It turns out that Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 Remastered isn't just about skating's past. The game is a representation of what skating is now.
When the remasters for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 were announced, I'm sure we all instantly thought, "Hell yeah, this is gonna be a wild nostalgia trip," hoping developer Vicarious Visions could nail the look and feel of the original games again. I even wrote about how the announcement itself made me recollect on the real-world cultural impact of THPS. Now that I've been able to spend time with the full game, it turns out it's so much more than a nostalgia trip.
It does indeed recapture the spirit of those 20+ year old games. Between the faithful gameplay with proper physics and controls and the recreation of skateparks with our favorite tunes from yesteryear, you get exactly what you'd hoped. But THPS 1 + 2 Remastered also used this as an opportunity to represent a new era of skating, reintroducing us to the sport and culture as a reflection of what it is now.
You see this in the roster of playable skaters. It's dope that I can play as middle-aged versions of Tony Hawk, Kareem Campbell, and my personal favorite, Eric Koston, again. However, in my several hours with THPS 1 + 2 Remastered, I've gravitated towards the new skaters who have reinvigorated my appreciation and understanding for skate culture. I'm looking up skate tapes, competition footage, and interviews from Tyshawn Jones, Lizzie Armanto, Aori Nishimura, and Leo Baker--all of whom are now my favorites to play as and watch.
These are people from my generation (or even younger) who grew up seeing older skaters, and even played THPS in their time, who are now in the game carrying on that legacy. Leo Baker mentions how they used to play the game before going out to skate, Tyshawn Jones' mom says her sons probably picked up skating from the games, and I even talked to Shane O'Neill earlier this year about how the series impacted him.
It's a different context in which to play and reflect on THPS, that in adulthood I can look to these new skaters as inspiration and understand how their hard work and contributions have affected (and continue to affect) the culture and lanes they occupy.
As a kid, when I watched Eric Koston, I thought that I wanted to be like him one day, so I picked up a board, ate shit for a few years, and hung it up at 14 years old. But I'm sitting here now reading about and watching videos on Tyshawn Jones' story, how he shook the skating world as a teenager, achieved a dream, and represents The Bronx (BX all day!) and the street skating scene. I'm watching Lizzie Armanto's rad compilations where she's tearing it up as one of the most exciting vert skaters of the past few years. It's been refreshing to look back at all of Aori Nishimura's accomplishments as a competitor, representing Japan for the skating world.
I know that folks who've kept up with the scene probably already recognize these names and understand their accomplishments. So for (very) lapsed skaters like me who grew up on the games and eventually fell out of the sport itself, it's important to see how much the scene has grown since the last time we paid attention. It's an effortless display of diversity and inclusivity where women, BIPOC, queer folks, and trans folks can play as a real-life person that represents them.
Leo Baker said it themself in a recent interview with Hypebeast, mentioning how important it was to play as Elissa Steamer in the original games. Baker also said, "Now, there's even more representation. I think that's really beautiful. As a queer skateboarder, I feel like it's a real win for queers who skate, that there's trans representation in this video game that's extremely influential." It's only fitting for a space that's built around counterculture, nonconformity, and self-expression. In a world where representation always matters, having this roster of accomplished skaters can reach and impact far more folks than the series had before.
Us old heads will feel that similar spark or reverence we had 20 years ago, which comes through in the soundtrack, too. Of course, the questions on everyone's minds when the remasters were announced was whether or not those iconic songs would be back, considering the difficulty of dealing with licenses. I wrote about how THPS 2 introduced me to Bad Religion and how they ushered me into the punk scene and remain my favorite band (or second favorite behind Streetlight Manifesto) of all time. So here I am singing along to "You," Millencolin's "No Cigar," and Dead Kennedys' "Police Truck" while landing 100,000+ point combos. But like the roster of skaters, the soundtrack is equally about a new age that complements the past.
Just as THPS helped us discover new music, this remastered package has my ears perked up to the tune of raw sounds of punk again. Bands like Rough Francis with "Deathwire" and Destroy Boys with "Duck Eat Duck World" are tremendous standouts as newcomers to the soundtrack. And once again, I have new bands with discographies for me to rummage through. In the same way THPS got me into the punk scene, here's THPS 1 + 2 Remastered rekindling that flame and reminding me that punk isn't dead.
It's wild how THPS has come full circle, capturing nostalgia by giving us what the old games did, but also instilling that same feeling of admiration with skating's new cultural era. Sure, there were attempts to revitalize the series in the more recent past, but this new remastering comes together extremely well because the core gameplay loop is tight and mixes the series' various trick systems appropriately (which my guy Mat Paget lays out eloquently in his review). Vicarious Visions did right by those who wanted a solid, true THPS experience, but that also means it did right by the skaters on the roster who represent the sport today.
I don't think I'm going to take my collector's edition Birdhouse deck and custom build a board with the right trucks, bearings, and wheels to skate again, but I've been refreshed on the scene and realize I'd been missing out. It's cool seeing my generation of folks celebrate THPS 1 + 2 as a superb game and time capsule, but it's just as cool to think that kids who pick it up might identify with it the same way I did when I was young--which I've learned to appreciate all over again thanks to this remaster.