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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game Review

Review; Sep. 10, 2010; Channels: Video Games; By Edward Kaczynski

Some of the best memories (as far as gaming is concerned) of my early childhood were days spent at the arcade, pumping quarters into The Simpsons Arcade Game. You remember it – unless you’re not old enough to have experienced an arcade; in which case, I pity you. You’d put your quarter on the edge of the machine, reserving your place in line. And your place was reserved; nobody (except the occasional jackass) would violate that semi-sacred rule.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game Screenshots
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If you were lucky enough to have some friends with you (or at least, run into some acquaintances) you could get the whole family going. You would always try to choose Bart, as his skateboard had a long enough reach, balanced with damage, to make him the most effective combatant (also, I was nine). Homer was a good second choice – you usually saved him for your best friend. The other two could fight it out for Lisa over Marge (etiquette dictating that, whoever has the least amount of money left will beg to borrow some when he dies, and thus, gets Marge). 

This elegant and intricate behavior was immediately followed by rapid, frantic button-mashing, cursing and eventual frustration as most of us did not have enough money to keep going once we were killed off. And we did get killed off – it was never a matter of if, but when. 

The interesting part, though, is that losing didn’t really matter. Sure, it was annoying to get killed off when you had so much fun getting there, but it’s about the journey, not the destination. Beat-‘em-ups didn’t really have stories, so there were no burning questions to be resolved (also, I WAS NINE). It was a bonding experience between you and your buddies. If you were there by yourself, sometimes you made a (temporary) new friend in your playing partner. 

Unless you sucked. 

Skip ahead to 2010.  

While most of us now have the money to outlast and eventually move past the boss that killed us every time when we were young, most of us don’t. There are a few reasons for this, but here are the main ones. 

  1. We’re old. At least, as far as other gamers in the gaming world. Face it guys, it’s true. Our reaction speed is down, and we’re never going to be as fast as we once were.
  2. Arcades, for all intents and purposes, don’t really exist anymore. And those that do no longer carry brawlers – it’s all about shooters, racers and sports sims (Golden Tee, I’m looking directly at you). 

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, brought to us by our friends at Ubisoft, is a return to the classic arcade (and console) games of our youth. The first five seconds of gameplay bombarded me with memories of Double Dragon, The Simpsons, TMNT: Turtles in Time and Battletoads (the non-Wii version), and a huge smile appeared on my face. It was like discovering that my depressing adulthood was just the fevered dream of a child (if only briefly), and nothing could deter that joy. 

There is literally nothing bad I can say about this game because it knows exactly what it is: a classic-style, 16-bit, 4 player brawler, and it executes it perfectly. You can play it by yourself, but half the fun is inviting your friends over, cracking some beers and laughing at the insanity you all wind up producing while you button-mashing your controllers like frustrated fat kids trying to get the stuck candy bar out of the vending machine.

Like the comic book series and film it was based on, Scott Pilgrim is loaded to the brim with classic anime and videogame references, both obvious and subtle. The 16-bit graphics are a welcome change of pace, as most studios tend to place style over substance.

An abundance of weapons litter the landscape as you make your way through Scott Pilgrim’s world (because Canada might as well be another planet). Some are mundane, like beer bottles, bats and swords, while others cross the line of ridiculous and can only be classified as insane (mystery ninjas, laser swords, OTHER PLAYERS).

And let’s not forget the staple of any truly great classic-style game – a kick-ass soundtrack. It’s amazing what can be done with simple 8-bit MIDI format music – look at Tetris, Castlevania, Punch Out!, the overworld theme from The Legend of Zelda, and (of course) almost everything from the Mega Man series. This isn’t an accident. Anamanaguchi, a chiptune punk band (I learned this term researching this article) from New York, were asked to provide the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim. It is not an exaggeration to say that Anamanaguchi doesn’t just hit a home run – they knock the ball out of the fucking ozone, damage an alien ship observing us from orbit and start an interstellar war. I cannot get enough of this soundtrack.

So what’s my overall recommendation? As much as I love this game, as enthralling as it may be, it’s not going to be for everyone. I understand that – I’m preaching to the converted. And while the old gamers like me and mine will love it, and most of the retro gamers will probably enjoy it, the younger kids will probably find it frustrating and/or boring (younger, of course, being anyone born in 1990 or after – don’t argue with me). It suffers from the same pitfalls that all brawlers, as a rule, do; your thumbs will turn to Jell-O and you’ll piss off your upstairs neighbor with constant laughing/yelling. 

But, I’m still playing it. I’ve beaten it three times, and it’s a get-together waiting to happen every weekend, and it’s not getting any less distracting as time goes on.

Comments

darkstar2380 - Sep. 11, 2010 at 9:43:22am

Well, there IS multiplayer, it's just local. But again, that's kinda the point.

JCXanirus

JCXanirus - Sep. 11, 2010 at 1:28:31am

Theme song (main menu) and first stage Winter song FTW. The only thing I didn't like about this game is the lack of multiplayer. This game is just begging it. Also a bit short, which explains how's it's possible to beef up your character in such a short time.

Review Score
9.6

Teen

Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

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