Hello all! Last week’s game was based on a movie, and against tradition, it was better than the film!

This week’s game is a little different from the usual games I cover.

Starring Tony Hawk and others.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out in 1999 and was the skateboarding game to own. Never mind that skateboarding games were few and far between, not to mention they sucked. Hawk brought with it genius controls, great level design, and a soundtrack everyone either loves or hates.

Everyone knows about the whole Pro Skater series; it peaked somewhere around Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 before becoming something of a relic of days past, with the final nail in the coffin being the clearly incomplete, twenty-five-percent-of-a-game THPS 5. Safe to say the series is irrelevant now, much like skateboarding video games in general.

So. I could tell you all about the classic games, like how they control perfectly, and there’s nothing quite like a game that controls perfectly. Or the levels, how some are memorable and contain secrets and what not. Or how you could play as Spider-Man and Darth Maul (this would be Maul’s best appearance ever, because he sucks in Episode 1. Seriously). But for me, the game remains memorable for a different reason.

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See, each Tony Hawk game includes a mode called Free Skate, which is exactly what it sounds like: you get to skate around ine of the levels as long as you want. THPS is structured like an arcade game; complete as many goals as you can within two-minute plays. But Free Skate offered no such goals; you just...skated around. Did tricks, see how long you could grind a rail, etc.

As a kid dealing with junior high, and later high school, I found Free Skate incredibly peaceful, and effective in helping me just...kind of turn off my brain for a bit. It was relaxing; here was a game I could just hang out in, with no pressure to do anything at all. I could just skate around and see what’s what. Grind this rail, see if I could get to the top of that building. None of it was for any sort of traditional reward gamers expect, in the form of new levels or characters—you unlocked that in the main game. You didn’t unlock anything in Free Skate, and you didn’t need to. I, for one, didn’t want to—I just wanted to goof off.

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I kind of needed it way back—turns out skating around aimlessly in a video game was tremendously effective in dealing with depressed moods and anxiety. It’s part of why I love games that...I love all sorts of games, but at times, it’s great to play a free-roaming game and just drive, fly, or skate around. Particularly something like THPS; I could do cool things if I wanted to, or I could just do nothing while still feeling like I was doing something, you know? It was a more peaceful way to unwind than most games; there were...no, there are days where I don’t want to unwind by blowing up everything in sight, nor do I have the mental capacity to deal with something emotional and deep.

That’s where something like THPS comes in; Free Skate was—is—oddly soothing, and modes like that help me forget my stuff, at least for a bit. I kinda miss THPS because of that; I have EA’s Skate but it’s too intense, control wise, to be relaxing. THPS had a simple but phenomenal control scheme that kept it fun, but demanding if you wanted to do cooler stuff.

I guess I’ll never get a game like THPS again, but I do okay roaming around GTA, Elder Scrolls, etc. Kinda wish those games let me skateboard, though. Sometimes.

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Next Week-Let’s talk about a PS2 game with a somewhat unique combat system and a neat art style, which we’ll call “M-Rated Disney.” Happy guessing!