When people think of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, they’ll likely gravitate to either the comics from Bryan Lee O’Malley or the live-action film from Edgar Wright. However, one of the lesser-known strands of the Scott Pilgrim brand was the film’s licensed game tie-in. Like the film, it was not only a faithful adaptation of the comics’ tribute to geek culture and retro games, but it also happened to be a fun co-op brawler in its own right. After a sudden delisting from digital video game stores in 2014, the once-lost licensed game has scored a second life with the Complete Edition, and it hasn’t lost its exuberant style. The game’s passion for a bygone era can often be a bit overwhelming, yet it still offers a satisfying time brawling through the streets with friends.
Like its comic and film counterpart, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game sticks with the same video game-inspired conceit, but interprets it into an actual video game. After the titular character meets the girl of his dreams in Ramona Flowers, Scott and his bandmates Kim and Stephen, along with Ramona, have to fight a rogue’s gallery of evil exes seeking to disrupt the relationship. In the vein of a classic arcade brawler, the game keeps its story light to put all its energy into showing off the stunning 2D visuals of its side-scrolling beat-’em-up gameplay, which leans heavily into the splendor of the retro era.
The original game wore its inspirations–classic games like River City Ransom, Final Fight, and Final Fantasy–on its sleeve, and the Complete Edition keeps its aesthetic and core gameplay intact. What you get in this enhanced package is the full game, the four bonus modes involving zombies and dodgeball, and the extra DLC characters–which include Wallace Wells, Knives Chau, and hidden character Nega-Scott. The Complete Edition also comes with Network Mode for online play, which was a late addition in the final DLC for the original game.
One of the more striking aspects of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is its superb presentation. The spectacularly detailed and lively 2D art was impressive in 2010, and though the Complete Edition doesn’t make any updates to the graphics, the look still holds up well in 2021. The unique visual style presents itself as a hyper-detailed 16-bit game, and with a soundtrack from the indie-chiptune band Anamanaguchi, the game always keeps a youthful liveliness throughout its three-hour campaign. Adding to the atmosphere are tons of visual gags and deep cuts that reference classic horror films like Night of the Living Dead and retro games from the era of the SNES and Sega Genesis. My favorite homage is the world map of Toronto, which is modeled after Super Mario World’s stage-select interface. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game works as both a tribute to and a fun parody of retro games, and it still succeeds at being both with the Complete Edition.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game works as both a tribute to and a fun parody of retro games, and it still succeeds at being both with the Complete Edition.
While constantly referencing geek culture can be a bit passé in 2021, Scott Pilgrim puts most of its weight behind the core gameplay, and it still lands. Despite its hyperactive style, the core gameplay uses a simple control scheme and has clear objectives for you to follow. Once you’ve eased into the cadence, and when the game is firing on all cylinders, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a satisfying and even humorous brawler. A sense of repetition can easily set in after some time, which is a common side-effect of the genre, yet seeing my favorite characters evolve and grow in strength over the course of the story, and having them barrelling their way through crowds of angry ruffians that once put up a harsher fight, still manages to put a smile a my face. This satisfaction is enhanced when in a group, and pulling off special moves and team attacks with friends–where you can launch up enemies and with your allies naturally following up with an aerial attack or power move–offers a sense of finesse that can make the action fulfilling even after multiple playthroughs.
On the surface, it looks to be a standard brawler, which isn’t far off from the truth, but Scott Pilgrim actually has RPG mechanics working under the hood as well. You can collect resources from fallen enemies and spend them in shops to boost your stats, a necessary component for completing the game. However, the game never establishes that this is expected of you except in a tips sub-menu you have to check yourself, and these shops blend easily into the background during fights. While you do level up and earn new skills with experience points, the core character growth comes from buying items, and it can be easy to overlook this when sticking with the flow of the game. If you don’t take the time to boost your characters, you can easily hit a difficulty wall after a set of levels in the campaign, which can be annoying.
The game is at its best when played with friends, and many of the large-scale fights seem tailor-made for a full squad. Powering through a level with a group can make otherwise steady encounters turn into chaotic rumbles, yet playing solo can make it feel like you have the odds stacked against you. While you can still clear the game solo, and that’s how I rolled for two full playthroughs with different characters, there were moments when I felt the game’s AI was working overtime to keep me on the back foot. At times, playing solo will force you into encounters with as many as 10 enemies at once, most of whom are quick to use melee weapons and combos that can lock you into a daze. Without backup, it can be frustrating to face those encounters, which turn into extended bouts where you’ll need to carefully dodge thrown weaponry as you take out foes one by one. These moments can severely disrupt the pacing of the game, and though they don’t occur too often, these moments can severely disrupt the pacing of the game. It’s disappointing that the Complete Edition doesn’t rebalance these aspects of the game, as these issues were present in the original.
This is what makes the online play such a welcome feature, which players couldn’t experience until nearly two years after the original game’s launch. It’s now easier to sync up with other players online or invite friends for a game instead of having to stick with just local co-op. Though the options you have for how you want to tune online play are limited–you can choose public or private games and set the amount of players you want to join–from my experiences in a handful of online games on PC, I found it mostly stress-free to pull a squad together. However, these online sessions weren’t entirely free of issues. The new online mode did seem to trigger some occasional bugs, one of which halted progress in an early level. This only happened once, and the majority of my experience playing Scott Pilgrim online was largely stable and kept the fun of the core game.
This new iteration for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is consistent with the original, yet disappointingly, the Complete Edition does come with some minor technical issues that stick out. Along with somewhat regular drops in frame rate during the more hectic levels, especially during online play, the Complete Edition’s overall sound mixing is quite poor. The music and sound effects are surprisingly low-volume throughout the game, and frequently, the game’s soundtrack–which itself is low–easily drowns out the action sound effects. While this may seem like a minor quibble, the sound effects of thrashing and pummeling foes add to the satisfaction of taking down enemies in a beat-’em-up. There were numerous instances where I was fighting enemies without much feedback, which was disappointing.
Though I had my fun with the original game 10 years ago and had moved on, I still found coming back to the core loop and flow of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game to be a satisfying romp. It’s not often to see games that get pulled from circulation get a second chance, yet the Complete Edition more than makes the case that this cult favorite beat-’em-up has earned another shot. While much has changed over the last decade when it comes to geek-appeal and retro gaming appeal, what’s here is still a solid beat-’em-up that’s gotten mostly better with age.