There are, essentially, two different approaches to creating a new work that hopes to hook consumers with nostalgia. The first (employed by the likes of Star Wars: Episode IX—The Rise of Skywalker) involves dangling memories in front of you with no rhyme or reason and essentially saying, “See this thing? You remember this thing, right? It’s a thing you loved before! Here it is again! Why? Don’t think about that too much. Enjoy your fleeting dopamine rush!”
The second approach, exemplified by the likes of Stranger Things, requires a lot more work, but the results speak for themselves. Yes, Stranger Things could, in a sense, be considered little more than a mashup of popular ’80s properties—The
Goonies meets Poltergeist meets Firestarter by way of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, with a bit of Stand by Me and Fletch thrown in for extra seasoning. But the reason the series works, even for those who’ve never seen the movies and TV shows that inspired it, is that Stranger Things evokes rather than apes. It captures the feelings we old folks associate with those classic works without being beholden to the things that have made them age less-than-gracefully in some cases. Stranger Things is a thoughtfully scripted love letter; Episode IX is, by contrast, a hastily scribbled note that reads, “I like you do you like me? Check yes or no.”
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, a reimagining of the first two video games in the iconic skating series from the ’90s and early aughts, is another example of nostalgia done right. And yes, I know gaming isn’t normally in our wheelhouse here at Cineluxe, but the dividing line between movies and TV series on the one hand and video games on the other is shrinking every year, so much so that if you haven’t picked
up a controller since, oh, around the time the original Tony Hawk games were released, I think you’ll be shocked to see just how cinematic these interactive experiences have become.
Rather than merely slap a fresh coat of paint on the first two games in the series (as Activision did with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD in 2012), Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a ground-up recreation of the original games, not as they actually
existed, but rather as they exist in the rose-colored memories of players who devoured them 20 years ago on the original PlayStation.
But look a little closer and you’ll realize that the designers of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 weren’t completely beholden to every aspect of the original design. The underlying architecture has been updated and smoothed over. And perhaps most importantly, the new graphics boast up to 4K resolution and glorious HDR lighting that makes old favorite locations like Marseille Skatepark feel downright real in a way older video game systems simply couldn’t have dreamt of pulling off. I daresay the HDR lighting effects are better in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 than anything Hollywood is cranking out these days.
The original environments from the first two Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games are all included, and thankfully, all of the elements in every stage—every ramp, rail, half-pipe and curb and roof ledge—are exactly where I remember them
being. Which means all of the old combos that exist in my muscle memory still flow straight out of the controller like they did back in the day, just with a little extra flourish.
Even the soundtrack has been updated in such a way that it barely feels updated. Classic tracks like Rage Against the Machine’s “Guerilla Radio,” Goldfinger’s “Superman,” Primus’ “Jerry was a Racecar Driver,” and Papa Roach’s “Blood Brothers” are all here, and all serve as absolute proof that pop music was simply better in the ’90s than it is now. (And no, that’s not just the nostalgia talking.)
Amazingly, though, there are some new soundtrack selections that are such a good fit, a few of them have actually altered my memories of playing the originals. I swear to you, I can vividly remember playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater back in the day
while bopping my head to “Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest. You can chalk that up to the Mandela Effect, I suppose. All I can say is that the team behind this remake must have thought “Can I Kick It?” should have been part of the THPS soundtrack all along, and they’re absolutely right.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, though, is that as with Stranger Things, it’s not merely a cheap nostalgia kick. Even if you never played the original games back in the day, there’s so much to love
here. So much so that I’m half convinced it’s the best new game of 2020, at least so far. It combines the best aspects of retro and modern gaming, and thankfully leaves the worst aspects of both in the dustbin.
In other words, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 absolutely works as its own thing. Sure, we old-school fans get a bit of an extra smile as a bonus. Our fond memories exist as a little extra flavor on top of a wholly enjoyable new experience. But the nostalgic element is just that: An extra. A bonus. It’s not the only thing going for Stranger Things, and it’s far from the only thing going for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. This is how you do nostalgia right.
Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.