Today, I thought that it’d be interesting to dabble more into my game library, as I have a fair share of games that I’ve gotten or bought over the years. Plus, it’s been a while since I talked about a game on the site, I’m long overdue for this.
Ah, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. An awesome skateboarding game that was fun even if you couldn’t do sick tricks on a real skateboard. A long-standing franchise that eventually got the usual Activision treatment of “pump these games out until they stop making us money,” and now pretty much lives on through nostalgic memories of the early games and the occasional new Tony Hawk game that they trot out just to prove the franchise is not dead. Though, the less we talk about Tony Hawk Ride, the better.
I do remember playing the first two games at some point, but since I wasn’t big into skateboarding I missed out on the later games. Thanks to watching Tony Hawk’s Underground speed runs and Giant Bomb playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 online a few years back, it’s fueled my interest into the franchise now, and I’m kicking myself for missing out when it was king.
Let’s go back a bit and talk about the original game. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out on a bunch of platforms, like the Dreamcast, Nintendo 64 and PlayStation. But I wasn’t expecting the first game on this system:
Yes. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the Game Boy Color. That’s not the weird part, though, this is the weird part:
This game was made by Natsume. The Harvest Moon guys. I can’t think of a weirder choice for a developer of a portable Tony Hawk game. Honestly, I didn’t even know they made games beside Harvest Moon until I had played this one.
I don’t even remember how I got this game, I think a neighbor had a copy of it years ago and just gave it to me. The only other thing I remember about this game is that I wrote a scathing user review of this on GameSpot. You can probably find it if you look around there, but I’d rather not remember it, much like most of my past writing.
The Tony Hawk games were known for you skateboarding around skate yards, warehouses, and schools for points, while also doing challenges like finding the secret tape, spelling SKATE, and other silly challenges here and there. You’d expect the Game Boy Color version of THPS to have those same exact features, just on a handheld. It doesn’t.
Instead, the game has two different gameplay types: A half pipe score attack and a top-down racing mode split into a Tournament mode, a system Link mode and a CPU race.
Half pipe just has you moving back and forth on the half pipe, hitting a directional button and A or B to do air tricks for points. There’s no guarantee that you’ll pull off the trick half the time, as you have to release the buttons and then hit them quickly before you land, otherwise you get a spectacular crash. There’s no competitive aspect to this mode, not even a versus mode with a friend. You just play for the highest score.
All the stages in half pipe mode are supposed to resemble real locations, such as the Burnside Skatepark here in Portland. Though in reality, the Burnside Skatepark is not that open as Natsume thinks it is.
The other game mode is a top-down race mode that’s like the Downhill Jam concept in later Tony Hawk games. With the d-pad, you control a skater of your choosing as you jump on rails and other objects for points, while trying to race to the finish line for bonus points. You soon realize that this mode is not very fun whatsoever. Any time that you crash will have you moving ridiculously slow, unless you double-tap up to get a speed boost, provided you have one. You’ll end up crashing at the worst places and at the worst times, and some of the levels like the Docks are especially dickish in its obstacles.
I’d be amazed if anyone can get first place in these races without cheating, because most of the time you’re gonna see an obstacle you can’t avoid and end up crashing into it, losing all your momentum and finishing dead last. At least, that’s how it was for me every time I played it.
Natsume also implemented the trick system in the race mode, where getting enough height and tapping a button and a direction causes the game to stop and show these sick trick images. In Tournament Mode, this is what you need to do a lot if you expect to win, but much like half pipe mode these only work half the time. I really wish I knew what all these skate tricks mean, because a “stale fish” just sounds like weird skater lingo for drugs more than anything.
I really wish I could say more positive things about this game. I guess for a GBC game it looks better than most of them, and it has a pretty good 8-bit soundtrack. (No Superman or Jerry Was a Race Car Driver, though.) This GBC port doesn’t resemble their console counterparts in the slightest, and it’s not even a good skateboarding game like 720° or Skate or Die. It’s just a mediocre game overall.
Thankfully, from what I’ve seen, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 hit the GBC the following year, and is more faithful to its console counterparts. Now that’s a version I’d like to try some day. One of these days I need to look into the other spinoff Tony Hawk games. I bet they’re much better than this one.