Hello everyone! This is my first review and I would like to talk about Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. You probably know it was arguably 'revolutionary' upon release, but how does it hold up now, given the series' eventual decent into open world, Jackass inspired faffery? I have 100% completed this game (at least, done the career mode with every skater) and might as well share this with other Dreamcast users.
This is the original 'cool' skating game, which, in my opinion, thrust skateboarding into the limelight for my generation. With "simple to learn and hard to master" gameplay; wide, open levels and an edgy, contemporary soundtrack, THPS was a whole new experience to gamers like myself who were both growing up and growing into gaming (I was 11 or so when I first played it, just starting Secondary School), and actually started me off skating with my friends for a good six of seven years.
The basis of the core gameplay remains as fun as it was when I first picked up a controller but it does show its age in comparison to later early games. The 2 minute run time works quite well and is refreshing compared to the open world nature of later games (which had levels designed accordingly), although after completing THPS, I think I am ready to go back to the open world option.
However, getting a 'flow' going can be quite hard, with my ingrained habit from later games of basically holding [A] all the time to travel as fast as possible often resulting in very slow and frustrating starts after a bail, which themselves can take 5 seconds to completely animate. Animations are somewhat stiff, with bails and leg animations in particular looking rigid and unnatural. However, it ultimately communicates what the skater is doing satisfactorily (such as rail balance, how far through a trick the skater is, and skater orientation to the ground).
The main gameplay omission, which I suppose we didn't know about at the time (you can lose what you've never had!), is manuals, which unlocks outrageous combos and lines (and skill) in later games. THPS has to make do with combos done within one ollie, air and/ or rail, making it quite tame, and the points requirements are noticeably lower than later games (the last level Pro Score asks for 50,000 points, which is less than the sick score of the first level in THPS2). Similarly, the game does not tell you what each skater's special tricks are, leaving you to figure them out for yourself.
As a result of all of the above, the gameplay feels much more rigid and slow and a touch sludgy compared to later games to such an extent it was slightly disappointing.
The levels are largely great with well thought out skate spots and pre-made combo lines ready and waiting to be discovered. Starting levels are compact and later levels sprawl out. Some levels are downhill games (i.e. you cross a finish line to finish your run) rather than fully open, which gets quite frustrating as you cannot turn back to collect a SKATE letter you missed and were moved from later games. The last standard level, San Francisco, is too open, with long travel times between goals and skate spots. Competition levels are present, with the one goal of a high score without bailing, and in my opinion are a weak spot (which remain in the series until THPS4 when they were improved). For standard levels, you are only presented with five goals, so once you have done the career mode a couple of times and know where to go and how many points you need, I was able to clear most of the levels in one two minute run, with a skater's career only taking 30 minutes or so.
One level, Burnside, is particularly glitchy, with quaterpipes often not sending you into the air vertically and instead sending you into the wall/fence where you 'bounce' up into the air. This seems to be anticipated (and perhaps was not fixable given this level has lots of irregularly shaped ramps) as you do not bail when you land back on the quaterpipe when this happens... most of the time.
What was disappointing was the lack of secrets to unlock, in terms of secret areas in levels, secret skaters or secret levels. I didn't unlock anything at all after 100%ing the game!
Lastly for the gameplay, I found the controls on the Dreamcast quite irritating with left or right button presses very frequently being interpreted as UpLeft or UpRight. This results in much more complicated tricks being pulled off, which requires more air time to complete and was responsible for the vast majority of my bails. It is very frustrating to have quite a big combo going and attempt to do a quick kickflip (<- plus X)from one rail to another, and your skater try to pull off a Kickflip to Indie in the small gap! Skater crudely rolling on the ground; score combo lost; competition audience booing; frustrated Stewcumber!
The soundtrack is certainly memorable and was likely remarkable for the time. To this day the music holds up as enjoyable and helps get you in the mood for some skating with highlights such as Superman by Goldfinger and Le Hot by Grand Unified, even if some of it is a bit raw for my tastes. The skating sound effects are fairly rudimentary but do not detract from the game much.
The graphics are perfectly serviceable and do not detract from the experience, especially on brighter levels and playing over VGA (natively supported). I don't know how it compares to the PS1 or N64, and whilst it certainly is not the most attractive game on the DC, the graphics are not what make this game enjoyable for me.
Some games try to immerse you in a great story, world or characters; and I feel these games require good "peripheral" design in order to be effective; that is, the sound, graphics, writing, music, world building, art direction etc needs to draw you in to be fun, even if the gameplay is limited by design or flawed by poor design. This is your Another World, Life is Strange, Shenmue, Mass Effect.
And then some games, are pure fun to play, even if they don't wow you with a shocking story moment (or have a story at all!), or have fantastic sound design or graphics, and THPS falls firmly into this category. The understandably outdated graphics and sound, as well as the gameplay irritations do not get in the way of the core gameplay from being simply fun.
I would recommend purchasing this for £10 or so on the usual websites.