It feels like a long, long time ago since last we saw a skateboarding game worthy of our time. Up to the late 90s there was nothing that ever really captured the feel of the sport, but when Neversoft launched Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater the gaming world took notice and it became one of the biggest games of the era. Later on it would be ported to the Dreamcast and is likely the definitive version money can buy.
Ollie like it’s 1999
Like most of you, I also played it for the first time on the PS1 and spent many, many hours perfecting techniques. Everything that you found on the PS1 copy that you played has been ported to the Dreamcast and in this particular case, it was ported by Treyarch. All the skaters, including Tony Hawk (duh), Bob Burnquist, Geoff Rowley, Bucky Lasek, Chad Muska and others, are all playable with their own unique set of stats. Stats consist of ollie height, speed, air and balance – the basics required to master the original outing. Unlike the sequels thereafter there are no transfer buttons or manuals to be pulled off to continue a combo, which makes pulling off huge scores quite tough. All the levels have also been ported over. The classic opening level, Warehouse, and the iconic New York Mall are exact duplicates of what you would have played on the PS1 version. There’s one major difference when it comes to the Dreamcast version of the game- it runs and looks quite a bit better.
In the current day and age, most people would look at the Dreamcast version of the game and call it a remaster, which is exactly what you have here. Graphically it looks a damn sight better and you won’t find a game where the pixels are forcefully being etched into your eyeballs. Everything has been smoothed out and the texture resolution has been increased too so that it looks sharp and detailed on your VGA setup, unlike the terrible N64 version with its wishy-washy colours. The game takes advantage of the more powerful Dreamcast hardware and runs much smoother, but it also makes use of the VMU. Whenever performing a trick the score is displayed on the VMU along with a phrase to make you feel good about what you just did, like ‘Cool’ or ‘You got it’. Bail and you’ll get ‘Loser’ or ‘Dude!’. Yes, it’s so 90s it’s not even funny.
As with the PS1 version your objectives are made up of mini challenges in one of the nine levels. Three of these stages require you to get a high score in your efforts to be awarded a bronze, silver or gold medal from the judges. The challenges range from discovering a secret tape to finding the letters S, K, A, T, E (wow, I can make a word up out of that!) through to breaking ‘No Skating’ signs and anything else that has you believing that you’re a complete rebel. Complete enough challenges and you are awarded the opportunity to move on to the next level. Throughout your skating adventures you’ll be on the lookout for stat points. Discover one and you can increase any stat you feel needs improvement. Where it does take some getting used to is the controller.
Which version is really in control?
The PS1 and Dreamcast controllers are two very different beasts. Thankfully Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater never made use of the right analogue stick on the PS1, which works perfectly for the missing right analogue stick on the Dreamcast. Like the Xbox (Xbox 360 and Xbox One after it) the Dreamcast doesn’t do a great job when having to use the shoulder triggers. The analogue triggers aren’t instant enough to perform a left or right turn when compared to simple digital shoulder buttons on PlayStation controllers. It’s this small difference that can make it something to avoid for some fans, but if you’re like me and turn in mid-air using your analogue stick then there’s nothing to be worried about as everything else feels and plays perfectly on the Dreamcast controller. The jump pack also packs more ‘UMPFFF’ than the PS1 DualShock controller, making each flip or grab landed feel that much more satisfying.
The punk rock soundtrack has aged with grace and suits the theme perfectly with the sound effects receiving a noticeable upgrade from the PS1 version. Of course, unlocking the bail videos remains a highlight too. There is also 2-player multiplayer on offer featuring trick attack, graffiti and the very popular Horse. Unfortunately, there’s no mode for 4-player split-screen which is a shame considering the console comes with four controller ports.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is by no means the best in the series, with THPS 2 all but thumping everything the original tried to do, but if you’re a collector that must own each in the series then you really can’t go wrong with the Dreamcast version.