Skate or Die!

Before the Tony Hawk franchise kicked off on the Playstation, there were only a handful of skateboarding video games.  Skate or Die was among the most well-known of these, mostly because it was just plain fun; you didn't have to be a fan of the sport to be a fan of Skate or Die.  Its popularity spawned a sequel as well, but it's not held in nearly as high regard.  But then, changing format from a game about skateboarding to a taco-collecting game with awful controls will do that.

You begin the game at the skate shop, which didn't serve a lot of purpose aside from being able to highlight things with the cursor to get various responses from Rodney.  Aside from that, you could click on the clipboard to "sign in" up to eight players, which would let you save their high scores from competing in the various events until the game was turned off.  You could also check the trophy to view said high scores, and choose to practice or compete.

Choosing the latter two would set you on the world map, where you could select from the game's five events.

Err, FCEU doesn't emulate the map very well, but you get the idea


First up is the Downhill Race.  Simply put, your goal was to get to the bottom of the hill as quickly as possible, while throwing in some stunts for bonus points.  There's plenty of opportunities for the latter - ramps to jump, parking barriers to duck under or leap over, and even a pipe to skate through, which was difficult to pull off but gave you a lot of points if successful.  You'd also get words of encouragement for successful stunts (like "Hang Loose" in the above shot) and various insults if you bail ("No Posers!").

A famous event in the game, the Downhill Jam.  Here you'd be pitted against Lester, either controlled by the computer or by a second player, and race downhill while dodging obstacles, smashing cans and bottles, and trying to punch each other off their boards (you'd get points for this).  Additionally, whoever reached the end of the stage first would get a large bonus to their score, even moreso if they performed one of the game's best-known tricks.

Land on the hood of the cop car for 1300 extra points and an array of sirens

Probably my favorite event of the game, the freestyle ramp.  Your goal was to perform various stunts with the directional keys and the A and B buttons, earning points for each successful stunt, and flying right off the ramp and watching your gear explode off if you bailed (seen in the right screenshot).  After ten passes you'd get a bonus based on the variety and success of your various tricks, so relying on one stunt would hurt your overall score.  A fun event, and the music was pretty catchy as well.

Download the Freestyle music (~700 KB .mp3 file)

Probably the least interesting of the events, the High Jump simply had you build steam by pressing forward and B repeatedly, then it would measure your jump height at the edge of the ramp.  Pressing A at the height of your jump would cause you to extend your board into the air for a bit of extra height, but doing so would cause your session to end as soon as you crossed back to the left edge of the ramp, so you'd want to build up a good jump before doing so.

Finally, and perhaps the most popular of the game's events, the Pool Joust.  Here one player would get a long "bopper" and attempt to knock the other player off his board as they passed by pressing the A button.  If the other player managed to pass five times without being dismounted, though, the tables would turn, with the other player taking control of the bopper and trying to knock the first character off within five passes.  If one player scored three dismounts without the other player scoring one, they would be the winner.  Otherwise, the game would continue until one player scored twice in a row.  Your reward for each dismount was watching your opponent land head-first in the pool as your character emitted a satisfying 8-bit chuckle.

Eddie eats concrete while Spoony is the victor

An undeniable classic among the NES library.  It's a shame that neither it's sequel nor its skiing spinoff (Ski or Die!) could match it in the fun department.

Rating: 7/10

One-line Synopsis:  It's a blast to play, especially with up to eight friends competing for high scores.  A battery to save high scores would make it perfect.

©2005 Spoony