Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (PS1)

In further anticipation of the upcoming Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, here we continue from the original Pro Skater game and into its sequel, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Though the Pro Skater series had begun running on an annual release schedule, this game takes the concepts introduced in the first and expands upon them in a number of areas, creating a more solid experience from a technical standpoint, though it’s not without its flaws.

The general gameplay is largely the same as the first Pro Skater game, including the format of competitions interspersed between levels, except with a number of changes and improvements. The variety of moves has been greatly expanded upon, with additional combo moves as well as a number of lip tricks that can be pulled off on the edge of a quarter- or half-pipe. Most notably, the Manual, in which you perform a balancing act with the board on a level surface, is also introduced as a potential combo extender, allowing the player to pull off even more moves in a row for a larger point multiplier.

The game also greatly expands the number of goals per stage, some of which can be harder to complete than others depending on design or skill level, as well as the introduction of cash. Cash can be earned by completing goals and placing in competitions, as well as simply finding wads of them scattered across the stage. Aside from earning enough to unlock even more stages, cash can also be used to upgrade your skater’s stats and purchase new decks to upgrade the stats of the board. You can also purchase additional tricks, however I generally ignored those due to their higher price in comparison to boards and stats.

The lineup of playable pro skaters is similar to the original, with the addition of three new skaters in Eric Koston, Steve Caballero and Rodney Mullen. The ability to create your own skater and skate park are added to this game as well, though I did not explore this feature during my playthrough. Additionally, this game features the ability to unlock Spider-Man as a playable character; while I haven’t been able to unlock him, which can be achieved by performing a career with a custom skater and getting 100%, Spider-Man imagery can be found in some places, such as the first competition in Marseilles, France.

Manuals allow for longer combos and add a lot more gameplay variety.

This game sees the introduction of moving stage hazards in some levels, such as a par of taxi cabs in New York and a golf cart driver in School II. While this is meant to provide some amount of challenge and (presumably) add more liveliness to the environment, said hazards can often be a bit annoying to run into. Some stages such as Philadelphia have a similar type of hazard that’s easier to avoid, though while in that stage I faced another issue in the form of an audio glitch, where during a run it will play the default skateboarding noise on a loop for entirety of the two-minute time limit outside of menus. This is an issue that can likely occur at any time, though thankfully it can be resolved by simply starting a new run.

Coming just a year after the first game, Pro Skater 2 has greatly improved visuals, with more detailed skaters and environments that look more realistic by PlayStation 1 standards. Though levels are generally bigger this time around, there’s also a much better, though still visible, draw distance that doesn’t disrupt the flow of gameplay. On a more minor note, the main menus in the game are also more detailed and livelier than its predecessor. While skater bios can be found in the manual of the original Pro Skater, here they can also be viewed in the skater select screen.

While the quality of a game’s soundtrack is entirely subjective, I would consider this one a little better than the original Pro Skater, mainly for a couple reasons. While it wouldn’t be the last, this is the first Pro Skater soundtrack to feature a song from one of the Big Four of Thrash Metal, specifically Anthrax’s collaboration with rap group Public Enemy, “Bring the Noise”. It’s also the first of multiple games in the series to feature a song by Bad Religion, “You”, and this series is what got me started on listening to Bad Religion in the first place. Along with “Bring the Noise” and “You”, my other personal favorites from this game’s soundtrack include “Blood Brothers” by Papa Roach and “When Worlds Collide” by Powerman 5000.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is a vast improvement over its predecessor in a number of ways. The improved graphics allow for greater immersion in a stage and the greatly-expanded moveset allows for a much wider variety of tricks to pull off. While it is a direct sequel to the original, the game is designed such that you can easily just skip the original and jump right into this one, though whether or not you choose to do so is left up to personal preference.

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