Review: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 (Switch)

These Nintendo 64 classics are grinding their way right back into our hearts!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 07/28/2021 03:04 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Arcade-style skateboarding mechanics are easy to learn, but mastering them is where the real satisfaction comes in; killer soundtrack; stunning new visual takes on classic stages look great; tons of modes and content
Poison Mushroom for...
Some objectives are hard to figure out; new players might struggle with reaching scoring goals

When Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater launched on Nintendo 64 back in 2000 I was 14-years old and a freshman in high school. I knew not a thing about skateboarding but did know, based on scouring Nintendo Power screenshots of the game, that it was going to be cool and I had to play it. N64 games like Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time offered new levels of realism, but Tony Hawk felt like the world outside my door—something that was wholly unique to me at the time. I was saddened when Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 would be getting a fully remastered compilation for PlayStation and Xbox, but was then later elated after learning Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 would finally be ollying onto Nintendo Switch. The question remained, however, as to whether or not the Pro Skater games were as good as I remembered them. The answer is yes, and even better thanks to a number of tweaks and additions not present in the originals.

As I mentioned above, I had no prior knowledge of skateboarding back in 2000 when the first Tony Hawk dropped, and 21 years later I must confess I’m not really much wiser about the sport or its culture. Yet, neither of these factors prevented me from falling in love with the games the first time around, nor for this redux. I think that having a working knowledge of skateboarding, or even being a skater in real life, will lend a greater appreciation for Pro Skater 1+2, but it isn’t required. You can go into both games blind and find a heck of a lot to love. Don’t feel intimidated being a newbie—in the spirit of Tony Hawk himself, all are welcome here.

The premise of these two Tony Hawk games is simple: locate collectibles in a variety of themed stages and complete killer combos of tricks in order to amass huge scores. For Pro Skater 1+2, developer Vicarious Visions has taken the core of what original studio Neversoft produced in the early aughts and successfully tinkered to maintain a sense of authenticity while adding in enough new to make the experience reverberate for rookie and returning players alike. The balancing act is not unlike what Hawk and friends have to master on their boards and is impressive to take in.

For starters, the visuals here are more detailed and refined than on Nintendo 64 by quite a margin. All of the old settings are back but ooze even more personality than ever before. The mall level from the first Pro Skater, for example, is now abandoned and set at night. It feels much like the original version, but the changes make it equally contemporary (a lot of you likely have dead or dying malls where you live) and refreshed for a new audience. This is the same throughout both sets of levels in Pro Skater 1+2. Half the fun of these two Tony Hawk games is in exploring the surroundings. Rooting out secret areas, figuring out which chunks of the landscape can be reached in order to chain tricks, and just soaking in the sights, are as fun now as they were back in the day.

The real show-stealer here are the tricks. The Pro Skater games are arcade-style approximations of skateboarding. Given how outlandish the levels are this makes sense, but the games skew realistic enough that there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had in pulling off massive combos. Pro Skater 1+2 makes players work to maintain their balance and stick landings. What’s more, it takes some genuine strategizing to figure out the best ways to link one trick to another. Repeated playthroughs of each level are a must so as to determine where to best begin especially ambitious runs. It’s this depth that makes these first two Tony Hawks so legendary among fans. Yes, it’s possible to just wing it and have fun, but for those willing to invest the time and master their shredding skills, the payoff is sublime.

Progression is marked by a large array of unlockables. From new clothes to boards to stickers and decals and more, there’s a bunch to earn. There’s also a healthy stable of skaters to choose from. The original faces of the first two games are largely present, joined with new skaters (including Tony Hawk’s son Riley) to round out a roster that will be sure to thrill virtually all comers. Pro Skater 1+2 has a generous tutorial section for the uninitiated to get the training they need to not just be able to play, but to play competitively. Frankly, not going through the tutorials means running the risk of missing out on a bunch of moves that the player might not otherwise have a clue can be done. This is true even of returning players, as new tricks like reverts and wall plants don’t make themselves apparent outside of the tutorials. Do know that for those wanting a more old school experience, it is possible to tweak the controls and even dictate that the original trick lists be instated.

The other way that progression is noted is by accessing new levels. It’s here that some frustration might set in for less skilled or learning players. In order to reach a new stage, certain scoring plateaus must be met. Each level has a to-do list of objectives to complete, and while they don’t all need to be checked off, some (mainly the scoring challenges) will prove nearly impossible for those just starting out. Practice makes perfect (or at least better), but in the beginning a lot of players will be leaning on gathering collectibles or breaking things to proceed, although often accomplishing these objectives still won’t be quite enough to move on. Further compounding the issue is that some objectives aren’t always obvious in regards to how to complete them. The hangar in Pro Skater 1 has some collectibles that are very out of reach, which might leave some folks scratching their heads as they ponder how to reach them. These are small gripes—most players likely won’t get stuck—but even as someone who has played the originals I had my own moments where I wondered aloud what I wasn’t doing right or was missing.

As is typical with Switch ports, the concessions for getting Pro Skater 1+2 running on Nintendo’s diminutive hardware are a lower framerate and reduced graphical fidelity. Which isn’t to say Pro Skater 1+2 is lacking, as the games look great here. 30fps is the target and Vicarious Visions meets it with ease. Anyone who has played Activision’s various other Switch ports like Crash Bandicoot 4 and the Spyro Reignited Trilogy know that 30fps versus 60fps really doesn’t do much to detract from playability and enjoyment—the same can be said for Pro Skater 1+2. In terms of graphics, some sacrifices have been made visually, but the detail is strong and the visual design is topnotch. Some textures are a tad muddy and there’s occasional pop-in, but Pro Skater 1+2 is undeniably gorgeous on Switch.

Finally, it’s impossible to talk about the first two Tony Hawk games without mentioning the music. Returning favorites like Rage Against the Machine’s Guerilla Radio and Primus’s Jerry was a Racecar Driver are joined by new tracks such as The Ataris’ All Soul’s Day and A Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It? The result is almost a perfect recreation of the original soundtrack and a gaggle of new songs that mesh perfectly with it. Skateboarding culture is represented throughout Pro Skater 1+2 from the grungy UI designs to the graffiti on the walls, but nowhere is it as pronounced and integral as the songs. Tony Hawk games might not teach you how to skate in real life, but they can at least give you an appreciation for what makes the sport and the lifestyle tick.

Rounding things out are a bunch of different modes both online and offline to take part in. There’s even a stage builder for those who want to get creative. Expect to spend countless hours combing the stages of Pro Skater 1+2, where the urge for “one more go” will be all consuming. For those like me whose teenage years were spent returning to Tony Hawk 1 and 2 repeatedly, it was a genuine thrill to come back to both. Odd as it sounds, I found myself choked up hearing the familiar music and remembering skating on these stages in their original, far more pixelated forms. For new players, however, the experience will be equally as special, and in 20 years they’ll likely be just as enthralled to slip back onto a skateboard for another go as I was.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!