much about how the THPS series has declined as it will be about how good THPS2 is. THPS2 took everything everyone liked about the original game and magnified it. Most of the features THPS2 implemented, such as the secret characters, create-a-skater, park editor, and the manual trick, became the series’ norms. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 was incredibly well received and largely supplanted THPS2 as the go-to game of the franchise.
Around the fourth game, it became apparent that not enough was being done to keep the series relevant or to evolve the gameplay. Subsequent entries and spin-offs such as the Tony Hawk Under Ground or Tony Hawk Skate Land took the same gameplay and tried to re-package it in a story driven format or with new control schemes. More recently, the series was retooled to be used with a balance board like peripheral that was not terribly well received. Whereas Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 sold millions of copies at retail, there were reports that Tony Hawk Shred failed to move more than a few thousand units, despite an aggressive marketing campaign.
There is hope for the franchise, however. An amalgamation of the first two Tony Hawk Pro Skater games is being developed, sort of an HD hybrid of the two. It will be made available on Playstation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live. Ironically, a series that refused to evolve and then evolved too far, too fast in the wrong directions could be saved by a return to where it was in the late 1990’s.
You are spoiled for choice this month. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 originally debuted on the Sony Playstation but it was quickly made available for the PC and Nintendo 64 as well. Later, the game was revamped and re-released for the Sega Dreamcast and Microsoft XBox. In 2010, THPS2 was ported to iOS with only a few features removed.
A mobile variation of the game was released for the Gameboy Color and another version was a highly acclaimed launch title for the Gameboy Advance.
Music, levels, and graphics vary between all versions to one extent or another. Preference will largely be on what game system you have access to, and which controller feels best in your hands.
Instead of posting in the comments section of the blog, we will be using the forum for all of our discussion in order to keep things more organized. We like to keep the chaos in the video game. So design yourself a skater and let us know how many ways you found to break your virtual wrists and ankles. A good round of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 involves just as many cringes as it does moments of awesome.