Nostalgia is a funny thing. Like a familiar smell, sight, or indeed killer soundtrack, you end up remembering things long lost. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater works as a wonderful little companion piece to growing older and, as such, it is sweet, sad and oh so cathartic.
The first thing that hits you upon booting this up is a modern rendition of a classic trailer and the sweet serenade of punk and ska tunes from some hot summer in the 2000’s. This being said, it doesn’t stop and rely entirely on nostalgia. Pro Skater’s lovably arcadey style works as both a throwback and a refreshing change from the more simulation-focused playstyle of modern games like Skater XL. It doesn’t just rebel, it excels. Putting it simply, X controls your flip moves, Y controls your grind moves and B controls your grab moves. You must combo these together with manuals and whatever else you can string together to get large points. Each move you add to a combo adds one extra to a multiplier, meaning a successful and varied combo can get you well over the 1 million point threshold. It asks you to throw in new moves and styles for extra points, which works well to stop you from just regurgitating the same moves. A good player does what they know works – a great player does what they think might not. It rewards exploration and innovation to great effect.
This focus on exploration is further exemplified through mission objectives each map gives you. These include simple objectives like getting a high score or combo, but become harder to achieve through secret tapes, collectables, special tricks and more. Each level is semi open-ended and ends after two minutes, giving them this innate sense of replayability. Like putting a coin into an arcade machine, each play gives you a limited amount of time that urges you to play against your friends for the highest score. Even without friends, the abundance of levels in both Pro Skater 1 + 2 and their many objectives are sure to keep you busy.
The way it encapsulates both games is smart and rewards expression of your character and customization. As well as a roster of professional skaters (and an alien) you can create your own skater complete with a custom board, clothes and features. Levels hide skill point collectables that can be used to upgrade your character over the span of the two games. There is a central home menu that can be used to check out your character and whatever else, and contained in that are both games. Instead of separating the games with different load times and aesthetics, both are fused into the central experience as a collection of all levels. This is a good move as it means all customization is kept throughout and challenges are shared. Challenges are cross-level objectives like achieving scores or buying new decks that net you money and exp. This exp upgrades your personal level and opens up new things to purchase and new customization options.
Both in and outside of the game, there is a rather cyclical nature to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Within levels, you are perpetually moving forward by completing new objectives, finding new secrets, opening new paths and getting higher scores. Outside of them, you are kept moving through new levels, upgrades and customization. This leaves the base experience offering more than the originals 20 years ago without taking anything away. This is exactly what a good remake should do.
One other such feature that is kept yet also expanded upon is its general aesthetic. The punk and ska-laden soundtrack makes a wonderful comeback with a few fitting additions, the underground and slightly dilapidated maps look crisp and wonderful in HD, and the general HUD captures that later-90’s skate culture to great effect.
Another addition sure to add more replayability is Pro Skater’s multiplayer. It has you and a handful of other skaters compete against each other for high scores, seeing “Jams” reward the top four players and “Competitive” only rewarding the best. This is a nice way of promoting multiplayer for skaters who wouldn’t necessarily win but would still have a good time playing online. The multiplayer is further changed through different types of ideas like “Graffiti” rewarding players for tagging objects and “Score Challenge” rewarding score, obviously enough.
The modes available to you aren’t finished just yet. The new map creator mode is responsive and fleshed-out, with pieces that click together in satisfying ways. As you level up, the pieces available to you are increased, meaning your map making skills should get better alongside the pieces available to you. Whilst this is fun, what truly pushes this over the top are community maps. The community of Pro Skater feels active and creative, giving worthwhile throwbacks to other skater maps as well as weirdly creative maps loaded with cool tricks and ideas.
For what it is trying to do, it is hard to fault Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 on Xbox One for practically anything it does. It accurately and lovingly recreates the original games whilst adding tons of new content and ideas – it just perfects the formula. Going back to the original after playing this almost feels like a step down, as this does not aim to emulate the game entirely, but instead aims to emulate your memory of it. When I imagine myself playing the original titles, this is how they feel.