Skate or Die Ultra 1988 13 percent (Very Common)

"Before Tony Hawk, there was Bionic Lester!"

Nowadays, we are blessed with a lot of great games in the extreme sports area. Who hasn't heard of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series? Anyway, long before that, in the early days of video gaming, the dream of an excellent skating game existed in all gamers' and game developers' minds. The only problem was, making a diverse and functional skating game with all the attitude and entertainment from the real world proved to be a huge challenge. At least I suppose it did, judging from the poor quality most skateboarding games had at this time. However, there was one game that managed to find something to hold on to and escape drowning. That game was Skate Or Die, developed by Ultra, released by Konami in 1988.

Skate Or Die never became a classic, and it is in fact not a game superior in all parts. But it did turn out to be possibly the only solid and really entertaining skateboard game of the old-school video game consoles. Skate Or Die was simply a game that you could have hours of fun with. Almost every important aspect you require in a skateboarding game was there. It had attitude, great graphic design and music that fit the atmosphere, used the correct language, and most of all, it covered a lot of fields of the skateboarding world.

Skate Or Die puts the player in the skateshop of the local town. He is the average wannabe kid, burning to score high in all the skating events, and earn respect and reputation around town. The game contains five different skateboard events held within three different classes: The first class takes place in a half-pipe ramp, and consist of either a freestyle ride-n-glide trick making event, or a high jump game. The second class is located in two different downhill districts, and is made up of a trick-based race event, and an event titled "jam", which is more focused on thrashing the environment and beating up your opponent rather than making fancy tricks. The final class has just one event, and is a battle in an empty pool with an opponent, on your skateboards, with paddles.

Five events aren't much, but the way Skate Or Die shapes them is very impressive. In the ramp freestyle event, you have ten "runs" on you to do as many and cool tricks as possible. The game holds an impressive amount of tricks for an old system, all with different looks and challenge level. The controls are excellent, and the adrenaline is sparkling as you approach the edge hoping to succeed in pulling off the next trick. Are you going to stick with the easy and safer ones, or do you dare to take on the crazy and dangerous trick? It is up to you. When playing this event, you get a feel for how a real skateboarder must feel when he or she rides a ramp.

Same goes for the two downhill events. In the race event, you blaze down the city park on time, doing various tricks on whatever items you find in your way. Ramps, pipes, fences, water pits, gratings etc. The music is cool and upbeat, the graphics are flashy, and you can almost feel the wind in your hair. The jam event is a darker version, taking place in a torn out slum neighbourhood with an opponent. You ride down the streets trying to kick and punch your opponent into submission, while shattering glass bottles and trash cans. The raw music and the cruel look on your faces truly add atmosphere.

The pool joust event is cool too, but a bit boring and stiff. You can choose to fight against three different opponents, who all have their own names, quotes and pictures. However, that's the only thing that they differ in. I suppose that the guys are supposed to represent different levels of challenge, but I really couldn't find any difference. While the guys look different on the menu screen, they all look the same when you fight, which makes the choice of opponent even more pointless. The pool event is fun for a while, and the way you laugh when you have knocked down your opponent is funny. Still, this event is not as good as it could have been. The final event remaining now is the high jump, which is so boring and useless that you won't give it a second chance.

And that's it folks! What?! Nothing more? Nope! That is everything Skate Or Die gives us. While having a perfect basic concept, Skate Or Die forgot to add the more advanced parts. There is no tournament option, except for a lousy "compete all" round that simply lets you play all the five events one after another without having to go back to the menu in between. There is no career development, which I of course won't demand from a game as old as this, but some sort of an indicator on how good you are would have been cool. It would have been enough if the guy in the shop at the beginning just would have changed his comments when you had scored high. When you return after having received a perfect 15 000 points in the ramp freestyle, and having beaten his son Bionic Lester in both the pool joust and jam event, he still uses the same insults as he did in the beginning.

Furthermore, the whole idea of the skateshop is useless. You can never buy anything in it, and as there is no tournament available, there is also no prize money to earn. You can choose between "practice mode" and "competition mode", but the only difference is that your scores will be noted only in competition mode, and that you in the practice mode have the ability to play the event again without being sent back to the skateshop. There are no more levels and scenes for the five events. I would have wanted either more separate events, or different levels for each event (particularly the downhill ones).

Still, I would have accepted all these drawbacks, if the high scores would have remained when turning off the console, BUT THEY DON'T! Every time you quit the game, you lose all your high scores. That was the final straw. If the scores had remained, you could have used Skate Or Die as an eternal party game trying to improve your high score. Many smaller games serve this purpose, and it works. But Skate Or Die fails even in this simple aspect.

I am furious, because the company could easily have fixed this if they just had put a little more effort in it, but they didn't. All I wanted was to keep my high scores, and have some sort of a tournament mode, with prize money, and the ability to buy new stuff in the shop. Those ingredients would have made this game an eternal classic, and given it a grade above the one it now gets. Skate Or Die is a good game, but JUST a good game. Nothing else. It is very fun to play for a while, and the whole aura of skateboarding is in it, manifested in the raw music, the colourful graphics and the harsh language. But it never made it to the higher levels. Skate Or Die earns the grade just because it is a well-made and entertaining game, and one of the few acceptable old-school skating games. I do recommend it, but I would be surprised if you play it for more than a week.

If Konami ever looks back on their products, and wonders why this one never gave them the huge amount of money they yearned for, this review holds the answer.

Reviewer's Score: 7/10

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  • Model: Nintendo NES
  • Shipping Weight: 2lbs
  • 1 Units in Stock

This product was added to our catalog on Saturday 25 June, 2011.

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