The outcome of video game remasters seems to vary quite drastically from title to title. And, the distinction between a ‘remake’ and ‘remaster’ isn’t always that clear.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is undeniably a remaster of the immensely popular classics that came out in 1999 and 2000. However, this impressive package isn’t just a next-gen port, that only offers some subtle graphical and performance upgrades; it is perhaps one of the most faithful remasters out there.
A blend of old and new:
All of the levels from the original two games have been faithfully recreated; retaining the spirit and structure that made these titles so popular in the first place. Change comes in the form of a modern palette; that perfectly honors the timeless style of these missions, whilst bringing the gameplay up to present standards.
This balance between old and new, is something that the developers have successfully achieved throughout nearly every aspect of this remaster.
The soundtrack, for example, features classics from the era such as “Guerilla Radio” and “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver”, but also adds more recent tracks, such as Fidlar’s “West Coast”, that still fit the game’s distinctive tone.
Unsurprisingly, the music is a core part of the game’s experience, and I found myself consistently impressed by the quality of depth within the soundtrack.
The gameplay itself is fantastic. The movement is responsive and weighty; every mistake; every ‘ollie’; every trick, feels deliberate. Such precision in movement and responsiveness in player input, adds an incredibly satisfying sense of responsibility; when you make a mistake; when you pull off a ridiculously awesome air trick(my skateboarding vernacular is lacking, I know), this is ultimately down to you as the player. I found this incredibly empowering.
Sticking to the principle of ‘blending the old and new’, the core gameplay loop harkens back to the ‘arcade’ style of the original games. You’re still, generally speaking, looking to hit high scores and collect certain objects, but there are a few nick tricks to play with.
Later additions to the series such as reverts, wall plants and spine transfers, are also included here. This adds more depth to the remaster, without detracting from what made the originals so great in the first place. The player has the choice to change the control scheme to only feature maneuvers from the original games, if you wanted to really take things back further.
As a matter of personal preference, I found that collecting different items across the arenas became quite repetitive. After a few runs, it started to feel like busy-work between trying to achieve high-scores. However, the engaging gameplay meant that this never became more than a minor, momentary grievance.
Simple to learn, difficult to master:
Picking up the board, doing a couple tricks and rocking out to an awesome soundtrack was how I spent most of my time playing the game.
A deep tutorial, simple, responsive inputs and progressively more difficult maps provide an encouraging experience for new players. Simply speaking, you can very quickly reach a level of ‘competency’ within the games, but through increasingly more difficult challenges and map layouts, the game reminds you: there are levels to this.
Progression in this game is immensely satisfying. A deep roster of skaters, seemingly innumerable unlockable cosmetics and new maneuvers to master, mean that there is always something to be working towards. This is great. And when combined with fantastic gameplay, you quickly start to recognise the absolute brilliance of this remaster. Key word being ‘master’. This is absolutely the pinnacle of skateboarding video games.
I haven’t even mentioned the level editor(which whilst initially daunting, quickly showed its brilliance) and online multiplayer – which adds another layer of competitiveness.
As I am writing this -and becoming increasingly self aware of how much I am gushing over this game – I feel obliged to ‘try’ and point out one area that I felt the game was sorely lacking.
The game’s character creator is just not very good. Which is especially disappointing, because of how polished the game is in just about every other aspect. There is hardly any depth to the creator, with the bizarre absence of sliders meaning that you are working with pre-set choices.
Does this one blemish mar the whole experience? Absolutely not, but it does feel like a glaring oversight, in what is otherwise an absolute masterpiece.
The best remaster ever?
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 absolutely sets the bar for what a ‘remaster’ should be. Staying true to the original’s strong foundations, this remaster modernises the classics; managing to retain the best aspects of the originals and place them in a package more in line with our modern expectations.
This is truly the definitive skateboarding video-game experience. If you’re like me – desperately un-coordinated and comfortably not a ‘thrill-seeker’ – you can still experience the absolute adrenaline rush of the sport, within the comfort of your couch. Oh, and the soundtrack is full of absolute bangers – oh, I mentioned that already, didn’t I?