Sunday, April 28, 2019

Extreme Sports

Hey everybody welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth joint. I'm TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series in which I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the medium as a whole. This week we will be talking about some of my favorite extreme sports games so get into it brah.

I was a suburban kid growing up in an upper middle class household in the late 90's and early 2000's so naturally I fit a stereotype. Just like most other kids I fell in love with the Tony Hawk video games which eventually led to a deep dive into a genre of games that is almost completely non-existent in todays gaming scene: extreme sports games. There was a period of time, mostly during the sixth generation of consoles, that I could not get enough of any game that gave me the illusion of extreme sports. Skateboarding, Snowboarding, even regular team sports played in an extreme way, I wanted it all! I was out of ideas this week so I just decided to make a video about some of my favorite extreme sports games. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, SSX Tricky, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix, SSX On Tour, and some honorable mentions are the games that completely consumed my gaming time and convinced me that I could be much much cooler than I ever have or ever will be. So lets take a look at some of these games and what made them great!

Starting off with the big dog, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. Not only is Pro Skater 3 the best Tony Hawk game ever, not only is it the best skateboarding game ever made, Pro Skater 3 is the best sports video game ever made and I will fight anyone that disagrees with me in the comments! Pro Skater 3 refined everything that was already great about Pro Skater 2 which is still considered one of the best video games ever made. Pro Skater 3 does everything that Pro Skater 2 did but bigger and better and it looks better while doing it. Level design, objectives, difficulty, progression, tricks, style, unlockables, cheats from head to toe, start to finish Pro Skater 3 is a damn near flawless game. And after executing on all of that Pro Skater 3 added the revert which with the exception of manuals is the single most important mechanic ever added to the series. Allowing players to string combos together from one quarter pipe to another using a revert to manual to really push those point totals into the stratosphere was nothing short of a stroke of genius. The third entry in the series was also the first to introduce online play on the PS2 and was one of the few games on the PS2 to not require the network adapter for online play. Pro Skater 3 was the epitome of what a generational jump should be for a game series. To this day as we head into the ninth generation of consoles Pro Skater 3 stands as a beacon of quality that all games should strive towards.

Extreme sports consist mostly of people either standing on or strapping boards to their feet so it comes as no surprise that the second most stand out game of the genre is SSX Tricky. Even when the first SSX game was released in 2000 snowboarding as a sport was still in its infancy and as a result snowboarding video games kind of sucked, Cool Boarders 4 was about as good as it got at the time. Come at me 1080 fans. SSX introduced a concept for a new type of snowboarding game, an idea of making snowboarding an even more extreme sport than it already was. While SSX fell short in many ways and wasn’t able to gain a whole lot of traction being a PS2 exclusive about a year after it's release SSX would be succeeded by a follow up that would realize the conceptual basis in almost every way. In late 2001 EA Big released SSX Tricky and snowboarding games would never be the same.

Tricky was the total realization and embracement of a new type of snowboarding game. From the start the developers threw out any sense of realism and immediately acknowledged that SSX was not going to be a sim snowboarding game or even a believable snowboarding game, SSX was going to be a fucking radical snowboarding game! Tricky was so full of life and oozed so much charisma that it was impossible not to be seduced by it, and even if you weren't Tricky didn’t care it was so well established and defined as exactly what it was supposed to be the game, an inanimate object, was more confident and smooth than I have been in my entire life.

Tricky looked great and felt even better. An exaggerated aesthetic gave off the vibe that this snowboarding game was what real snowboarders everywhere wished they could be. Movement felt fast and gratifying, tricks felt so good to pull off and the most extreme ones came with animations that were endlessly rewatchable, and when mashed together the gameplay experience became an incredible contest of who could strike the perfect balance of slowing down to pull off enough tricks to get the boost so they could win the race; lean to far into straight speed or just tricks and any experienced SSX player would cleanup against you. SSX Tricky revolutionized the snowboarding genre of video games to the same extent Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 did for the skateboarding genre. I poured so many hours into SSX, Tricky, 3, and on tour that every year I hope to hear that incredibly obnoxious "EA Big" at E3 and get a reveal for a new SSX game but unfortunately that probably wont ever happen, and if it does it most certainly wont be this year since EA has dipped out of E3 altogether.

Throughout the aughts my consoles were dominated by extreme sports games and I was so engrossed in them that the moment a similar experience was available on handheld I had to have it! And I'm not talking about the Gameboy Advance games or the DS games I'm talking about the handheld that showed everyone and their brother that you were a real "gamer" in junior high, I'm talking about the PSP.

Real quick backstory: When I was in sixth grade my dog had puppies and when we sold them my sister and I got $50 each per puppy. To a sixth grader in 2001 $350 was more money than I could comprehend. I saved that money in a shoebox under my bed for almost three years but then walking home one day in April of 2004 a seventh grader showed my friend and I his PSP and he was playing Tony Hawk's Underground 2. I was impressed but it wasn’t until he showed us that the god awful speaker grill in the bottom left corner of the console was a joy stick that I was blown away. I literally ran home grabbed my money and made my sister drive me to the mall to buy a PSP and THIUG2. Gone was my $350 on a total impulse purchase that I couldn’t have been happier with and when my mom found out that I had spent all my money boy did I get a talking to. My mom hated my PSP.

Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix…it was literally the PlayStation 2 Tony Hawk experience that fit in my pocket. The game made zero concessions! Graphics were amazing, gameplay was amazin, maps were huge and one to one recreations of their home console counterparts, everything was there and suddenly it was everywhere I went on a gigantic 4.3" screen. I played so much THUG2 Remix on that tiny little console I couldn’t have been happier with it. To this day THUG2 Remix specicially is my second favorite Tony Hawk game because of its flawless experience on a handheld. In fact in preparing for this video I watched several graphical comparison videos of THUG 2 and THUG 2 Remix and I still have trouble distinguishing between the two. That game was truly a triumph and a giant leap for handheld gaming.

But THUG 2 Remix wasn’t the only extreme sports game that the PSP gave me on the go, I also played SSX On Tour on my PSP almost nonstop when it was released. While I don’t have nearly as fond of memories of SSX on PSP as I do of Tony Hawk on PSP I do remember it being a very good game. On Tour offered a deep immersive experience with many different game modes, courses, objectives, characters and of course the patented SSX attitude all on a tiny UMD. In fact I owned and played literally dozens of games on my PSP but the ones that really cemented themselves in my mind as synonymous with the console were THUG 2 Remix, Need For Speed Underground Rivals, and SSX On Tour. I know I just mentioned it before when I was talking about Tricky but please EA I'm begging you please bring SSX back on Nintendo Switch.

So now I've spent the vast majority of this video talking about SSX and Tony Hawk games and well this is supposed to be a video about extreme sports games in general. So I'm about to rattle off some honorable mentions that I would love to see make a comeback in some capacity.

Amped: a more realistic snowboarding game that was still crazy fun and leaned more into real world snowboarding culture as the games progressed.

Skate: the skating game that finally toppled the titan Tony Hawk with innovative gameplay and finely tuned mechanics.

NHL Hitz: 3v3 hockey on the moon in big head mode 'nuff said.

All the Mario sports games: I know we got Tennis Aces last year but what about golf, hoops, and super strikers? The EA street series left a hole in a lot of peoples hearts that Nintendo could easily fill.

For many of us video games have played a huge role in our lives and it may sound stupid to say but some extreme sports games have contributed in a very significant way to my becoming who I am as a person. I skateboarded throughout all of middle school and while I wasn’t good at it I did get to the point in skating that can only be achieved through practice and that was all because of the Tony Hawk games. I snowboarded for 13 years and when I wasn’t able to be on the mountain playing SSX kept me involved and thirsty for more driving my love for the sport. My taste in music and even my personal sense of fashion are still an evolution of what I chose as an anti-establishment teenager. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic these games are part of what made me who I am today. EA, Activision, Neversoft (rest in peace) please bring extreme sports games back. The list of game announcements that could make my head explode is short but on that list is definitely Tony Hawk's Underground 3, and a new SSX game.

Did you guys love extreme sports games as much as I did? Which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comments down below. While you're down there don’t forget to hit that subscribe button for a new video and two new podcasts ever week. Don’t forget to check out our website for everything we do all in one spot. If you're still here seriously thank you for watching my video, this is just a hobby of mine right now but I'm hoping to work in games media some day so everyone that subscribes and watches you're the ones that are encouraging me to keep going every week. Thanks. Ill be back next week talking about Remote Play so until then just go play some games.

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