EletiofeThe Scott Pilgrim Game Is So Nice They Released...

The Scott Pilgrim Game Is So Nice They Released It Twice


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Ten years after its initial release—and four years after it inexplicably vanished from distribution platforms— Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game – Complete Edition launched earlier this month on basically every platform imaginable, opening up a subspace door back to the vibrant, bohemian world of Canada, where every half-hearted hipster’s life is gently going awry.

The 2010 classic was a warmly celebrated, side-scrolling beat-’em-up game highly reminiscent of River City Ransom. Scott Pilgrim charmingly gamified the narrative beats of legendary Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley’s treasured comic book, which charts the fraught path to maturity of “loser-hero” Scott Pilgrim. First published in 2004, the Scott Pilgrim comic is set in an age of attack hugs, flip phones, and the achingly slow death of grunge. A time when dumb and mediocre yet well-meaning boyfriends were more forgivable, and the lasting infamy of Ready Player One hadn’t made floods of references kind of lame. Over its six-year run, the Scott Pilgrim comic built the foundations of a die-hard fan base, which the movie and game adaptations would multiply many times over. Now the game’s back to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.

It’s Not a Remaster Though

People have been aspirationally referring to this game as a remaster, presuming something is different about it—although sadly, this isn’t the case. Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game – Complete Edition is the same game from 2010 with the Knives and Wallace DLCs baked in. On January 14, Bryan Lee O’Malley tweeted that there were originally talks of including a “Montreal DLC” featuring a playable Gideon Graves alongside Envy Adams and the other members of the Clash at Demonhead, which was originally planned for the 2010 release—along with a slew of other concepts—although this was tragically re-canceled for reasons unexplained.

The original game’s development—shouldered chiefly by Ubisoft Chengdu—is a story of its own. The inexperienced team were expected to ship the game in just five crunchtastic months. In a 2013 interview with Siliconera, Ubisoft Chengdu managing director Richard Tsao shared that the game we got was “probably maybe 50 percent of the original vision,” and that “if we had twice the amount of time, I can tell you, we’d have twice the amount of game.”

If you were hoping for some Worst World references (O’Malley’s current project) in the new version of the game like I was, you’re plum out of luck. Given the development hell of the original release, we’re probably lucky to have the game back at all. O’Malley himself was complaining on Twitter about not being able to play it as recently as August of last year. Four days after his complaint, he reported that Ubisoft had “reached out,” followed by confirmation that the Complete Edition was in the works.

On the upside, the game’s still fantastic. Gorgeous pixel art animation accents a game that streamlines the winning beat-’em-up formula from the Game Boy generation. Although the game’s quite short at roughly four hours, it’s nothing if not sweet. Combos still feel great, sprites are beautiful, and bosses are original, challenging, and dynamic.

Chiptune indie pop/rock band Anamanaguchi’s soundtrack adds some of the best 8-bit music out there to an already stellar game. Frenetic with energy, it gets you hyped to charge into the next fray. These fantastic elements come together to make for a great game that’s a blast to play and replay.

While the reasons why the game disappeared from digital marketplaces PT-style in 2016 remain unknown, a number of colorful theories have been proposed by scottaholics, the most sensible of which center around licensing issues with Universal.

That Retro Feel

The biggest frustrations I had with the game—once I remembered how beat-’em-ups work—increasingly felt like constraints of the genre itself. No matter what your stats are, getting hit-stunned and knocked down doesn’t really change, and positioning your character can feel imprecise. The rare platforming sections and tiny robot swarms—may they live in infamy—are especially nightmarish and feel pretty token-taker in the later levels. Of course, many of these things are sort of endemic to beat-’em-ups, and they often felt like they were an intentional part of the retro aesthetic.

After all, when Rolento bounces a bunch of grenades all over the elevator in Final Fight and you’re not standing in the right place, your sprite’s getting replaced with a flaming silhouette. Is that the fair kind of difficulty? No. But does it make you wanna pick up the controller and maybe try jumping a bunch next time? You can bet your precious little life it does. While many rightly despise this kind of difficulty, it carries a pleasant nostalgia for folks like me.

The original release was so finely realized, it appeared to motivate something of a revival for 2-D beat-’em-ups, perhaps paving the way for Double Dragon Neon, Streets of Rage 4, and especially River City Girls, which almost feels like a spinoff of Scott Pilgrim with its after-school martial arts and bombastic kidnapping plot-devices.

Scott Pilgrim Hits Different in 2021

While Scott Pilgrim was born into the ancient, long-forgotten era of 2004, much of its world and characters have aged surprisingly well, casual use of the R-word notwithstanding. We all still love Zelda, the Tragically Hip, and especially Mary Elizabeth Winsted. That, and twentysomething romantic drama morphing into a dire race to grow up and stop making the same mistakes is an unblockable part of the human experience.

There’s a reason why Scott Pilgrim got a movie and a game, which launched it to cult classic status in lieu of so many other beloved indie comics of the aughts that no one talks about enough, like Chew, Persepolis, Y the Last Man, or Octopus Pie. It’s because Scott Pilgrim is a superb, aching journey through a quarter-life crisis, made brilliantly charming by smart, dulcet references to our youth.

The game understandably cuts most of this nuance out, though it’s filled with allusions to the arcs of the comic. You can find Holly, Lisa, and Stacey kind of hanging out in the back, reminding you bittersweetly of how they gently helped the main cast recognize the terrifying problems they were ignoring over the year the comic is set—and get sad about how you maybe relate to some of that.

Mainly though, the game is a roller-coaster thrill ride in which you battle your way to the boss with all the urgency of a ‘90s beat-’em-up protagonist rushing through waves of thugs to save your captured girlfriend. While that’s a sharp contrast to the lethargic groove of the book—healthily dispersed with gradual emotional introspection—the game encapsulates the same warmth and fun that was always on the page.

It’s this sense of fun that the best 2-D beat-’em-ups—old and new—epitomize. The stages feel like beautifully realized playgrounds filled with vibrant enemies and bosses, and your characters have stylish move sets that never get old. Games like Scott Pilgrim vs the World master the future and past of gaming. They’re like a warm soak in the tub jazzed up with a fancy bath bomb. As modest as that is, that’s a very comfortable vibe.

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