One of the perils of the modern digital age is the fact that a game could theoretically be lost forever. We’ve seen it happen with countless licensed titles, such as Activision’s Spider-Man series and Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It can be frustrating to deal with, especially if you may not have been able to originally get your hands on something. Such was the case with Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game. It came and went during a phase in my life where I did not have the disposable income to get my hands on it. My interest in the license and the knowledge it was well-received made me wish I could have played it. Obviously, I was not the only one with similar feelings, as Ubisoft opted to revisit the title with the newly released Complete Edition.
Based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comics of the same name, Scott Pilgrim has an ideal set-up for a video game. In the series, the titular Canadian musician falls in love with noted cool girl Ramona Flowers. However, in order to date her for real, Scott must defeat her evil seven evil exes. There’s nothing easy about dating someone, but this is an extreme case. Thankfully, Scott can call upon his friends to help vanquish The League of Evil Exes.
The one aspect of this re-release I was dreading was the story. It’s been a while since I read the books, but I have revisited the movie adaptation recently, and it did not hold up. Hard to fully put into words, but it just feels like something very of its time. Thankfully, the game wisely puts most of the story beats on the back burner. You get the super-condensed version of the events. This does mean that some of the more humorous interactions with the exes, such as the ones with actor/skateboarder Lucas Lee, are glossed over. That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to take, though, if it means avoiding the cringier aspects of the story.
Already a license that wore its references on its sleeves, it’s not surprising that Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game would borrow heavily from the classics. The side-scrolling brawling calls to mind River City Ransom, while the leveling up mechanic seems like it could have been lifted from any number of retro RPGs. The action starts out simple enough. Whatever character you pick has a few basic punches and kicks to dole out damage with. As you progress through the campaign, though, you’ll gradually unlock new attacks and maneuvers. The title’s escalating difficulty means that you’ll need to rely on these new abilities in order to continue to progress. It may look like a button-mashing brawler, but there’s more depth to be found than you may expect.
Level progression is handled in two different ways. There’s the experience you’ll get from beating up the goons littering the streets of Toronto, and the various goods you can purchase in shops found in each level. Most of the wares are one-time use items that provide a boost of some kind. However, some shops also contain additional goods that can be used to permanently boost your stats. The developer doesn’t do the best job of spelling this out for you, but it’s a critical component of the game. If you ignore these shops, I guarantee that you will have significant trouble completing the main campaign.
I’m of two minds on this approach to the classic brawler. On the one hand, it does give the action more depth and draws the adventure out for a longer period of time. Arcade-style brawlers are not particularly known for their length, so it’s nice to see a title that recognizes and actively works to improve upon that. On the other hand, though, the grind-heavy progression system can be a drag to deal with. Repeating levels over and over again to wring out as much currency as you can get boring after a while. You can cheat your way around this if need be, but I’m not sure I would recommend that if it’s your first time playing through the game. Ultimately, I do find myself in favor of this approach, but it definitely could have been tweaked to make it slightly less tedious.
Like any good brawler worth its salt, Scott Pilgrim is a much better experience with friends. This is a genre tailor-made for multiplayer, but this title specifically benefits from it — not only because it helps alleviate some of the issues with the grind, but it also makes it less annoying to play through. Going solo can be brutal because the game tends to overwhelm you with enemies. Even in the first batch of levels, you’ll have to fend off six or seven foes at once. That would be trouble enough, but some of these enemies have attacks that stun you or are quick to trap you in combos. This is a frequent issue, even as you get stronger and unlock additional skills. The game would have benefited from some better balancing on the solo side of things.
As someone new to the scene, I can say that Anamanaguchi’s soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim is seriously rad. The blaring chiptune soundtrack perfectly suits the action and feels right at home with the music-heavy beats of the campaign. With Scott having to face-off with as many musicians as he does, it makes sense that the tunes are of a high level. The 2D artwork is also a highlight. Ubisoft did an excellent job of giving each sprite personality through their animations. They also made sure to cram a ton of references into each level, which is always a fun thing to look out for.
While I’m not sure Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition is as good as it was hyped up to be, it’s still a strong and enjoyable brawler. The grind-heavy campaign can get tiresome, but it plays excellently and dishes out upgrades at a reasonable pace. It’s definitely an experience best enjoyed with some good friends, though. If you’re planning on riding solo, I’m not sure the adventure is worth undertaking. Even the excellent soundtrack and pleasant visuals can’t cover for the difficulty found when playing alone.
This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Ubisoft.