Ten-ish years ago, there was a movie based on a comic about a 20-something loser named Scott Pilgrim and his struggle against his new girlfriend’s exes. It was good, even though it’s totally obvious they changed the ending at the last minute. More importantly, alongside that movie there was a video game. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: the Game was loved and treasured by many, myself included…at least until it was pulled from digital storefronts in 2014 because licensing is a bitch. But that was then, and this is now! Scott Pilgrim is finally back just in time for its tenth-ish anniversary! Is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: the Game – Complete Edition still the game we fell in love with, or is it time to find someone new?
From a gameplay perspective, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a 2D beat ‘em up fashioned after River City Ransom. Scott and company fight their way through the streets of Toronto, earning money and leveling up. Leveling up unlocks new abilities, and money is used to purchase health-restoring snacks as well as stat-increasing items. The fighting system isn’t particularly innovative or complex, but it is fun, especially after you start unlocking new moves. My only major complaint is that it’s pretty easy to get stunlocked by enemy combos, especially in large groups.
Story and narrative aren’t exactly the strengths of the beat ‘em up genre. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has six volumes worth of graphic novels to draw from, but the game never even tries to make use of them. The game expects players to be familiar with the source material, and makes no effort to communicate the finer points of the story. The lack of narrative doesn’t really impact the experience of the game, save for a potentially jarring shift in tone near the end.
Where Scott Pilgrim vs. the World shines brightest is in its presentation. Paul Robertson’s stellar pixel art and animation style oozes with personality and charm. Combat animations are just flashy enough to be satisfying, but they never cross the line into being distracting. Backgrounds are delightful and varied, though the NPCs that populate them often repeat pretty often. All of the visual details are wonderful, but my favorite has to be when several enemies are defeated quickly and the survivors put their hands on their heads and their jaws hang open in terror.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World isn’t just a pretty face, it sounds just as good. Anamanaguchi has provided a phenomenal chiptune soundtrack that perfectly captures the feel of the retro video games Scott Pilgrim seeks to emulate. I genuinely believe every track in the game is superb, there isn’t a bad song to be found. The beginning stages and shop themes are light and catchy, the later stages take on more complex, darker melodies, and the transition from one to the other across the game is almost seamless.
Not everything about this reunion is sunshine and rainbows, however. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: the Game – Complete Edition, has some pretty severe technical issues. My PC has the hardware to be more than capable of running the game, but Scott Pilgrim ran very poorly when I started it up. The frame rate tanked in menus, the cinematics were out of sync with the music, and playing the game felt like trying to sprint through waist-deep mud. Frustrated, I tried the PlayStation version…which is actually worse. On my PS5, Scott Pilgrim crashed multiple times on the first level during multiplayer games. I fared better playing alone, but was still stopped by crashes at the end of stage three. The solution to both was to force my output down to 1080p on a hardware level. I haven’t had an issue since changing resolutions, but the damage to my first impressions was already done.
For me, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: the Game has always been more than the sum of its parts. I absolutely adore Paul Robertson’s style of pixel art and animation. Anamanaguchi’s chiptune soundtrack perfectly embodies the nostalgia I have for the music in the Genesis games of my youth. The experience of fighting my way through the streets and neighborhoods of Toronto is just as fun at the end of the game as it was at the beginning thanks to the expanding move list. To have all of these factors together in one game is a borderline miracle that feels like it was made specifically for me. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: the Game – Complete Edition is every bit the game I loved ten-ish years ago. The bugs and crashes do hurt the experience, but after being apart for most of a decade I have a hard time staying upset.