Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game - Complete Edition
Rediscover the beloved 2D arcade-style beat 'em up inspired by the iconic comic book series and movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
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A very solid classic style beat-em-up. It's no game-changer in terms of gameplay but is a very enjoyable little romp that, in my opinion, is best enjoyed with other people (not that you can't enjoy also it alone of course.) What really sets the game apart is the gorgeous pixel art that perfectly replicates the charm and style of O'Malley's comics, as well as the absolutely kickass soundtrack performed by the chiptune-rock band Anamanaguchi. Whether you're a fan of Scott Pilgrim or just want a new game to play through with friends during these times, this game is definitely worth checking out.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go empty my wallet on that physical edition.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD: THE GAME REVIEW
Note: I give spoiler warnings for spoilers.
It sucks when something you devoted time to ends up being bad, even if you anticipated little from it. It's much worse to set high expectations, only for whatever it is to turn out mediocre.
I'd been looking forward to Scott Pilgrim's complete edition since the moment I found out about it. I've never read the comics, but the movie is one of my favorites; the writing is chock full of comedic genius and memorable moments, the visual effects are fun, and the characters are fascinating. On top of that adoration for 'vs the World', the game has had the lost media status for years, which fascinated me further and made its re-release feel special. I rarely buy any title on launch - hell, I rarely buy them full price at all - but because of those biases, I couldn't help myself here.
Maybe that influenced my opinion a bit, too. When I do spend the money, it's because I really believe I'll enjoy something. This just didn't turn out to be a right call, unfortunately - even if it was only 15 dollars. I wanted to love it, but it lacks most of what made the movie so amazing... As well as what makes beat 'em ups fun. I suppose it's a lesson learned in setting the bar too high beforehand.
That's not to say it's all bad, of course. There's some strong direction with the art and music, which is what manages to carry the whole thing across the finish line. Still, it fails in so many other areas that it becomes difficult to recommend to anyone, even hardcore fans of the franchise as a whole.
It's important to note before going any further that the developers faced huge time constraints and budget cuts, which I absolutely believe were factors in the final product (both the main game and the DLCs.) If you take the time to examine it, it's easy to see that what we got was a skeleton of what the team really hoped to make. So many aspects are lackluster at best, and downright bad at worst - the environments, the movesets, the story, the worldbuilding. I've found reports of a lot of awesome cut content, such as mid/side bosses (Crash and the Boys, Winifred Hailey) and chase sequences (one on a beach before Roxie's fight, and one on skateboards after Lucas'.) There was even supposed to be a Montreal DLC where you could play as Envy, Lynette, and Todd.
It's honestly depressing to imagine 'what could have been' if the devs were given more freedom. There were a lot of fantastic ideas that had to be scrapped - probably more than we'll ever know about - and I'll forever wish we could've gotten THAT instead.
(Another small note, I think playthroughs are generally much more fun with the online multiplayer. However, connections are extremely unreliable. I was often dropped almost immediately. In a few other cases, I had to quit because of glitches that made it unplayable.)
Achievements (Does not count toward overall score.): 2/5
Overall game score: 3/5
There's definitely a nice visual style here. The pixel art is charming, and it manages to retain the feel of the comics while also putting a fresh spin on it. This applies even more-so to the little story portions shown after bossfights.
All in all, I do think that there are better-looking pixel games - but what's here is still really good. The character designs are neat, for the most part (even if that's mostly contributable to the comics.) The overworld map looks nice. The backgrounds are phenomenal. Couple all of that with the awesome animation, and you have a very solid product in this specific regard.
Speaking of the animation, one of my favorite parts of playing this was seeing each character's unique spin on the standard attacks. Even if they're the same moveset at their core, it's fun that everyone's personalities and fighting styles are put into them.
However, that brings me to my first complaint; the Wallace and Knives DLCs are almost entirely made up of reused resources from Stephen and Kim, respectively. This leaves them with very little of their own characterization. There are also occasionally reused models/animations in the base game - but I can more-so excuse it there, since it's not immediately noticeable often. It's much less forgivable to me when it's not only content people were originally asked to pay extra for, but it's specifically meant to be extra playable characters - and those playable characters are basically just reskinned versions of ones you already have! Thankfully, both Knives and Wallace (as well as the online mode, which was originally bundled with Wallace) came with this version. I definitely do not think it would've been worth it otherwise.
It's a pretty small complaint, but I also hate the shop screens. They seem to be designed to be as counter-intuitive as possible. It's very inconvenient.
I do take issue with one other aspect of the character design, too. I feel like the devs had a strangely objectifying approach to a lot of the females. It's difficult not to notice how excessively bouncy nearly all of the women's chests are. A woman will simply move around idly, and her chest will shake with enough force to kill someone. On top of that, Ramona literally isn't wearing any pants for some inconceivable reason? It's reportedly supposed to be her 'bikini outfit' from the comics, but even if that's true... WHY? It's wintertime. She has so many cool looks they could have chosen from, but they chose the most impractical one... Presumably just so they could sexualize her more? Kim also sports a ridiculously short skirt with no tights - and because Knives is just a reskinned Kim, she has the "chest" issue in her victory animation, which is especially egregious for her given that she's only 17. I do think they could have taken the time to make one more unique animation to avoid that.
One of the worst faults in this regard, though, is that Kim's special move is her kissing Knives (like they drunkenly did in the comics.) [SPOILERS] While this is a story issue and not visual, Kim's ending is the two getting together, too. It's presumably meant as a joke, but it's still gross. [SPOILER ENDING] In the credits, game screenshots are shown with little boxes next to each character that display both their name and a comment. One is shown of them kissing, and Kim's says 'Rating: Hot!', while Knives' says '17 years old. Rating: x2 hot!' Bro... Come on, she's a minor. That's disgusting and inexcusable.
I know a lot of people will disagree with me taking such issue here, but I do! It was simultaneously very uncomfortable and very disappointing. On the whole, it's a visually striking product; it's just unfortunate that it falls into the trap of typical media misogyny.
The soundtrack is undeniably one of the best things here, if not the best. Just like the art, the music fits the spirit of the comics perfectly. The 8bit tunes mixed with rock instrumentals add up to something truly wonderful; it combines the band and video game themes present throughout the entire series in a really amazing way. Not only that, but it manages to give a lot of personality to something that desperately needs it.
My only issue is that I wish there was a bit more variety. While there are memorable tracks, a few of them run together, given that they often implement identical instruments and style. Even so, they're all exceptionally good, so I can't make too big of a deal of it.
The game follows the basis of the comic's plot, except that most of the details are left out. Everything is very minimal; there's little character interaction, only a few short 'scenes', and no dialogue at all. Because of that, there's a complete lack of nearly any jokes - even visual. The game ends up missing out on most of the humor (and by extension, the characterization) that plays a huge part in other versions of Scott Pilgrim. It is absolutely detrimental to the experience as a whole.
I do like how there's a unique ending for each character. However, some of them are REALLY bad. [SPOILERS] I think it's particularly important to break down Scott's. In his, Ramona leaves him and he gets back together with his exes... Including Knives. It's implied he's only pretending to be happy, but it's still super weird.
[SPOILERS STILL] This is what I saw on my first playthrough. I had no prior knowledge of the multiple endings; I just thought this was what happened. Even after I found out, I was still appalled. This was the big moment they chose to give their protagonist? One of the most important parts of his arc - at least, in the movie - is maturing enough to realize dating Knives is wrong. They wasted 4-5 hours of my time to give me 20 seconds of this complete and utter shit.
[SPOILERS STILL] I know there will be people who defend this because it's supposed to be a non-canonical joke. However, it's difficult to take it as such when someone has no way of knowing that. I was totally unhappy with this outcome and nearly retired the game because of it. Also, the "it's a joke" excuse can only get you so far - especially when the jokes aren't even funny. The situation is treated comedically in the movie too, but it's executed well. All of the people around Scott recognize and openly acknowledge that his dating a highschooler is wrong, even if they're going about it in a funny way. The humor is at his expense, not in support of him. None of that is here at all. In fact, sexualization of Knives is treated as a good thing multiple times.
[SPOILERS STILL] I've already mentioned Kim's ending, too, and why I dislike it. Wallace's is also pretty bad, though in a different way. Each conclusion has a picture, with a few sentences summarizing what happens after you defeat Gideon... Except that they didn't give Wallace any summary at all. He only has a piece of art and nothing else. You guys really couldn't even take the time to write one more paragraph? Ugh. [SPOILER ENDING]
There are some neat moments, but only a few. If I'd never seen the movie, and only played the game, I probably would have forgotten the plot. Thankfully, the other iterations have made the story so iconic that this one is helped along slightly.
The fighting itself is okay. The moves all feel pretty good, and there's a nice bit of variety even though they're all straightforward. I also love that the inputs are simplistic and easy to remember - that's a big plus for me.
When you're put up against either giant waves of enemies, or a few particularly tough ones, the game is pretty enjoyable. There's strategy involved then, and you have to be smarter about when you use specific moves. The combat was quickly ruined for me, though, when it became apparent how unbalanced everything was.
Depending on your difficulty selection, the bosses can range from 'very easy' to 'a little less easy'. The devs decided to counter-act this in the worst possible way, too. Before each boss, you are forced to play two or three levels with no breaks in between. Individual levels can take anywhere from ten to twenty minutes - sometimes even longer if it's your first time going through. As a result, you'll most likely be very low on lives by the time you get to the next ex. That means you'll most likely die to them at least once... And you'll be forced to play all of those levels over again.
[SPOILERS] This is pushed to the max in the very last stretch. You do a level, fight a boss, go through a platforming section, fight another boss, do the most difficult level in the game, then finally fight the final boss. There is only one place during all of this to replenish your health, and it's literally right before the last part. You are not given the chance to get any additional lives during any of this, either. [SPOILER END]
Also, by the time you do make it to the bosses, they generally tend to be pretty disappointing. There's no real sense of progression within most of them (minus Matthew.) They often just feel like stronger regular enemies.
I should mention that there are shops scattered throughout where you can replenish your health and willpower, even if most don't offer 1ups. Even then, though, there is no indication pointing you toward them. I honestly didn't discover there were places you could enter for a long time. I went through my entire first playthrough without knowing about or using these, except for in the shopping district (and I still only found out about those from a guide.) It's more of a visual complaint, but I think that this had such a huge effect on my enjoyment of the gameplay that it's worth mentioning here.
And still, despite that ridiculousness, the entire game becomes an absolute cakewalk once you discover the cheats - of which there are two in particular I want to discuss. The first is a sword which deals incredible amounts of ranged damage; it's difficult to turn that down after playing the same levels so many times. The second is an easy way to grind for money; once you enter the code, you die and use up one life for 50 coins. If you have a snack item onhand, that is consumed instead of a life. After maybe half an hour, you'll have at least 600 dollars. This is more than enough to unlock the most valuable shop in the game. After paying 500 to do so, you are given access to both 1ups (up to 9) and stat boosts, all for 4.95 apiece. If you max all of your stats here, you're basically unstoppable. Keep in mind that these cheats are given to you with no penalty, not even an achievement lock.
That shop is a core issue in and of itself, too. Let's say that instead of using cheats, you save up to unlock it organically... By the time you get enough, you very well could be 3/4ths of the way through the entire game, making it almost useless at that point. If you're NOT far in, it's most likely because you're struggling to progress - which is because you're not spending anything on the other stat boosts made readily available. You'll be stuck grinding in the early levels then, which will extend the game's playtime and might ruin any fun you could otherwise get from the experience.
I do like the RPG elements (such as the stats and the money system) in theory. I just don't feel like they work here, though. The grinding doesn't work because the combat is too repetitive to warrant it. The level system doesn't work because the progression is awful (I was level 12/16 before I beat the first boss in my last playthrough, keeping in mind that I replayed the first world a few times.) The stats don't work because they'll make you overpowered with only a few purchases. Everything is just poorly thought out in my eyes. It's all individual factors that add up to the entire game feeling unbalanced.
That's not to say that the RPG stuff should've been cut. I think the game would be much more bland without them. I just wish more time had went into making them actually good.
By my last playthrough, I had to make my own fun by denying myself cheats and trying to play in a way that was optimized to the mechanics. Even then, there were points where I'd feel like I was cheating only by using the tools readily available to me. I'd beat down a boss with a weapon and think to myself," This is too easy, I'm getting in a million hits right now," and I'd end up throwing the weapon away to try to make it an equal fight. That's how you know you've failed on a fundamental level.
On top of all of that, there's really no point in there being such a wide array of playable characters here. As I've briefly mentioned, all of them have identical movesets, minus one or two special attacks. The unique animations can only get you so far - especially when your DLC characters largely don't have even that. This really hurts the replay value for me.
I do like how a lot of the enemies have their own unique attacks. I didn't even notice that until one of my later playthroughs. For example, one enemy does a chicken taunt which drains your willpower. Another is a thief who knocks some of your money out of you. That's cool.
There is some solid foundation in all of this. However, all of it together just doesn't add up to great gameplay. Nothing fits like it should. While it can be fun at times, the wheels start to fall off at some point or another. I think I could see myself picking this up and enjoying it for about 20 minutes every few months. I probably won't be coming back to it for any extended amount of time, though.
There is often a distinct void of personality here. A lot of the fun fantasy aspects of Scott Pilgrim's world are kind of shrugged off; the loss of the plot and humor are both big factors in this. I still think they could have done more in the worldbuilding though, even without either of those things.
There is some pretty nice environmental design. The locations are great, in big part thanks to the art and music.
There's quite a bit of references to other video games, too. While I don't think taking stuff from other things makes your thing good, it is undeniably fun to see - and it fits Scott Pilgrim really well.
One other cool thing is that a lot of the background NPCs are characters from the comics. As someone who's only seen the movie, I was still able to recognize a few of them. It's a neat little way to fit in people who would have been completely sidelined otherwise.
Extra Category - Achievements:
I had trouble with achievements glitching out. It happened at least two or three times.
I don't think most of them are that good, or add much to your playthroughs. I dunno, it's not really worth it in my eyes. It just made me stick with the game for a lot longer than I really wanted to.
Overall game score: 3/5. Scott Pilgrim has great art and music, but fails in nearly every other area. The combat can be fun, but it's ruined by balance issues. The story and worldbuilding are completely lacking, which is a huge disappointment. Time and budget constraints turned what could have been a fantastic game into an average one. I think nostalgia has really blinded people here.