Released: 14 January 2021
Originally Released: 10 August 2010
Developers: Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Chengdu
Also Available For: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (Original); Amazon Luna, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox Series X (Complete)
Like many people, I’m sure, I first became aware of Scott Pilgrim upon the release of the frankly incredible movie adaptation, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Wright, 2010), but this unique and surreal concept first began life as a series of graphic novels created by Brain Lee O’Malley and published between August 2004 and July 2010. Inspired by pop culture and, specifically, the Plumtree song “Scott Pilgrim”, O’Malley sought to create a shōnen-style comic book series and was surprised to find that his original run of black-and-white publications became an award-winning series and inspired a critically (if not financially) successful live-action adaptation.
Although initially released around the same time as the movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game actually has more in common with the source material than the movie; boasting retro-style graphics, gameplay, and music, the game was developed in close collaboration with both O’Malley and director Edgar Wright and, despite being generally well received and one of my favourite titles on the PlayStation 3, the game was delisted from online stores due to licensing issues. However, to coincide with the game’s tenth anniversary, O’Malley and Wright appealed to Ubisoft to bring the game back and it was finally re-released, alongside all of the downloadable content (DLC) and some additional features, and a limited number of physical copies was even produced for the Switch version.
Scott Pilgrim is the lazy, selfish, and obnoxious bass player of the band Sex Bob-Omb. He’s also in love with a girl, Ramona Flowers. However, Ramona comes with some unique baggage: Her seven evil exes have joined forces and are gunning for Scott, who must team up with Ramona and a host of his other friends to battle their way through the snow-filled streets of Toronto and the surreal world beyond Canada’s borders in order to prove his love for her.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game: Complete Edition is a 2D, sidescrolling beat-‘em-up very much in the style of classic beat-‘em-ups like Double Dragon (Technōs Japan, 1987) and River City Ransom (ibid/Various, 1989). The basic thrust of the game has you picking from one of three different difficulty settings (‘Average Joe’, ‘Rough & Rough’, or ‘Supreme Master’) and six playable characters from the Scott Pilgrim comics (Scott himself, Ramona Flowers, Steven Stills, Kim Pine, Knives Chau, and Wallace Wells (the latter two who were originally only available as DLC)) and making your way from the left side of the screen to the right while beating up a variety of enemies and goons.
Accordingly, Scott Pilgrim’s controls are pretty basic: you attack with fast punches with X, stronger kicks with Y, hold B to block, and press RB for a Super Attack and LB to call in a “striker” (one of three other characters who will perform an attack to help level the playing field when things get rough). These attacks and controls are standard across all of the playable characters but each has their own unique attacks and Super Attacks that can be learned by defeating enemies, gaining experience points (XP), and levelling up. This will allow you to perform dash and ground attacks, evade incoming attacks, grapple and throw enemies, and perform more versatile mid-air attacks using directional inputs in conjunction with button presses. You can also pick up weapons and objects (and enemies) with X and defeating enemies concurrently will eventually see your character glow gold and earn both increased speed and the ability to pull off a massive combo attack on multiple enemies by mashing X or Y. The game does include a level cap, however, meaning that I had unlocked the entirety of Scott’s moveset by the time I hit Level 16, but it does allow for two players or more to team up for a combined attack when playing in co-op mode.
Each character has set number of Hit Points (HP) and Gut Points (GP); as you take damage, your HP will drain and, when you perform Super Attacks and call in strikers, your GP will drain. When you lose all of your HP, you can mash the A button to trade in your remaining GP for additional HP and stay in the fight a little longer or have another player revive you at the cost of some coins. Every enemy you defeat will drop a number of coins that you can spend in a variety of shops and fast food joints to purchase items that increase your stats (such as your maximum HP and GP, attack and defence power, or provide an XP boost), earn you an extra life, or restore your HP and/or GP. Some food items can even be taken to go and will automatically restore a portion of your health once you’re defeated, which can be extremely useful when tackling the game’s tougher stages and bosses but you can only carry one item in your inventory at a time and some of these items carry a hefty price tag so you may have to replay some of the earlier and easier stages a few times to get the cash you need.
Rather than following the plot of the movie, which was a truncated (if admirably faithful) version of the source material, Scott Pilgrim recreates the plot of the graphic novels as closely as is possible for a sidescrolling beat-‘em-up. The game’s stages are quite long and varied and feature at least two distinct sections that you can jump to at any time from the overworld map screen once you clear a stage, which can be easier said than done if you’re under-levelled and underpowered. While you can change the game’s difficulty settings whenever you like and still continue with your existing progress for the character you’re playing as, each character represents a separate playthrough of the main campaign, meaning that if you clear the game with Scott, you have to start right from the beginning when you first select, say, Wallace.
While mindless beat-em-up brawling is largely the aim of the game, there are a number of hazards and obstacles that you’ll have to watch out for as you play Scott Pilgrim: buses and traffic will occasionally pummel you in the streets; you can fall down holes and breakable floor boards; spiked pits and large rolling balls and boulders and bursts of flame are just begging to sap your HP; and you’ll even be asked to take part in a snowball fight or run for your life as a massive robot destroys the fire escape beneath your feet. Keep an eye out for portals to the mysterious Subspace, though; these are usually marked by star graffiti or symbols and will transport you to a weird, glitchy area full of flying piggy banks and curiously familiar blocks that can be smashed to stock up on coins and provide much needed shortcuts around tougher areas of the game.
And make no mistake about it, Scott Pilgrim is an incredibly tough game even on the easiest setting. Once you’ve managed to level up and purchase all the upgrades to max out your stats, the game becomes much easier (almost too easy, in fact) but, especially in the early going, it can be a bit of a frustrating slog. Enemies dish out and take a fair amount of damage, often blocking or punching through your attacks, and will not only overwhelm you from every angle and pummel you with weapons, they also occasionally dog pile you when you’re knocked down and burst out of the environment for a surprise attack. Luckily, environmental hazards will damage your enemies as much as they do you and you should use this to your advantage but it can get incredibly frustrating when enemies get cheap hits in on you or when the game asks you to avoid seemingly endless waves of cannonballs.
Graphics and Sound:
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game: Complete Edition utilises a distinctly retro aesthetic that’s not quite 8- or 16-bit as you/we might remember it but is identifiably paying homage to games of that era in its presentation. The game is more concerned with bringing the art style of the graphic novels to life, resulting in some nice, big, cartoony graphics full of lively animations and some colourful, dynamic environments. Sadly, though, I did notice a couple of odd glitches; sometimes, you can’t enter doors and need to backtrack a bit before the game decides to let you enter and, similarly, I sometimes had trouble picking up weapons and, especially, the extra life you get after defeating the second boss.
The game’s locations are ripped straight from the source material and feature such mundane environments as the snow-swept streets of Toronto, the energetic dance floors of a couple of clubs, and a particularly colourful Halloween party. However, Scott Pilgrim’s appeal has always been in its unique blending of the everyday with the surreal and, accordingly, you’ll visit a movie set and encounter both green screen effects and a temple clearly modelled after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Spielberg, 1984), battle a giant anime-style robot, and visit both a dojo full of ninjas and a graveyard populated by zombies.
The homages don’t end there, either, as the game is full of references to the Super Mario series (Nintendo/Various, 1983 to present): the character select screen is ripped straight out of Super Mario Bros. 2 (Nintendo R&D4, 1988), the overworld is almost exactly like the one in Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo EAD, 1988), and you’ll smash blocks and collect coins just like in the Mario games. There are also references to the Mega Man franchise (Capcom/Various, 1987 to present) in the way you exit each stage, how certain bosses die, and, especially, in the game’s finale. You’re also tasked with destroying a car like in Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991) for bonus coins at one point, attacking little gnomes like in Golden Axe (SEGA, 1989), the pause menu music sounds like it was ripped right out of Battletoads (Rare, 1991), and one of the final boss battles is more than a little similar to Safer-Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII (Square, 1997).
Scott Pilgrim’s environments are full of life and little details; you’ll see snow, wind, and rain affect the background, a wide variety of non-playable characters (NPCs) populate each area and even react when you try and attack them, other characters from the graphic novels appear in supporting and background roles (usually in the game’s many different shops), and you’ll see many different animals and little details in the background to distract you. The game also forgoes relying on text or speech bubbles to convey its story and, instead, utilises little partially animated cutscenes modelled after the graphic novel to show story and stage progression. One of the most appealing aspects of the game, though, is its retro-inspired soundtrack; Anamanaguchi, a notable chip-tune pop/rock group, provided the game’s energetic and catchy tunes and they really help to sell the idea of the game being a throwback to retro beat-‘em-ups and arcade games.
Enemies and Bosses:
As you battle your way from the streets of Toronto and across town to defeat each of Ramona’s seven evil exes, you’ll also have to wade through a number of nameless, faceless street thugs. These guys like to attack as a group and are fully capable of grabbing, using, and throwing weapons and many of the bigger or more rotund of their number can absorb a great deal of punishment. Some even have an annoying tendency to burst out from the background or attack you from off-screen and hoards of their number can await you on your journey, making crowd control a key aspect to master when playing Scott Pilgrim.
When fighting your way to Lucas Lee, you’ll have to content with some of the game’s most annoying enemies: paparazzi can stun you almost into a near-inescapable loop with their camera flashes, guys in alien costumes blast at you, and others dress up in dinosaur outfits to chargrill you and charge at you in a rage. Muggers await you on the tram and will cause you to drop coins when they hit you, ninjas teleport into battle wielding swords and tossing fireballs at you, bats and dogs will swarm you at the most inopportune moments, and you’ll even have to battle zombies and a number of robots as you continue to progress. Generally, it helps to have some kind of weapon (preferably a sword or baton) at hand to help even the odds as Scott Pilgrim’s enemies can be particularly frustrating and cheap at times.
Of course, the aim of the game is to defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes, meaning that at least seven boss battles await you in the game. The first of her evil exes, Matthew Patel, launches fireballs at you and summons little Demon Hipster Chicks to distract you and fire at you, occasionally shielding himself in a beam of light while they rotate around him. Still, he’s not too difficult to defeat if you take the demons out with your jumping attacks, avoid or block his attacks, and keep the pressure on him. Lucas Lee is even easier, though; you can pummel him with almost no resistance for the first part of the fight before he calls in a couple of goons for support and starts attacking you with (and on) his skateboard.
Things take a dramatic left turn when you battle your way to Todd Ingram, though. Not only do you have to run a gruelling gauntlet through his club (watching out for screaming fans of his band, Clash at Demonhead, while you’re at it), but you’ll also have to fight the tag team of Envy Adams and Lynette Guycott first. While Lynette’s bionic arm and tendency to teleport about make her a pain, it’s Envy that will cause you the most trouble as she launches kicks and dives at you with a frustrating aggression. Defeat either one of them and you’ll be blasted through the walls by the power of Todd’s guitar; you then have to smash through walls before the sound wave hits you (which is really hard to do without being hurt or dying when you’re under-levelled), defeat him in the easiest recreation of Guitar Hero (Harmonix, 2005) ever (you literally just press one button), before battling him one-on-one in the alleyway all with no checkpoints. Todd is able to use his vegan powers to choke you in mid-air, telekinetically throw objects and debris at you, and erect a shield but his most powerful attack sees him transform into a bulging monstrosity like something out of Akira (Otomo, 1982 to 1990; 1988) that sees him stretch one muscular arm across the entire screen. Dodge this, though, and the vegan police will weaken Todd, leaving him vulnerable for your attacks, but this is undoubtedly where the game’s difficulty suddenly ramps up and you’ll probably be desperate for the extra life Todd leaves behind upon defeat.
The third boss, Roxy Richter, wields a particularly impressive and long-reaching whip-like sword and also favours teleporting about the screen when you battle her but, luckily, you can grab a large mallet right before this fight and pummel her into submission without her even landing a hit if you’re quick enough. Ramona’s fourth evil exes, Kyle and Ken Katayanagi, put up a bit more of a fight purely by being more annoying. First, you have to defeat their little robot minion (which is easy enough); then you have to frantically scale a fire escape while their giant robot attacks you, before battling their gigantic Voltron rip-off on a rooftop. The robot will try to smash and squeeze you with its hands, bombard you with missiles, burn you with flames, and zap you with a huge energy beam but it’s pretty easy to dodge and avoid all of these attacks and take out its hands one at a time. The Twins then flee to the Dragon’s Den, a short stage full of annoying hazards, and battle you two-on-one in the gothic basement of this level. However, if you grab a baton before entering the boss area and attack quickly enough, you can whittle them down before the fight has even begun and dispatch them easily enough before they can deal any real damage.
After this, you’ll enter the park and fight through a zombie-filled graveyard; zombies are quite difficult to take out as they keep getting up from your attacks and swarm the screen but you can instantly defeat them by tossing or forcing them into the open graves that are dotted throughout the stage. At the end of the level, you’ll battle Nega Scott, a dark doppelgänger of Scott Pilgrim who throws fireballs at you and darts around the screen hitting hard and fast. Thanks to how quick, aggressive, and powerful Nega Scott is, this can be one of the more challenging boss battles as he actually puts up a worthy fight rather than being cheap or unfair. Defeat Nega Scott, and you face the game’s toughest challenge yet; a gruelling fight through the Chaos Theatre that sees you taking on waves of enemies on a descending elevator against a time limit before battling Ramona’s final evil ex and the mastermind behind the game’s events: Gideon Graves. Graves is a three stage boss battle: in his first form, he assumes a muscular form and attacks with punches, rains comets down upon you, or tries to crush you with a huge meteor. He can also become invulnerable for a short period of time but, if you grab a baton or similar weapon, you can easily catch him in a damage loop and whittle his health down.
In his second form, Gideon transforms into a gigantic, Lovecraftian nightmare that you battle from a small rocky platform. Make sure you grab the Power of Love sword before this fight as it’ll deal heavy damage against Gideon and is instrumental in allowing you to actually overcome this monstrosity. Gideon attacks by punching you, electrocuting you, destroying the platform you’re on, and sending screaming skulls your way but I found the best strategy was to stay down at the bottom of the screen, just far enough away to avoid being electrocuted, and just frantically mash the X button to damage him with the sword’s energy beams. Once he’s defeated, you then have to fight through his underground lab, which is full of robots, turrets, laser traps, and clones of Ramona that wield electrical batons. Make sure you grab one of these before facing Gideon in his final form, which sees him swiping at you with a sword, creating pixelated waves that you must jump over, and dashing about the place in a frenzy. He can take a lot of damage but, again, you can trap him in a cycle with your weapon to help whittle his health down. Once defeated, it’ll turn out that this was merely a robot and you’ll be asked to deliver the final blow to the true Gideon before being treated to your character’s unique ending.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Unfortunately, if you want to recover your HP or GP in Scott Pilgrim, you’re going to have to pay for it; there are no health-restoring pick-ups or temporary power-ups to be found in the game’s stages and, instead, you’ll have to spend your hard-earned coins in the game’s money shops to heal up and improve your states. Prices vary across the board but it’s recommended that you save your cash up to pay off Scott’s late fees at the No Account video store in the first stage as this will allow you to buy extra lives much cheaper than in Wallace’s secret shop. You can buy a variety of junk food, drinks, and other food to restore HP, GP, or both; some of these can be taken to go to automatically restore some of your HP upon defeat and it’s definitely worth having at least one in your inventory for the game’s tougher bosses.
You should also take full advantage of the weapons the game has to offer; you can grab baseball bats, snowballs, batons, swords, and other items to even the odds stacked against you but be warned as these will break after a time and, if you throw them at an enemy, you can also be hurt when the weapon bounces back. Each character starts the game with the minimum amount of HP, GP, and some basic attacks and moves; as you earn XP, you’ll automatically unlock new moves to use, which you can view at any time from the pause menu. From here, you can also see your character’s current level and stats and it’s recommended that you purchase items (books, videos, clothes, and such) to boost these stats wherever possible as the game’s difficulty becomes much more manageable when your damage output, defensive abilities, and HP and GP are increased to maximum.
Disappointingly, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game: Complete Edition has only nineteen Achievements on offer, all of which are exactly the same as those that were on offer in the original game. It’s a shame that the developers didn’t take the opportunity to add a few more to the game, meaning you’re left with Achievements that demand little from you than clearing it with Scott, Wallace, or on the hardest difficulty, eating every food item, or defeating two-hundred enemies with weapons. Some, such as the online-based Achievements, may cause you a bit of bother but you can make others easier to nab by inputting some cheeky codes to give you the Power of Love sword or award you fifty coins to stockpile coins easily.
While you still need to put in a code to access the game’s blood mode and the sound test on the overworld map, you no longer need to do this to unlock the game’s other modes; there’s a boss rush, a survival mode, and you can play a bit of dodge ball and a battle royale if you like (though there are no Achievements tied to these modes). You can also play online with up to three other players, change the colour palette of your character, and even unlock Nega Scott as an additional character after beating the game with the four main characters. After you defeat Lucas Lee, you’ll also see Knives’ father, Mr. Chau, lingering around the world map; select him and you’ll battle him in a particularly annoying fight that sees you lose even if you have extra lives available to you. Defeat him, though, and he’ll be unlocked as a striker for your use, which is necessary to obtain all of the game’s Achievements.
I’m a big fan of Scott Pilgrim; I loved the movie and the graphic novels (particularly the swanky hardback, full colour versions that were released later on) and got a lot of enjoyment out of the game when I played it back on the PlayStation 3 and was very excited to see the game come back to modern consoles. More of these delisted titles need to make a comeback, in my opinion, as there’s some great games out there that are sadly no longer available. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game: Complete Edition is, without a doubt, the definitive version of the game; featuring all the DLC and much more stable online connectivity, the game continues to impress with its retro-style graphics and music and the versatility of its combat, which helps to keep the game fresh and interesting rather than monotonous. Sadly, it’s brought down somewhat by its more frustrating moments; the difficulty curve is a bit steep and inconsistent, wildly varying from stage to stage and boss to boss. It’s enjoyable and fun to keep playing but, until you level and power up, you may be struggling a bit and be forced to stock up on lives and health-restoring items in order to progress. It may also be a lot easier to get through with other players by your side but, either way, I would highly recommended this game and you should definitely get it before it disappears forever again (just be prepared to fight for your survival on more than one occasion).
Did you purchase Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game: Complete Edition? If so, what did you think of it and how do you think it holds up after all this time? Did you ever play the original version of the game and, if so, were you excited to see it re-released? Which of the playable characters, stages, and bosses was your favourite? Did you also struggle a bit with the game’s difficulty curve? Would you have liked to see more content and Achievements included in the Complete Edition? Are you a fan of Scott Pilgrim; if so, what was your introduction to the story and which of the graphic novel’s adaptations do you like the most? Whatever you think about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game: Complete Edition, or Scott Pilgrim in general, drop a comment down below.