I remember when Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 had come out. School had let out for the day, and I had made the five minute walk over to a friend’s house. My friend was sitting in his room, Playstation on, and he looked at me and said, “look!” He had already gotten his copy of THPS2, and was skating around in the school level. He always got games at release, not because he was loaded or saved up his money, but because his older brother worked at Hollywood Video, and constantly stole their games to either sell or for his and his brothers’ enjoyment. Think he’s still doing time in prison for armed robbery.
Anyways. I remember watching him fly around in the school, a level that looked and felt bigger than any level I had played in Tony Hawk 1, to the sounds of Papa Roach’s “Blood Brothers,” the only time it has ever been acceptable to listen to Papa Roach. The game grabbed me in a way few games had grabbed me up until that point. Now, I had definitely played through the first game. More than once, even. But, especially in retrospect, Tony Hawk 1 feels like a trial run for all the things Tony Hawk 2 would do. I love Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. It is one of my absolute, all-time favorite games, and I make it a point to play through it at least once a year since I first saw it in 2000, getting a 100% completion in every level. I have every park layout committed to memory. I sing along to every song, except for the couple of Hip-Hop tracks where I need to Follow The Rules. I mess around with the Create-A-Park editor, making a fun little box of ramps and rails. It will never get old.
Back in 2020, I got the Tony Hawk Remaster on the PS4 as a birthday gift. Then a week ago, I got it on PC for a price that may as well have been free. I only offhandedly talked about the PS4 game back when I played it, describing it as “Tony Hawk, but with more stuff.” This is true, but I feel like there’s more to talk about, and that’s what I’m going to do here.
I’ve said in previous posts that I would consider Resident Evil on the Gamecube the best video game remake there is. This is because my stupid ass was so wrapped up in the RE series that I forgot about Tony Hawk. As far as I am concerned: me, Ramona, in 2022, says that the Tony Hawk 1+2 Remaster is the actual best remake. It is everything I loved about the original games, but better. It runs better, looks better, sounds better, controls better. As a game, it is flat out a better experience than loading up the original on my PSX. There’s some new songs, some new skaters, the Create-A-Skater is slightly more robust, and that Create-A-Park is a thing of wonder.
I’m trying to be careful here, because the whole thing about this trend of remakes and remasters is built upon a cynical foundation of marketable nostalgia; do you remember [THING]? Well, here is [THING] again, with some high-definition graphics now! Rarely is there ever a feeling that one of these games is put together out of genuine appreciation for what made the original so great. At risk of falling for my memories being marketed to, I don’t think this is the case here. This isn’t just Tony Hawk, but better. I play this, and it’s 2000 again. I’m back in my friend Brian’s condo, in his dark, windowless basement/bedroom. It’s the weekend, and we’re planning on being up all night, filling up on candy and soda we got from the Safeway down the street. We’re going to listen to loud music with the blacklight turned on, enjoying our stolen video games, talking about girls in class we want to fuck, because this is an escape. We live in a shitty neighborhood, come from broken homes, and are still recovering from the trauma of being straight up physically assaulted by some police officers only a couple of months prior. Landing a sweet combo of over 100,000 points to forget about being slammed head-first into concrete, having drugs hastily shoved into my pockets, and some pork-scented fuck forcing me to put my fingerprints on a gun. And what could we do about it, call the cops? This is definitely not an innocent time, yet it is one I still look at fondly because the human brain does not make any sense. I’m doing cool, physically impossible tricks with a skateboard because the world outside kind of sucks. It feels good to illegally experience the breadth of the Playstation’s peak (1998-2000) under the calming glow of a blacklight, listening to Jack Off Jill albums over and over. Riding around schools and parks with my friend and calling each other gay as a pejorative because otherwise we would give in to the darkness. Well, actually, my friend would give in to the darkness within a year or two. I have no idea what he’s up to these days, assuming he’s even still around.
Tony Hawk Remastered trades on nostalgia, and for once, I don’t mean this as an insult. Like skateboard culture itself, this is a game where the loners and the weirdos can fit in just as easily as anyone else. Playing this brought back a flood of memories, both good and bad. Not just memories of playing the game nearly 22 years ago, but memories of a different time, a different world even. The memories are the same and the skating is the same. Despite all of the new additions, it feels like nothing has changed, or that I went back in time. I don’t think this remake would have been nearly as good otherwise.
The original Tony Hawk had a particular aesthetic that it well and truly landed: that Y2K, pre-9/11 style. We (“we” meaning “kids”) were leaving the edgelord 90s, and making our way into the hopeful future. Then, well, everything happened, and that came to a screeching halt. The remake is explicitly set during a wide-scale COVID shutdown, with the schools being closed in lieu of at-home learning, and messenger planes in Ventura telling you to “Wash Your Hands” and “Wear A Mask.” Weird how one game can manage to be a time capsule for two very different times. When I played Tony Hawk 2, school sucked, home sucked, the streets sucked. I bet there’s a whole new generation of kids out there who will play this during a time when home sucks, school sucks, the streets suck, and now there’s the threat of a virus that world leaders are using as a proxy eugenics tool. And I bet that just like me, the kids who make it will look back upon this game fondly. Maybe they’ll play it once a year, too. PROTIP: store-brand soda is cheaper, allowing you to buy more of it when you don’t have a lot of money. Strawberry shortcake ice cream bars and Creme Savers (strawberry or orange) go really well together. One more PROTIP: if you know a guy who gives you weird pills after class and you held onto them until the weekend, don’t make the mistake I did and try chewing them like a fucking Flintstones tablet; only bad times ahead.