Today, we’re playing 720 on Game boy color.
So the original arcade version of this game came out in 1986 and apparently Tony Hawk thought it was pretty sick.
But I don’t have access to the arcade version. I also didn’t get the NES version.
So I made the tragic mistake of getting this for the Gameboy Color instead. So this is my only experience with this game – and honestly, it doesn’t really make me want to track down the other versions because it’s terrible.
Let me show you what the game is like and you can decide for yourself.
When you start out, you’re this tiny little sprite on screen. This is what it looks like on an actual Gameboy. The character is TINY. And it’s really hard to even see what direction you’re going, and it matters because you can’t push switch. So if you land backward, you either do a half cab or you just push and change directions. But it’s so much more important than that. I’ll talk about the events soon, but they all rely on precision and exact timing. If you can’t even tell if you’re straight or sideways, it gets frustrating real fast. You’re also required to spin in the air to get points, which is almost impossible. I’m sure the arcade version was pretty good, and much more playable, but this is just a mess.
And keep in mind, this is on a Gameboy Advance SP – which has a backlight. The original Gameboy and gameboy color did not. This would basically be a smudge on the screen, and I have no idea what you would even do with it.
So you start the game, and you can skate around town. The controls are really simple. Left and right turn to your character’s left and right. A ollies and B pushes. You can ride around and ollie over stuff, and sometimes you get points. But I can’t tell how you actually earn points no matter how hard I try. You can ollie over a line on screen and get a couple hundred points. Or you can 360 over something and get nothing at all. Even after beating this game, I can’t explain at all how the scoring works. From what I can tell, it’s completely random. Which sucks because of how important it is. And don’t get too crazy right when you start. You’ll just keep dying over and over. But sometimes you get lucky and — wait, what? I just got killed by a pink tumbleweed? What is going on in this game?! Let’s continue and try again. OK, it says to get to a skatepark, so here I am at a skatepark…. Nope, still get brutally murdered by Kirby.
At this point I had to take a break from the game and do some research in how it actually works. I got a cartridge only version for a dollar on ebay, so I didn’t have the manual or anything. I found 720zone.com, which is all about the arcade version, but all the info in it translated to this version, and I finally started to understand what to do with the game.
OK, so there are a few things you have to know here. These skateparks aren’t the skateparks it cares about. These are only here to get points if you don’t get enough in the actual events. The idea here is to go around and complete events, and use the money you get to buy new equipment. When you finish all the events, you start over and everything gets harder. Classic arcade style. But to get into events, you have to have points to buy tickets. This is only a problem if you mess up an event, because there’s no retrying. You’ll get stuck trying to score points outside with fat Buu trying to murder you for no reason. If he does, you get a few continues, but I bet this is just where you put in a quarter in the arcade version.
So what I did is I found a map, this is from the arcade version, and I left it up on my computer while I played. It helped a lot, since you don’t really have time to waste going from event to event. As you can see, the arcade map actually has helpful signs and stuff that just weren’t possible on the gameboy.
Let’s take a look at the events, since these are the whole point of the game. First is the slalom. You’ve got to ride through this course and go through the flags. If you do it successfully, they turn blue. Sometimes it feels like you did it fine and they turn red, signalling that you HIT the flag. The first time you play this, it’s not too bad, but as you get further in the game, these courses get to be more and more crazy. And the big problem is with the ramps. OK, so I’m going to go down this ramp. In theory, I would ride straight, then the angle would change when I hit the ramp, right?
But no. You actually have to treat these ramps like they are just angled bridges to the next area. You can’t ride straight down a ramp or you’ll hit the side. You have to turn with it the way it is relative to the camera. But only sometimes. It feels like you do actually go downhill a little bit on occasion. So it’s really hard to tell what angle you have to hit all these at. Couple that with the fact that you can barely tell which way you’re facing and you’re in for a frustrating time. If you fall too many times, you run out of time and get a bad score. If your score is bad, you have to skate around the city more to earn points to buy a ticket to the next event.
But now that you’ve got some cash earnings from your contest win, you have to hurry up and get to the next level. But you should buy something before you do. There are 4 choices. The helmet will make you stand up quicker when you fall. Pads make you less likely to fall, the shoes will let you ride faster. The skateboard will make you ollie higher.
If you look it up, there are a lot of strategies to getting the best scores, like focusing on the shoes and boards, and saving up for better upgrades faster. I don’t know how that works, because, once you buy one, it’s sold out for a while. My strategy was to just go clockwise around the city. That gave me less time outside and less chance I’d be murdered in the street.
So after the slalom, I hurry over to the Pads shop, and the Jump event. Throughout the city, there are obstacles, like cars and body builders and frogs and stuff. There are more and more of them as you get further in the game. These are actually helpful because you get points for ollieing over them.
Here’s the jump event. It’s basically like a megaramp course, with turns and water hazards. It’s a good idea, but the fact that it’s tough to tell which way you’re facing makes it tough. It doesn’t even start you out straight, for one thing. And don’t forget, this is actual size. To get the most points, you should add in spins when you can. It has to be a 360 though, because 180s and 540s will land you backward and if you push, you’ll just go the other way. You can try to squeeze in some extra points by ollieing down banks and stuff, but again, it’s random whether you get points for that or not. This one is probably the best event though. Not because it’s good, but just because the other ones are worse.
So when you finish that, swing by to buy a board on the way to the downhill event. This one is really weird, and kind of conceptually messed up. So there are these downhill banks that drop off onto each other. You have to ride down, drop to the next bank, then turn. That’s fine, but it doesn’t really make sense with the graphics. If these were actual banks, you could cut the corner here and drop down a couple feet. But the game doesn’t actually consider you being in the air. If you turn off of the side, you reset. So again, just like the slalom, you can’t think about these as banks. This is just an angled path that has a spot you can’t turn on. Think of this area as an oil slick or something and it will all make more sense. Later in this event, you’ll start getting these extra turns and stuff. At this point, the strategy for how you upgraded your character really comes into play. If you put too much into your board and you can turn faster, it gets easier… assuming you can keep up with the timing. You turn SO FAST that it’s really easy to overrotate. But you get used to it. This event starts off pretty good, but when you get a few rounds in, you’ll dread having to go back to it.
Last is the helmet shop and the ramp event.
The ramp event is the worst. Sure, the arcade version of 720 came out in 1986, 2 years before I was even born. It wasn’t the first game in the world to have skateboarding in it, but I think it was the first to actually try to do a halfpipe event. Skate or Die didn’t come out for another year.
But THIS VERSION of the game actually came out in 1999. Street Sk8er was out, and Tony Hawk was going to be released soon. There’s no reason to keep the 1986 gameplay.
Here’s what you do. Push with B. Do tricks with A. That’s it. How do you pick your tricks? You don’t. So you can do inverts and other liptricks sometimes. Every now and then you’ll do a spin. You can try to push on the flat bottom, but be careful that you’re facing the right way. Sometimes you get in a groove where you’re landing straight tricks to fakie, then fakie tricks to regular. Sometimes you spin with the trick. So keep that in mind – pushing might help, but it might hurt too. That’s about all there is to this event. If you don’t have enough speed to do the spin move, there’s almost no chance you’ll get the gold, and there isn’t much you can do about it. The arcade version supposedly has more control options and you can grind and even do handstands, but that doesn’t seem to work here. You’re just at the mercy of what the game decides to do as you hold one button down.
When you’ve completed every event, the game restarts you in the middle of the city and you just keep going. The event courses have all changed, except the half pipe. And that’s about it. Keep beating it, and after 4 rounds, you just get a game over screen. That’s the entire game.
So I’m not going to say that I hate 720, but I hate this version. Just look at it. You can tell it’s crap from the cover art. They couldn’t even use a picture of a real skateboarder.This dude is just grabbing a board in the carpet and they cut him out. For a game that costs $35 in 1999, it’s unforgivably bad. If this was my first contact with skateboarding instead of Tony Hawk 2, I probably never would have started skating.
That said, from what I’ve seen, the arcade version is a lot better. And being 13 years older, it’s more forgivable for the design flaws. If I ever see an actual 720 machine somewhere, I’ll probably give it a few quarters and see what happens.
I’ve been planning on doing a whole series on handheld games, but if they’re all this bad, I don’t know if I want to continue.