@brannox said in The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (January 2023):
To @Oscillator for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3:
Reading through your presentation, I quickly got slightly overwhelmed with the highly technical terminology, and as someone who isn’t into skating, it’s a difficult task for me to become invested when I have no idea what “Vert” and “Street” tricks are. Do you feel THPS 3 is welcoming to newcomers who have no affiliation/knowledge of the shorthand lingo in learning how to play?
Speaking of which, I didn’t really notice much in your presentation how it feels to play and whether or not it’s easier or conversely more difficult to “pick up and play” without prior knowledge. Regarding gameplay systems, what does THPS 3 do that polishes the experience from its predecessors and conversely, does the likes of its direct sequel and the remake of THPS 1+2 offer an easier barrier of entry from a gameplay standpoint that makes THPS 3 not stand up to them as much?
1A. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater brought skateboarding to the masses. While it does use a lot of "foreign" lingo, particularly the names of tricks, all you really need to understand to actually play it are the four central mechanics - Ollie (jump), Grab (grab board when in the air), Flip (jump and flip the board with your feet), and Grind (stand on your board and slide along a railing or edge). These are mapped to the four main face buttons on the controller, making it very intuitive. Which specific moves you perform doesn't matter much aside from a small penalty for doing the exact same one repeatedly. The bulk of moves are accessed by pressing a single direction along with one button press. Special moves get you the most points, and they do require more complex direction/button inputs, but you only need them for optional "Pro" and "Sick" scores and getting optional Silvers and Golds in competition levels.
1B. THPS 2 and THPS 3 each added one additional move to the main moveset, both being linking moves to make longer combos. The manual balances you on two wheels when you're on the ground, and only needs an up/down or down/up direction input. It's typically used to combo together two Grinds whose railings are far apart. The revert is a bit more obtuse, but is the last move you learn in THPS 3's tutorial (which is a fantastic teaching tool for beginners, with a slow pace and explicit directions). When you go up a ramp into the air and come back down, you press the trigger just before hitting the ground to revert (turn the board) and continue your combo, typically with a manual.
1C. Understanding the difference between street tricks (tricks done on or near the ground, like an ollie, manual, flip, or grind) and vert tricks (tricks done in the air from a upwards ramp, typically grabs and spinning around) only matters to the gameplay in that skaters who prefer street or vert have their initial stats adjusted more in that direction, and the one "trick" objective in each level is more suited to them (like a grab instead of a grind). But any skater can perform almost any move (with some restrictions on special moves), and collecting Stat Point tokens in the levels can let you even out the stats.
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2A. The first three THPS games are a very streamlined adaptation of skateboarding into video game form. You accelerate automatically, and can only lose your balance or crash ("bail") attempting tricks or going out of bounds. You have complete freedom to go anywhere in each level and do anything, and can complete as many or as few goals as you want in any order. Difficulty ramps up slowly with each new level unlocked.
2B. The manual in THPS 2 and the revert in THPS 3 were the only significant gameplay features those games added, and both are really comfortable extensions to the formula. THPS 3's tutorial mode acts as a super gentle introduction/refresher for every mechanic in the game.
2C. Aside from extended combos (meaning higher scores) made possible with the manual and revert, the core gameplay is virtually identical through each of the first three Tony Hawk entries. Outside of the revert, the most significant things THPS 3 added are all in my presentation - incredibly improved graphics, bigger and busier levels, slicker presentation including showing you the goals in cutscenes and special setpiece objectives. It's what one always wants in a sequel - the same, but bigger and better, and no disruptions to what made you love the previous entry.
2D. THPS 4, however, is where the disruption started. It moved from 2 minute sessions with a goal list to semi-open world - taking away the arcadey immediacy - and largely continued in that direction until the final proper entry 6 years later. It also started adding mechanics that didn't integrate as smoothly as the manual and revert did.
2E. 1 & 2 Remake in 2020 did strip the gameplay back down to the originals, restoring the 2 minute structure, and appropriately taking out the revert, but keeping the slightly lighter physics & smoother movement featured in THPS 3 onwards and the quick turnaround technique "Wallplant" introduced in later entries. It's a semi-hybrid that largely works, but visually it looks darker and more contrasty than even the original 1 & 2 did, sometimes even making it hard to see your surroundings. It's actually somewhat less of a polished/singular product than THPS 3, with an uneven UI and branding, and some minor new mechanical quirks.