Scott Pilgrim makes his glorious return after defeating the most evil ex of all: licensing agreements
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the game - Complete Edition is the culmination of years of fan requests to get a re-release of this beloved beat ‘em up. Originally released in 2010 near the release of the comic book film adaptation of the same name, it became infamous for two reasons. First, upon its release it was considered one of the greatest licensed movie tie-in video games of all time. Perfectly capturing the style that the Scott Pilgrim comics were based on and invoking the feeling of classic arcade games like Double Dragon, Streets of Rage and River City Ransom. Nothing wrong so far, why the infamy? Well, likely due to the license expiring, the game was delisted from all digital stores in december of 2014 making it unavailable for purchase or download ever since. Ten years, and tons of fan requests later, and the game is now available again in a Complete Edition. Is this the return of a lost hidden gem, or has age caught up with Scott and his friends?
In case you haven’t read or watched the story of Scott Pilgrim, let me quickly fill you in. It’s about a love triangle between Scott Pilgrim, a bass guitar player from Toronto, his new girlfriend Knives Chau, a 17-year old high schooler, and a new mystery girl that just moved in from America named Ramona Flowers. In order to keep dating Ramona, Scott has to defeat her seven evil exes. The game takes after a beat ‘em up arcade title where you traverse stages based on locations from the comics. The game has most of the genre tropes covered. Standard attacks, heavy attacks, a jump, a block, a special attack and an assist attack form the basis behind the combat system. Where it gets interesting is that during combat you earn experience and gain the ability to level up. Leveling up unlocks new moves for your character to perform that can be used defensively or offensively. This means that the combat system deepens as you continue to make your way through the world of Scott Pilgrim.
Every stage stands out on its own. One moment you’re traversing the snowy streets of Toronto on your way to a concert, the next you make your way through several backlots from different film sets. There’s a lot of creativity on display and each level ends with an impressive boss fight against one of the exes. In between beating up thugs, goons, security guards and hipsters, you can collect coins. Coins can be spent at several different shops that are only accessible within the levels themselves. You can purchase food and drinks to regain HP or regain Gut Points. These Gut Points revive you if you fall in battle, but also act as a meter to perform special attacks. This ability to continuously visit shops with the collected coins from battles makes for a good break from the gameplay. I also found it to be necessary since levels are quite long and can suddenly spike in difficulty.
What makes Scott Pilgrim truly special is its magnificent pixel art style. The game is incredibly vibrant, colorful and flashy at almost all times. Characters are clearly visible on the different backgrounds and every punch, kick, throw or hit is sold by the expressive poses on the animation. For a game that is ten years old, it’s artstyle hasn’t aged a day, which I found to be impressive since we’ve had a true renaissance of pixel art games in the past decade. The soundtrack is another incredible highlight. Nearly every song in the soundtrack is an absolute banger. A fine tuned blend of arcade sound effects, mixed in with upbeat and high tempo songs, that never gets old. The boss battle tracks manage to tune the dial up to eleven and made me enjoy those fights even more. From a presentation standpoint Scott Pilgrim cannot be described as anything less than a masterpiece.
That being said, the game does have a few annoying quirks to it, that don’t reflect a lot of quality of life improvements that other releases from the past decade have seen. The menus are a bit cumbersome and slow to navigate and take away from the flow of combat. During combat I found myself sometimes struggling to pick up objects. Their position can be rather precise and since the game takes place on a flat 2D stage with depth, it can be annoying to position yourself just right to hit enemies or collect the variety of objects to hit them with. The character selection is pretty good, though the fan favourite newcomer Wallace Wells is nothing more than a palette swap of Stephen Stills. It is a shame that fighters are not swappable for each level. If you wish to play as another character you will have to replay every stage with that character, with very little to no changes. Leveling up is also done separately for each fighter, which means that you don’t have access to unlocked moves in these replayed levels even though all characters level up in the same way.
Multiplayer is where the game shines. You can play online with a friend or strangers at any time and choose from the story mode levels. It’s even possible to revive your teammates when they go down in this co-op mode. We did find that the difficulty was higher when playing with more players so that was very usefull. It is odd that the side modes, like the boss rush, dodgeball and survivor mode are not available for online play. These distractions would be great to take a break from the main game, though you can still play them locally with friends. Unfortunately, in order to access the “Network play” sessions, all players are required to have an Ubisoft account and be signed into the online service. This problem persists even when it comes to the new content. To unlock one of the new additions to the game, a playable version of Knives Chau, you are required to log into the Ubisoft services with an account in order to receive the character. This game is supposed to be the re-release of a game that was mostly infamous for being inaccessible thanks to it being a digital release. Locking free and new content behind another digital sign-in service is nothing but detestable from Ubisoft.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game - Complete Edition is still an incredibly polished and fun beat ‘em up that has truly stood the test of time. While it’s slightly annoying that playing with the other characters requires you to replay entire levels and that the online features and a full playable fighter are currently locked behind Ubisoft’s ridiculous server sign-in, in the end this is still a great title deserving of its re-release. The combat is quick and fluid, the soundtrack is truly incredible and the multiplayer mode with friends makes the game even more fun. In short, I’m not ashamed to say that yes, after all these years, I’m still in lesbians with this game.