Tony Hawk and I May Have Gotten Older, but We’ve Both Still Got It

The skateboarding/reliving your adolescence sim known as the remastered Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 released at 9:00 PM on September 3rd. At approximately 9:01 PM, one whole musical note into the Guerrilla Radio scored hype video kicking off the game, I found that I was 14 years old again and ready to shred. This remaster is somehow more than we had any right to even hope for. It exists as a nostalgia bomb that feels both entirely new and completely familiar at the same time because it truly has managed to get wiser as it got older. Perhaps most importantly, though, it’s also the ultimate excuse to revisit that tiny streak of rebellion the originals bestowed upon this former President of the mathletes that could only come from such a glorious Punk and Ska filled soundtrack, and it gave my aging self another chance to keep searching for that one, perfect line to skate.

airwalk

Playing THPS 1+2 is a thrilling lesson in just how long muscle memory can last. Within minutes I found myself pulling off progressively longer combos, twistier spins, and lengthier grinds, and I felt like the series had never left me. Sure, I wouldn’t reach the height of my virtual skateboarding prowess until the skater I created in my likeness unlocked some stat points, but I was definitely back in my element from the early going. Hell, it even felt great to just dick around on the board while listening to the iconic soundtrack, but I had bigger plans in store.

Part of what makes this series so enduring is the constant search to one-up both yourself and your friends. There’s always a more pristine line or a lengthier combo that feels just out of your reach that you’ll never stop thriving for. Nothing epitomizes this feeling for me more than a seemingly never-ending combo battle I waged with a friend of mine in Tony Hawk Underground throughout Freshman year of college. What started as a simple 100k point combo, quickly ballooned into the millions and found us waking each other up in the middle of the night to claim victory until the next time the competition had a chance to play. Eventually, I ended things with a 12 million point combo that, in my I’m sure not at all embellished memory, took 10 minutes to perform and surely must have left my thumbs in tiny casts for months to recover. From there the only place to go was to try actual skateboarding, and, well, that was pretty freaking hard, so we gave up quickly.  The games would eventually start to lose popularity and quality, leading to me departing the series after 2004’s Tony Hawk Underground 2, but 16 years later, the remaster gave me one last chance to chase the dragon.

pogo

It’s this spirit of striving for perfection (or “Pretending I’m a Superman“) that has really made my time in THPS 1+2 everything I could have hoped it would be. I may not have friends in my dorm to trade tricks with, but an extremely robust list of online multiplayer features make sure that doesn’t matter and adds endless replay-ability to the game. The high-stress world of speedrunning levels has never felt more accessible than it does here, and that is where I have truly transformed my achy thumbs back into those of a teenager.

Twenty-one years after my first foray into the world of virtual skateboarding, I can at last say I have achieved true excellence and finally found the perfect line. It all occurred a little over a week ago on the notorious momentum deathtrap known as Downhill Jam. As the name implies, the course sends you barreling downhill at breakneck speeds atop a dam. Each movement must be incredibly precise or you’ll find you’ve shot right past your target and plummeting toward failure.

grind

My initial speedrun attempt was fairly basic and nothing extraordinary at all. In 5 wholly unremarkable minutes, I completed all 10 of the level’s goals and thought I was done with the feared course. But a little voice in my head kept nagging at me, telling me there was a real chance to achieve something special here and make my past self proud. With a little more careful planning, I cut my time to almost 2 minutes, the standard time given to a level and the benchmark by which every speedrun should be held. Still though, it felt like a missed opportunity. I knew I could be better; I had practiced for years for this. What happened next was 3 grueling hours of pushing my hands and my sanity to the limits as I tried to break the Tony Hawk Sound Barrier and be perfect for just once.

Lost run after lost run, I kept battling the breakneck speeds and split-second decision making required in this nefarious track. Slowly, but surely I got more and more efficient and robotic in performing each task, hitting each jump at just the right height and angle, slowing down just enough to magically knock an unsuspecting valve into the abyss or tilting just right to grind toward a far off letter or Madonna across a treacherous gap, until, at last, the muscle memory all clicked and victory was mine. When it all finally came together, my time stood at a mere 104 seconds, good for 34th in the world at that moment and enough to briefly placate my desire for virtual skateboarding immortality for at least a few days. The sigh of relief I breathed at that moment wasn’t just for the three hours I spent pushing my hands to their gaming limits that night, it was for ever hand cramp the Tony Hawk series had given me over the last two decades.

In many ways, both Tony Hawk and I have changed a lot in the ensuing years, but it’s good to know you can always come home to your favorites like you never left. We may have a lot more aches than we used to, but we can still show the young-ins or thing or two when given the chance. Video games may have come a long way since 1999, but nothing quite has that same thrill and sense of rebellion that landing a flawless 900 to a Goldfinger song does to this day.

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