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The History of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater: Ollies, Grabs, and Grinds


March 10, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next
 

Neversoft's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (also known as THPS) was released by Activision for the Sony PlayStation late in 1999 and for the Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast in 2000. The game's fluid control scheme, smooth animation and goal-based progress were immediate hits and mimicked in similar games for years to come.

Single-player options include "Career Mode," "Single Session," and "Free Skate." In career mode, the objective is to capture the best sessions on videotape. This task is achieved by attaining the goals shown on the loading screen in the allotted two-minute period.

There are a total of nine levels, and tapes (objectives) can be obtained in six of them. These tapes unlock levels, equipment, and competition invites as the game advances, and they serve as replays.

The other three levels are contests, and the goal is to win medals (gold, silver, or bronze) by scoring higher than the competition. In single-session mode, the objective is to set new high scores in a two-minute period.

Initially, only one level is available, but the rest are unlocked in career mode as tapes are obtained. Free skate is just as the name implies -- no time limits and no rules. Players can practice their moves until their "tricks are tight."

As in single-session mode, only one level is unlocked initially. Two-player games include "Graffiti," "Trick Attack," and "HORSE" modes. In graffiti mode, there is a split-screen race to see which player can tag the most obstacles in a two-minute period.

Players can steal their opponent's obstacles by performing even bigger tricks. The player who has tagged the most objects at the end of two minutes wins.[2] In trick attack, there is again a two-minute time limit, and players must rack up more points than their opponent. They can also attack their opponent by running into them. HORSE is a one-on-one best trick contest, with the goal of beating the opponent's score.


Screenshot from the Sega Dreamcast version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.

While this depth of play modes is impressive, it was Tony Hawk's Pro Skater's sense of motion and authentic feel that really won over gamers. Of course, as the Website Planet Tony Hawk describes, this was due in no small part to the game's namesake:

"It wasn't until later in the development process that Tony Hawk was signed on and the game took on the name we all know. Tony had an active part in the creation. With each new build of the game, he was given a copy to go through. If something didn't feel true to skateboarding, or if it looked off, he would report back to Neversoft. Such attention to detail truly gave the final game a polished feel.

Additionally, the first game featured Motion Capture, in which Tony Hawk participated. This process had Tony donning dozens of small balls covering his body. By performing his standard moves the developers could build a working 3D model. This process was abandoned for the most part by the time the second game came out. However, it was utilized in future versions of the game."[3]

In 2000, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was adapted for the Nintendo Game Boy Color. While it was a three-dimensional and highly interactive game on console, in this version it became something of a throwback -- two-dimensional and more limited, allowing for considerably fewer moves.

The two main gameplay modes are "Half Pipe" and "Tournament," the latter of which features two options. Players can race three computer skaters through five stages or select a "versus" mode, in which the player races only one other player through one stage.

In versus mode, the opponent can be computer-generated or a player on a second Game Boy Color who is linked to using a link cable connection. In half-pipe mode, the goal is to rack up as many points as possible by performing ollies, heelflips, or any of the seven other tricks that are possible.

Although the courses in the Game Boy Color are not as varied as they are on the console versions, they are well thought out, the backgrounds are colorful, and the animation is smooth. The controls are also easier to master than its console cousins, consisting of a series of d-pad and A and B button presses.

Nevertheless, there was considerable room for improvement and the game was criticized for its low replay value, receiving only average review scores. Despite this, there weren't many handheld skateboarding game options at the time and the brand was hot, so the game still sold well.


Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for the Nintendo Game Boy Color, shown here running on a Game Boy Advance, tried to adapt the Tony Hawk formula to 2D, but met with mixed results.


[2] This gameplay is somewhat reminiscent of Paperboy, which was released by Atari to the arcades in 1984. In Paperboy, the primary objective is to deliver newspapers to subscribers, but the secondary objective is to vandalize the homes of nonsubscribers by damaging their property.

[3] http://planettonyhawk.gamespy.com/View.php?view=histories.Detail&id=1.


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