Bits & Bytes: Independence

This week, Robert talks about playing Tony Hawk 1+2 and how it pulled him back into the days of Limp Bizkit and geometry quizzes!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 07/04/2021 10:31 Comment on this     ShareThis

Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short, to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.

I’m playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 right now.

When the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater hit Nintendo 64 back in 2000, I was 14. I was a freshman in high school. As was the norm, Nintendo Power had me hyped for Tony Hawk. I had, and still have, zero interest in skateboarding. Oddly, this didn’t dissuade me from wanting to play the game. In retrospect, I think there were two factors that made Tony Hawk appealing to me: it looked cool and it was really different from other N64 games.

When Super Mario 64 launched, part of the draw was simply wandering around Peach’s castle. It was a fully-realized 3D environment that begged to be explored. In the games that would follow, three-dimensional landscapes would take on numerous forms, from the fields of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time to the vast heights of Click Clock Woods in Banjo-Kazooie. All of it was mesmerizing but not necessarily realistic. I mean, the environments often had a sense of realism in how they were rendered, but they weren’t places anyone could actually go and visit.

Tony Hawk, meanwhile, looked like the world outside my window. Screenshots of the game showed off warehouses, a school, a mall, and all of it was based in real cities. My teenage mind desperately wanted to wander through all of them. They were the sort of places that I didn’t see all that much on N64. It’s part of the draw of sandbox games that early 3D game designers were slowly starting to glom onto: walking around and doing nothing in a giant facsimile of the real world can be fun. Not that Tony Hawk is a do-nothing game, of course. The tricks system remains brilliant, fostering an intense amount of satisfaction from chaining together as many grinds and verts and flips as possible.

Still, if I’m honest with myself, I loved the gameplay but I loved the sense of freedom even more. Tony Hawk is 53 (his son Riley is 28 by the way, just in case you really want to feel how fast time flies), but when Pro Skater launched he was 32—younger than I am right now. To a kid, especially a chubby nerd like I was, Tony Hawk seemed like a laid back dude that would be fun to know in real life. The game took aspects of skater culture and distilled it into a digital sampler of that world. The music, the grunginess of the riders and the game environment, all of it had an edge that was atypical of the software that I was used to from Nintendo. Tony Hawk was all about shredding rails and defying gravity, and it pulled me firmly into the experience.

Playing Pro Skater 1+2 has been an absolute throwback. I honestly got misty hearing the familiar tunes and revisiting the new takes on all of the old levels. Plenty of things pull me back into the past, but this has been unique in that it really, firmly planted me back in high school. Friends and memories were floating past my eyes as I rolled through each level. The early 2000s was a pretty cool era to be a teenager. It was this sort of transitional moment from the analogue ’90s to the extremely digital world of today. Pro Skater 1+2 made me yearn for simpler, freer days of listening to Incubus and putting off homework while joking around with my friends. The review will be up soon, but if you’re around my age and played these games as a kid, I fully recommend a return, if for no other reason than to forget the ills of the now for a few hours.

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