Skating nostalgia in HD

It was recently announced that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 would be remastered in HD. You can check their trailer on their Youtube channel if you want, but you already know what’s there. Game that looks like the originals, just with higher polygon count and such. We can’t say if the play is the same, but seeing how easily that can be fucked up, I wouldn’t hold my breath. We already got part of this game as THPS HD and it was terrible. Not as terrible as THPS5, but close enough. If we’re completely honest, despite American Wasteland was pretty damn well playing, its levels were rather stale and we could ignore the franchise from Downhill Jam onwards. With the death of the Xtreme Sports craze the IP really went to hell and nobody really cared about it, not even the fans. Why play worse sequels when you had at least five high calibre games already? That, and Skate already had stolen THPS’ thunder for the time being, when realism became the thing to have in sports games. Oh yeah, THPS HD also got levels from the third game, but that game’s gone, and you can’t even play THPS5 proper any more due to expired license.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is deeply damaged franchise, IP and brand. Consumers have frond memory of playing the original games, and most have missed the latter day titles before the HD remake, which damaged the series even further. Gaining back customer confidence is a high bar, and the best way is to appeal to their emotional connections. A remake makes about as much sense as the remakes of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro did. You have an existing consumer base already there to take advantage of. It’s testing ground to see if there are enough sales to push a new entry out, or so the marketing would like to hint, but remakes like this are really a safe bet. A team might need to work out how to take assets out and all that, but that’s “just” the technical bit. Everything regarding the games’ designs are already finished, all you need to do is replicate them. If you have assets from somewhere, you can just use them as the basis. You could go and fuck with the designs and all, but by doing that we’d have to ask what’s the point of remaking something like that rather than make a new entry? Nostalgia, of course. Remakes are new products relying on old proved ideas, but the rest can be changed as the team wants.

All that is why THPS 1 and 2  has that name. It wants to emphasize what it is and what it’s remaking without referencing the whole HD entry. Well, it might get a name change down the line, but that’s neither here or there for the moment. To make it short, there are less risks in remaking the first two titles. They are very fondly remembered, they have a place in sports and video game culture histories and looking at the reception, there is a large number of consumers on a nostalgia trip and wanting to get their hands on it already, some wondering why the games hadn’t had a remake already. Well, I did say some people missed THPS5 and the HD entry altogether, so that at least seems to be on spot. Some are begrudging about it being Epic Store exclusive on PC, but hey, that’s just competition in the end. This remake compilation of the first two games have relatively low expectations threshold, as all you really need to do is make the game play like the originals and not fuck with the physics or rules. THPS2 has the Big Drop mechanics, in which a fall from too high would always make a landing fail. This simply can’t exist in the first game’s stages, as some rely those high drops. This was issue in THPS HD, so chances are it either gets removed like it did in the later games. THPS6 would have high expectations, as it would need to meet with the best level designs to this point in the series history as well as have a great soundtrack, with spot-on play. That is much higher ordeal, and if THPS6 is ever going to be reality, testing the waters a bit first seems like a more logical business decision. It also shows how risk averse the publisher is being as well as how little faith they have in the brand.

In larger context, the way these HD remakes have been successful tells us few basic things. First is that these PlayStation related brands are still strong and could be taken further as long as future games stuck very close to the core of the games rather than trying to push the envelope too much. Scrap that, you can push the envelope without reinventing the wheel. Secondly, Sony mismanaged their PlayStation Classic like no other. Sony has so many important brands associated with PlayStation in the public’s mind, but something like THPS must be a licensing nightmare thanks to all the skaters and music involved. There is no easy way around that but money. Then again Sony has a rule that their Classics games on PSN must be the exact same to their original releases, meaning Capcom had to re-license soda drink brand they used in Mega Man Legends. Of course they didn’t want to dish that dosh for the mini and its selection was trash. At least you can hack the device and put something worthwhile on it and remove the subpar emulator.

As usual with game trailers, it’s better to sit back and wait until something that represents that actual game’s play pops up. Maybe going for nostalgia in THPS case is the right thing to do, even after the THPS HD did that already. Clean the air, let some of the bad blood out from the system. I doubt even strong sales would convince the higher powers to allow a development of a whole new THPS title, but you never know. Just wait until you see what’s coming. In the meanwhile, I guess I’ll pop my copy of THPS2 into Dreamcast and relieve some stress.

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