A pilgrimage back to an iconic modern beat ’em up.
The year is 2010. A simpler time.
Books are overrated and don’t have enough pictures, so you’re flipping through a graphic novel:
…it’s Scott Pilgrim.
You’re at the cinema, purchasing overpriced popcorn to eat during a new movie starring an awkward Michael Cera:
…it’s Scott Pilgrim.
You get home and turn on your Xbox 360 and log onto Xbox Live, and what’s on the home screen?
…it’s Scott Pilgrim.
It was the series of graphic novels that for a brief moment in time seemed to spawn a phenomenon, and then after a year or so in the limelight almost vanished completely. The series is less about teenager Scott Pilgrim and more about his struggles against his newfound love’s Seven Evil Exes, who he must defeat in order to date her. It’s a quirky plot packed full of silly humour and pop-culture references, and became popular enough not only to justify a movie, but a tie-in videogame, and now 10 years later an enhanced version of that same game! But is it worth revisiting?
If you’ve played the original game, you’ll know exactly what to expect from Complete Edition, as not much has changed. It’s a port of the original game with all added DLC, along with some minor additions and quality-of-life changes, available on PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch/PC and… Google Stadia (I feel dirty typing that). For those that haven’t played it, it’s a retro-style beat ’em with simple controls, gorgeous pixel art, and a banger of a soundtrack. But is it worth playing considering it’s pretty much the same game?
In typical beat ’em up style, the gameplay is very simple: choose from a roster of characters from the series, fight swarms of enemies through seven distinct levels, and defeat one of the evil exes at the end of each level. It’s a game that’s easy to pick up and play, either through single player, local co-op, or now in Complete Edition through online co-op (which is how I played majority of the game). There’s not really much that stands out about its gameplay – characters have slightly different play styles, can be levelled up to unlock new attacks and abilities, and by spending in-game currency you can purchase food and other items to improve the characters’ stats.
Combat initially can be quite a challenge (especially if you’re a rookie to the genre like myself), as enemies easily stun-lock and swarm you without giving you a chance to fight back. Bosses are the same, but follow more of a pattern that allows you to predict and dodge their attacks. Thankfully over the course of the game you’ll have access to shops, weapons and abilities that allow you to dispatch enemies more efficiently, but it took me the majority of the game before I truly had a hang of the combat. If you have the option, I’d recommend playing the game with a friend. Not only is it significantly more fun and less gruelling than single player mode, but you also have the ability to revive allies on screen by mashing a button over their lifeless corpse.
Oh, and on the topic of lifeless corpses, at the end of every level you’re rewarded with a scene of Scott and Ramona making out (much to the disgust of their friends). And sometimes on the top of a pile of lifeless corpses is just the most romantic place.
Visuals and Style
Its style is hands down the best aspect of the game. The pixel art is vibrant and detailed, with heavy character outlines and intricate backgrounds. In reflecting the style of art from the graphic novels, the game achieves an eye-catching visual aesthetic that works incredibly well and makes the characters, enemies, and environments all stand out against each other. Although sometimes the screen can become quite busy, you’ll rarely lose track of your character thanks to this design.
Each level also has a distinct design themed around the evil ex and their hideout, with matching enemies many of which have very amusing outfits and attacks. You’ll fight through the snowy streets of downtown Toronto, defend against katana-wielding ninjas in a flaming teppanyaki restaurant, and of course fight a giant robot boss on top of a skyscraper. Many times throughout the game I found myself stopping to admire the designs of not only the levels, but some of the animations which are incredibly detailed and impressive (see below).
There are also many visual homages to other series/games, and plenty of pop culture references. For example in one of the later stages a boss battle starts with a Guitar Hero sequence. You can also purchase an Energy Tank to restore your health, and the logo looks like it’s directly ripped from Mega Man. The overworld too is a nice touch, as its retro design is clearly a throwback to the SNES classic, Super Mario World.
Audio and Soundtrack
There’s no way I could write this review without mentioning the killer soundtrack that features in the Scott Pilgrim game. As you fight through the game’s levels and boss battles you’ll notice an intense, fast-paced blend of chiptunes and pop/rock with heaps of catchy licks. That’s thanks to New York-based chiptune rock band: Anamanaguchi. Like other bands in the Nintendcore genre of music (yep, that’s a thing) they use hardware like a Gameboy and NES to play alongside guitar, bass and drums. It’s a sound that seems to fit perfectly in the setting of the Scott Pilgrim game, and a creative way to modernise chiptunes.
To celebrate the launch of Complete Edition, the band even played the entire soundtrack live!
You can find it here: Anamanaguchi – Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game Soundtrack
In addition to the main gameplay which can be completed by yourself or with a friend, there are four other game modes. First is a boss rush mode in which you face off against every single boss in a row to challenge yourself – I found this was an easy way to revisit some of the cool moments from each boss. There are also three minigames that were introduced as part of the original game’s DLC:
The DLC characters, Knives and Wallace, from the original game are also made available from the start, and there’s an added secret character that unlocks once you beat the game with the four main characters. Though unless you’re a completionist I probably wouldn’t bother with this.
So why should I play it?
- You haven’t played the original game.
- Cool pixel art always catches your eye.
- You’re wanting a simple game to play with friends.
- Chiptunes and game soundtracks are your jam.
But why shouldn’t I play it?
- There’s nobody else for you to play the game with. 😦
- You’ve already played the original game to completion.
- Lengthy games are more your thing, as this can be finished in a couple hours.
- You don’t want to download the Ubisoft PC client (if playing on PC).
A download code was provided for the purpose of this review, which was played on PC.