Hey guys, today we’re going way back to 1998 and looking at the first skateboarding game on the Playstation – Street Sk8er.
Welcome to Rad Rat Video! 3 times a week, we learn something new about skateboarding. From trick histories to answering your questions on my AskRadRat series, to learning about classic skateboarding games, like Street Sk8er. This game is absolutely tiny. These days, you might find something with more content on the app store for a buck, but I still think it’s worth checking out. Let’s take a look at it.
Street Sk8er came out in October 1998 in Japan, and spring 99 in the US. That makes it the first home released console skateboarding game since 1990. I don’t know of any skating games at all during the 16-bit era. There was Top Skater in arcades in 97, but that doesn’t really compete. I want to take a look at that later if I can figure out how to play it without there being an actual arcade machine around here locally. There was also 2Xtreme in 96, but even though it has skateboards in it, I wouldn’t really call it a “skateboarding game”.
So let’s get into the game. There really isn’t that much going on with it. I beat it pretty thoroughly in a day. But I had a pretty good time with it. So, you have the street tour, and free skate. Let’s take a look at street tour. It’s a very short tour, and it’s not really ‘street’ either.
So you pick your character, and even your outfit, sort of. You basically just get different filters on your outfit so the colors are ever so slightly different. It’s not much, but they at least put a tiny bit of effort into it. These characters all have slightly different stats, but it doesn’t make much difference. You earn stats as you go, so you can level them all out if you want to. And you probably will want to. I tried to make characters with more extreme stats, and it never really works out that well. These guys also have their own soundtrack. I played with it turned off for copyright reasons, but there’s some pretty good 90s punk stuff in here. It’s not bad. But when each character has 4 or 5 songs, they can get pretty repetitive.
But playing with the sound off, I got to enjoy the announcer a little more. He’s really enthusiastic and even though he only has a few things to say, I don’t really hate him that much. It’s kind of entertaining.
You have 3 levels here. Technically 6, with the bonus stages, but not really. The way this game works is pretty confusing. The goal is to get a high score, but you also have a timer you have to beat. So it’s kind of a race, but there aren’t any other racers, and you’re not really going for a fast time either. Your best bet is to just barely make the time and squeeze in as many tricks as you possibly can. And the actual ‘racing’ isn’t very exciting. You hold down circle to crouch and go faster. And you can ollie with X. Square will make you slow down. But this isn’t Gran Turismo. It’s not like you have to brake right before a turn and squeeze around this corner with the perfect line, or lean in to get a little extra grip. So these parts of the level are basically wasted time. Like here. There’s a bumpy gravel path you have to cut through. There’s no technique to it, like in Cool Boarders 2 where there’s a button to unweight and glide over the bumps. You just ride, hit some arrow buttons to stay straight, and that’s it. This is kind of a weird game design choice, and it really dates the game. Compare this to Tony Hawk. There are some downhill levels, but it’s not like you HAVE to complete the level. You can just find a spot you like and skate there. That’s not how this one works. This balance is pretty annoying. You get some bonus points for finishing a level early, but it’s not nearly as much as you could get by using that time doing tricks.
Unfortunately, you have very little control over your tricks. Both – where you do them, and what tricks they actually are.
So the game is called Street Sk8er, but you’re not really skating street… You’re racing through these levels, but you can only do tricks on approved ramps. Like these vert ramps, and the kickers in the paths. So, stuff like this big rock won’t do anything if you ollie off of it. When the only goal of the level is to get a high score, then you have to maximize all of your air time and hit every ramp the right amount of times. The score will go down the more you skate the same area, but since there are only a few different places to do tricks, it can take a bit of planning.
But it’s not just the location of the tricks that you can’t control, it’s the tricks themselves that you can’t really control either. The first few times I played through the game, I didn’t even know you could affect the tricks at all. It seems like you just hit X at the lip, and something happens. Later, I read through the manual, and apparently if you hit different directions, you’ll do different tricks. But it only seems like you kind of help affect what you do instead of actually doing it. It might be hard to tell from the footage, but I’m not really doing anything here. Basically everything is a special trick. And every character has their own set of tricks. The game brags about there being 200 tricks in the game, but I think they’re counting switch tricks separately. Because there really aren’t that many. Let’s take a look at some of these.
You’ve got stuff like Backside 180, Frontside 180, and 180 tail grab. These are lower level tricks, as you can see here on the screen. I played through the game a bunch of times, and I can’t really explain what this means and how it works. The first time you play through the game, you can only do tricks up to a certain level, but it goes up the second time through. The higher level stuff gets pretty intense, like McTwists! This is actually the opposite of a McTwist though. It’s frontside and inverted forward, like a front flip. But most stuff is at least pretty accurate. You’ve got nosegrinds and K-grinds. 720 shove it to nosebone. Frontside 360 late backside 360, which is physically impossible. Then there are the crazy spins and multiple flips. The grab names are usually pretty good. All in all, I’m not too offended by any of the tricks in the game. I just wish I was allowed to actually control them. The monkey has some crazier stuff, but he’s a monkey, so it’s cool. He’s got this crazy 720 alpha flip thing. He can also put his skateboard right through his head too. But the thing about these tricks is that you can’t bail them. If you ollie and you do a trick, you’re guaranteed to land it. You won’t land sideways or under flipped or anything, but this is fine. Since you can’t really control the tricks that much, it would really suck if you bailed them.
Each time you beat a level, you get the chance to go to a bonus level. There’s a big air event, vert and pool. The big air is just about getting the highest single air that you can, and is about 98% dependent on your stats, and 2% about your timing. Vert and pool mode are basically the same thing. You just ollie and tricks will happen. In all of these events, you’re scored and given some extra time on the next event. This lets you spend extra time in the right areas and get extra points in the next level. It helps a lot.
You beat the third level… and it’s over. The first time you win, you’ll get some new pathways. There are gates in the level and they’ll open so you get these extra shortcuts and things like that. They aren’t all that helpful though. This one that you get just basically goes around the entire halfpipe area, and you get to the end really fast. Since there isn’t much of a bonus for ending fast, there’s no reason to ever go this way. If you look up strategies online, some people have spent a lot of time trying to figure out the perfect routes. And it might help to experiment on occasion. There are a lot of times I was stuck for a while because I just couldn’t get enough points. The second time you play through, the goals will go up, and it can get pretty tough. But I got through it without going too crazy with strategy.
When you beat the street tour again, you get the secret characters, like the monkey. Most of these are just more generic characters. There’s no reason to care about these guys – it’s not like they’re based on anything or have amazing stats. They just play like everybody else.
If you beat the game a third time, the game tells you you’re the greatest skater. How sweet.
Beating the game with secret characters unlocks more decks, including ones by Powell. And you get mirrored levels and different times of day. With the gate changes too, the levels can feel pretty different. But all you can do is play this in free skate mode. It’s cool, but there’s no motivation to do this that much.
One thing that you’ll notice as you go is that the difficulty of these levels varies a lot. The first and third levels are the hardest, but the middle one is really easy. This one has a ramp that’s impossible to skate. Even though there’s a similar one that you can do tricks off of easily, this one just makes you bail instantly. You just have to stop and turn around at the top. Also, sometimes your tricks just won’t work. It doesn’t happen very often, and it’s probably just the awkward control. You hold circle as you ride, then you have to let go of it and hit X at the same time. Maybe I just screw it up sometimes, but it seems like I ollie and then just don’t do a trick. This sucks, because missing one ramp can ruin your score.
But honestly, even with these issues, it’s still pretty fun. I know it’s not really a ‘good’ game these days, but I think old stuff from this era has a lot of charm. It’s fun to see what they came up with, and see how this lead into the games we got later.
Street Sk8er was really influential, and I think we, as skateboarders, owe this game a lot. Even though a lot of us never heard about it, or weren’t skating back then. But here’s the thing. If you’ve seen the trailer for “Pretending I’m a Superman”, you see some early footage and interviews about the first Tony Hawk game. And it sounds a LOT like Street Sk8er. They talk about making a level that you race through with a skatepark at the bottom. That’s basically the same as this game. There are some spots spread out throughout the level, but it’s still based in that racing mindset.
So it seems almost like Tony Hawk started as a Street Sk8er clone. Maybe they even gained the confidence to make this game based on EA doing it first. Luckily, they realized in development that people liked the skatepark stuff a lot more than the racing part, and they were able to distill out all that stuff and come out with Tony Hawk 1 – which lead to millions of people picking up a skateboard – including me. So a lot of us were indirectly influenced by this game. And because of that historical significance, I think it’s pretty cool to have it in the collection. It’s only about 3 bucks anyway. And it’s a good way to kill an afternoon. You aren’t going to get much more out of it than that though. If you’re in Europe, it’s downloadable on PSN, and it’s actually spelled correctly, without the super radical 8.
After this, there was a sequel, Street Sk8er 2. I reviewed this as one of my very first videos on this channel, so check it out if you want, but the audio quality is not great. I’ve come a long way since then. But in general, it plays pretty much the same, but the levels are a bit longer and more varied, and you have more control over what trick you’re doing. So it’s a pretty nice upgrade, but it’s really out of date these days. If you’re really bored of Tony Hawk games, and you love original Playstation stuff too, then you might as well grab this one too. I think this one set me back about 4 bucks.
If you’ve played this game before, let me know. And if you know about any other skateboarding games from this time period that I’ve missed, I’d like to hear about those too. I don’t think there were any on the Saturn or the 3DO, but I could be wrong. Let me know about that in the comments.