When Canadian author Brian Lee O’Malley wrote Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life in 2004, little did he know of his story’s positive impact on modern pop-culture. His quirky storytelling and characters were what got me into comics in the first place. Though, truth be told, I didn’t know anything about this Scott guy until 2010. During that year, Scott Pilgrim was made into a movie and a game within the same month. And not just any fly-by-night cash-grab flick, but one directed by Edgar Wright, who was already known for his work on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
Furthermore, the movie featured a star-studded cast, including Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Captain America before he even was Captain America – Chris Evans. Not bad for what was essentially a nerd-flick. Ubisoft also did its part in popularizing the franchise by releasing Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game mere weeks before the movie hit the theatres.
Unless you’ve played the game, I know what you’re thinking: games based on movies suck and movies based on games suck. But see, this game’s based on a comic series and let me tell you – it was all kinds of awesome. It’s been 10 years since the game’s release on Xbox 360, so let’s look back at the vibrant and the immensely enjoyable beat-em-up Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game.
Scott Pilgrim is in Lesbians With Ramona Flowers
If you’ve read the excellent Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life or watched the movie, then you already know the premise. It’s a doozy, but here’s a brief summary. Meet Scott, a 23-year-old loser who plays the guitar in the Sex Bob-Omb band. He’s not the brightest, he’s not the strongest and he’s certainly not the most handsome. In fact, he’s not “the most” anything, but somehow gets the hottest chicks.
His latest crush is the girl of his dreams – an Amazon.ca delivery girl in Ramona Flowers. A girl of his dreams quite literally; Ramona uses the empty expanses of Scott’s consciousness as a Subspace to traverse long distances in a flash. Don’t ask. Scott falls head-over-heels in love with her, but in order to date Ramona he must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. Mostly boyfriends; she experimented with girls during college and played around with Japanese twins.
The game omits many of the original story’s finer details such as the hilarious escapades of Scott’s gay roommate Wallace. There’s also no elaboration on Scott’s current relationship with a cute 17-year-old high-schooler – Knives Chau – which, by the way, is illegal. And the scene showcasing Ramona’s frighteningly large stockpile of teas is also missing.
Understandably, it’s all done in favour of focusing on the gameplay and there’s enough information to get you going. This also makes it nearly imperative to read the comics and watch the movie as well.
Gotta Beat ‘Em All!
Seven evil ex-boyfriends and you’ve got to beat them all. Is there a perfect video game genre for this? Inspired by beat-em-up classics like Double Dragon and River City Ransom, Scott Pilgrim follows a traditional genre formula. Playing as either Scott, Ramona or one of Scott’s friends, Kim or Stephen, you’re thrown onto the streets of snowy Toronto.
Each stage requires you to plough through groups of thugs and other ne’er-do-wells, reach the end and defeat its boss: one of the boyfriends. Anything goes – kicks, punches, use of melee weapons and objects within the environment. Many elements from comics and the movie are woven in; others are unique to the game. Defeated opponents drop coins which you can spend on upgrades by visiting various stores across levels. Subspaces are turned into fun bonus levels which often grant a plethora of coins upon completion.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game has a ton of style. Every character and piece of scenery pops with colour. Every kick and punch prompts some sort of visual feedback, such as “KPOW” or numbers indicating the amount of damage dealt. Despite simple controls, every boss encounter feels unique. For instance, Todd has psychic powers due to being vegan and the Japanese twins control a giant mech. It’s at its best when played with friends. In fact, up to four players can join for a session, via couch co-op or online (added via DLC).
Scott Pilgrim boasts an exceptional chip-tune soundtrack by Anamanaguchi, often touted for its excellent synergy with gameplay. Overall, it feels like playing a modern equivalent of an arcade game from the comfort of your couch.
Scott Pilgrim vs. Digital Distribution
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is a complete package. It has the quirky story of its comic counterpart which, thanks to very brief cutscenes, never breaks the game’s pacing. Its gameplay is inspired by the very best of the genre, not to mention that it’s the perfect genre for the game’s premise. Saying that Scott Pilgrim and beat-em-ups meld like an Oreo and milk would be an understatement.
So, how does one play this pixelated masterpiece? Well, you can’t. Not unless you purchased the digital version on the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game was never released physically and got removed from digital storefronts in 2014, likely due to licensing issues. This is a perfect example of how detrimental digital distribution can be to a creative work of any kind.
One might argue that whoever wanted to play the game probably purchased it before removal. But with so many games being released each year, it’s hard to keep track of everything. And as a result, some of them just slip past your radar. Then, when you finally stumble upon that hidden gem or something you simply missed, it turns out that you can’t play it as a result of needless bureaucracy.
Ubisoft has hinted via a recent tweet that Scott Pilgrim might be due for a return. At the very least, someone still acknowledges the game’s existence. But as of right now, there’s no official information and its fate remains in limbo. Who knows, maybe eventually, when the legal paperwork is taken care of, someone like Limited Run Games will publish a physical copy of Scott Pilgrim and eternalize it.