Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 has a terrible name, but an awesome pedigree. The game comes from Vicarious Visions: makers of the recent (and most would say quite impressive) Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy — a modern mix of the mascot platformers. So we know the studio has history remaking PlayStation-era classics. But it’s actually an even older legacy that interests me.
From 2001 to 2005, Vicarious Visions worked on the Game Boy Advance versions of the Tony Hawk games. You may remember the GBA wasn’t known for 3D graphics (if you’re old enough to remember the handheld at all). But the developer did a bang up job of focusing what little horsepower the system had to make shockingly authentic versions of those games. And I love to celebrate relics like that.
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The games’ cameras were locked to an overhead position; the soundtrack was shortened to fit on cartridges; the level editor and character customization were nowhere to be found. Beyond that, though… the GBA Tony Hawk games were pretty much the Tony Hawk games. And I have a certain soft spot for developers that make the impossible feel real on such limited hardware. To this day I wish we had gotten the full Game Boy Color version of Resident Evil, as a cultural artifact if nothing else. The GBA Tony Hawk games are kinda like that come to life.
I have no idea how much of that Vicarious Visions crew remains. Fifteen years is a long time between Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land for GBA (the last the studio did) and Pro Skater 1+2 (I still hate that name). But the more recent Crash remake shows the DNA of redoing and respecting the classics remains at the studio.
We saw a little bit of that in the new game’s demo. Additions like more voice lines from Tony, some neat VHS glitching when you fall off your board, and the option to toggle cheats — a mainstay of PS1 games like Pro Skater — lend more than an air of authenticity. They make it feel as though the devs get what made the series great for a time. I’ll take that over a totally slavish recreation of the original, if I’m forced to choose.
Were the base versions of the game made by Neversoft better? Absolutely. But the sheer willpower behind the ports was amazing. They come from a time when different versions of a game on separate hardware were really, truly different. Oftentimes different meant “worse.” Though that was due to hardware limitations and publisher deadlines more than anything. Meanwhile this new release will include things like the level editor. So it doesn’t seem like much was lost in translation this time around.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is out on PS4, Xbox One, and PC (but not the Game Boy Advance) on Sept. 4, 2020.