Great Scott! Three months ago, you’d have asked me “What is Scott Pilgrim?” and I’d have said, “It’s a comic book.” I didn’t know anything about the characters, the story or anything else. Now it is in your face, everywhere. Plus a movie, which leads us to this, the tie-in game based off of a movie based off of a comic book. By principle, it should suck, but it sure as hell doesn’t!
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game takes me back to the time when I was downloading MAME ROMs to test on my swanky new PC (well, it was new then). The games I enjoyed the most were beat-’em-ups like Cadillacs and Dinosaurs and Pu-Li-Ru-La.
I have a fascination with beat-’em-ups that doesn’t always extend into the fighting game genre. I think my affection for this genre comes from beat-’em-ups being frantically fun. We’ve all played an elevator scene where the enemies make 200-ft. drops to the platform you’re on without hurting themselves. Just like food in trash-cans or attainable weapons, it is one of the many trademarks that makes Streets of Rage and its many brethren highly amusing and fun to play.
If you miss this era of gaming, then you will love Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. Guaranteed. You don’t need to read on any further.
If I could identify a game this movie tie-in most closely resembles, it would be Street Gangs (which everyone other than me knows better as River City Ransom). The collecting of money, picking up and using weapons, the multiplayer aspect and the mid-level shops give that impression, as does the alluring sprite art which contains a similar visual direction as River City Ransom and the other games in that series.
The main game progression is as follows: you have to move across the Overworld map to select stages (which is a nice reference to classic games, specifically Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, thanks to the giant green pipes which are there for show). Each stage is made up of multiple sections, which do not act as checkpoints, which means getting a Game Over during a very long stage is very frustrating.
Each stage has bosses, enemy encounters and special environment changes that never get worse nor improve, staying at a constant awe factor of seven or eight gasps out of ten. Everything in the game, and the way it has been pieced together, is epic.
The combat is really awful to begin with. The controls feel terrible and your character is a slow lummox incapable of beating a tortoise in the 100 Meters at the Olympic Games. But this levels out as you play, because like every game in the last two years there is a damned leveling up system. Dag-nabbit! I thought that developers had forgotten about them (well, hoped probably being a more apt term, as nothing I hope for actually happens).
Before about Lv.10, your character is going to be weak and sluggish. This is one of those games where enemies give you experience, so you have to grind and grind. Luckily, the level cap is Lv.16, so it doesn’t take too long to max out your four main characters.
You also have to buy stat-increasing items in order to gain any kind of battling advantage. Once you find the right type of stores and get enough money, you can balance this out a little, and the game becomes more enjoyable. There are tricks that (if you either discover them or are told of them) will make the game much easier, almost to the point where it isn’t a challenge anymore. I actually find being vastly powerful to be much more fun, although the hardest difficulty is not a challenge at all with your stats maxed out.
Graphically, Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game is the freshest game I’ve played in a long time. You’ll argue that retro-flavored games are more than common, and you’re right. But you also say that this game is 8-bit, and you’re wrong. This is why idiots like you should leave gaming.
The sprites are a joint project between Paul Robertson, Jonathan Kim, Mariel Cartwright and Justin Cyr. The backgrounds were done seperately by graphics supervisor Stephane Boutin, and Jonathan Lavigne was an additional artist who worked a lot on the game design. These are all very talented individuals with a mash of different art styles and skills, all of which magically mold together to form the visuals.
Then there is the soundtrack, and oh boy, it is something. It was performed by Anamanaguchi, a band that uses a “hacked NES” to create their signature sound. I’ve had this soundtrack on repeat on my iPod Touch for about a week now. If you haven’t yet decided whether or not to buy Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game, upon hearing the main theme, you will probably love the game instantaneously.
The game is not without its flaws, the largest and most common of which being freezing.
Simply crashing to a complete stop.
Not your general “hit guide button it’ll catch up eventually” freeze, but more often the “need to unplug the AC Adapter again” freeze.
This happens all the more once you level your characters up to their maximum levels and reach full stats, because the game proceeds to fall apart like a badly glued matchstick replica of the Titanic.
When the game doesn’t register a boss as defeated, Scott stays in permanent purgatory until you hit start and leave the level (resulting in having to have to do it all again). This happened to me at least three times when battling the once-skateboarder-turned-film-star Lucas Lee. I actually thought the game was broken, I really did.
On several occasions (a quantity which I therefore do not need to clarify but nevertheless sounds like a large amount), I found myself experiencing complete Xbox freezes during, just before, or exactly when I beat a boss character.
Defeating Gideon Graves (the final boss) on the hardest difficulty took every ounce of my strength (well, not really, I had seven lives left). The point I’m trying to make here is that when the game freezes at the exact point you should be given your Achievement for beating the final boss, you are not happy.
I took a good twenty minutes out and sat on my bed, grasping a pillow against my face, shouting muffled yet still audible swearing words at the top of my voice.
Small mercies are the best. The Xbox decided to suffer a full system freeze just after the Achievement unlocked. So although the savedata thinks I haven’t beaten the game on the hardest difficulty, my Gamertag says I have, and you’d better not argue with my Gamertag.
Despite being a complete block of ice at times, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game parodies the classic 16-bit arcade era that we all know and that I am passionately in love with. As a loser myself, I connect with Scott emotionally and long for him to succeed in his quest to get the girl of his dreams.
With a retro-styled but pop influenced soundtrack from Anamanaguchi and sprite artwork from Paul Robertson (whose animations are nothing short of astounding), you’d be a fool to pass up this game for 800 MSP. Even as a single-player game (thanks to the lack of online multiplayer), putting the time into Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game results in getting a lot more out of it than you put in. Just expect your console to freeze. And occasionally rob you of your hard work. But that is the life of a loser, after all.