I’m relatively new to the world of Scott Pilgrim. I’ve seen the movie (review of that hopefully coming soon), have started making my way through the graphic novels, and downloaded the video game mere seconds after it was made available. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is patterned after the classic beat ‘em ups from the NES days, primarily River City Ransom, which if you’re going to pay tribute to any game, that one is a great choice.
Of course the concept of trying to go back to the days of the side scrolling brawler isn’t a new one, with many games trying to do so lately (Watchmen, Warriors Street Brawl, Kick-Ass) and all of them failing spectacularly.
So does Scott Pilgrim fall victim to this trend as well?
I’m happy to report that it does not! Scott Pilgrim vs. the World succeeds where many other updated brawlers have failed and I attribute that to one key factor – the makers of this game understood what made those early games fun. They looked at games like River City Ransom and Turtles in Time and patterned their game after those, the games that are considered the all-time genre classics. While many beat-em-ups rely on nothing but walking from bad guy to bad guy and hammering the same button until they die, this one turns the tables and adds a surprising amount of depth to what is overall still a straight-forward game.
First of all, take a look at some of the screenshots of this game. If that look doesn’t automatically make your eyes well up with nostalgic joy, then it sucks you’re not legally allowed to drink, guy who was born after 1996. Scott Pilgrim has a unique look to it that both pays tribute to the classic pixilated graphics, but also updating them with a level of detail that is actually very impressive.
As with most games of this ilk, the bulk of the Scott Pilgrim experience does consist of walking from left to right and beating up everybody you see. It may have borrowed a lot from River City Ransom, but the ability to traverse an open world is not one of them. Instead there are seven stages, each one culminating in a fight with a different evil ex. The stages are selected via a very Mario 3-esque overworld map, then you fight your way to the end of the level.
As I said though, you aren’t just pounding on a single button until whatever is in front of you dies. There is actually a fairly deep fighting system at play here that encourages you to try out various moves and combos. As you fight you will earn experience and start gaining levels, which will grant you additional moves. By the time you reach the maximum level, you will be able to pull off all sorts of ridiculous combinations. It’s a little unfortunate that it takes so long to unlock all of these because the game really hits its peak once you have a full move set.
While we’re on this subject, I’ll go into one of the few issues I had with the game, and it’s barely even an issue. In order to get through the whole game, and this is especially true if you’re playing through on single player, you’re going to have to do some grinding. When you run out of lives (you start with 4), you get to keep all of your experience and money. The money is used to buy items, as well as books that will increase your overall stats. My pattern for the game was usually; beat a level, die in the next level, use money to up my stats, beat that level, die in the next level, and repeat. So you’ll likely wind up replaying several stages over again, but the game is fun enough and the stages short enough that you shouldn’t mind too much.
While the game is a ton of fun to play, there is one area where I felt it shined more than any other, and that was in the music. Holy crap does this game ever have a good soundtrack. If they put this thing out on disc, I will be all over it. I guarantee you that the overworld map tune is going to be caught in your head for days after playing the game. You may find yourself firing the game up just to listen some of the music, that’s how good it is.
I guess I should address the whole coop issue. Most people have completely written off this game since it doesn’t give players the ability to play online. While I do think that’s too bad, and definitely agree this game would work great online, it doesn’t take anything away from it in my eyes. I’m a huge supporter of couch coop and am a little dismayed that we seem to be moving away from it more and more. The game is definitely better with more people so you’ll just have to grab some of your real-life corporeal form friends to join in with you.
It’s always nice to get even a decent game that’s based off of a licensed property, but to get one that’s great is a rare occasion and needs to be celebrated. Whether you’re familiar with the source material or not, if you have even the slightest bit of nostalgia for the days of the classic beat ‘em up, you need to check this game out. I doubt there will ever be another homage to the genre that is better than this one.