Not content with the runaway success of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater on the PlayStation, Activision moved quickly and lined up developers for ports to the Dreamcast and the Nintendo 64. The Nintendo 64 port, handled by Edge of Reality, mimics the PlayStation version just about as well as it possibly can, and the resulting game is just as amazing as it was when it appeared on the PlayStation last September.
The game takes a more arcadelike approach to the world of skating. The object of the game's career mode is to collect videotapes, much in the same way Mario collects stars. With the exception of the three competition stages, the point of each level is to collect five videotapes. You can enter each stage as often as you want, but you can only skate around the stage for two minutes before having to start the stage over. You receive two of these tapes when you achieve certain scores within your two-minute limit. You pick up a third tape by collecting letters scattered around the level, eventually spelling the word "skate." You score another tape by destroying five objects in a level. These objects change on each level and range from anti-skateboarding signs to police cars. The fifth tape is hidden somewhere on the level, and you must figure out how to get to it. You start career mode with only one level unlocked. As you pick up tapes, you'll unlock new levels and new skateboards, raising your skater's stats.
The game features ten real-life pro skaters, and they have been divided by style into two groups: vert skaters and street skaters, who have slightly different tricks. Beyond that, there are a few subtle timing differences between the skaters, and each skater has three special tricks that can only be performed while your special meter is full. The special tricks include the 540 Board Varial, back flips, front flips, the 360 Shove It Rewind, Christ Air, and the Judo Madonna. Each of these tricks will bring in a higher score than most normal moves, if done correctly. Some of them can even be included in combos. The controls are extremely easy to pick up and are very precise.Aside from the career mode, there's also free skating, which lets you take a little more time examining a level and mastering your tricks. Single-session mode is a score competition, where you pick a level and try to get as many points as possible in two minutes. The two-player mode works on a vertical split screen and has three different modes. Graffiti mode causes certain parts of the level to change to your color when you do tricks on them. Your opponent must then do a better trick on that part of the level to change it to his color. The person with the most colored pieces at the end of two minutes wins. Trick attack is a simple score battle. Horse is similar to the basketball game on which it is based. Player one has ten seconds to do the best trick he can do. Player two must match or beat that trick to avoid getting a letter. The first person to get all five letters (spelling horse) loses.
Career mode doesn't take a whole lot of time to complete once you've gotten familiar with all the levels, but even after completing the game with all the skaters, you'll still want to go back and do some free skating. It's one of those games that will keep you coming back long after you've mastered it. The level design is part of what gives the game such longevity. The large levels have lots of extravagant areas, all ready for tons of combos, while the smaller levels are tightly packed with rails, ramps, and bowls.
The soundtrack is filled with songs by bands like the Dead Kennedys, Goldfinger, and Primus. Unlike the PlayStation version, which contained entire songs, the soundtrack on the N64 is reduced. The Primus song no longer has lyrics, and every song loops fairly often. I wasn't a huge fan of the soundtrack, but that's something better left to your personal taste in music. The sound effects are really outstanding. Rails clink when you jump off them, sidewalks have different textures than the street, and different ramp materials make different noises. The game's graphics are really good, but there's an awful lot of pop-up in outdoor areas, like the San Francisco level. Regardless of that, the game runs at an excellent pace, and the camera never gets in your way.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is a game for skaters and nonskaters alike. Some may be initially turned off by the occasionally questionable physics, but this little slice of unreality brings a lot of gameplay fun along with it. It would have been nice to see some more variety in the game's tricks, but as it stands, THPS is an outstanding game and an excellent port of the PlayStation original, and it's a worthy addition to anyone's collection.