We are Sex Bob-omb and we're here to make you think about video game preservation! 1,2,3,4!
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is an argument for why digital-only purchases are so troubling for many. For years, the game has been completely unplayable due to its removal from various digital storefronts, only accessible to those who downloaded the game prior to its demise. In fact, it’s the reason why I kept a PS3 out of my loft for so long, sitting under my desk as the last place to take down Ramona Flowers’ Seven Evil Exes.
Thankfully, Ubisoft and Universal have finally come to the agreement that it might be a good idea to allow people to buy a game that they’ve been asking for, and released Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game Complete Edition, a title almost as long as time fans have spent asking series creator Bryan Lee O’Malley on Twitter to rerelease the game.
The game itself is a side-scrolling beat ’em up in which up to four players can control Scott Pilgrim, Ramona Flowers and a host of other characters from the graphic novel series turned wonderful but commercially fatal motion picture. Each level sees Scott and the gang traverse through locales from the series and some new ones created specifically for the game, each of which ends in a boss fight against one of Ramona Flower’s Seven Evil Exes.
A lot of the reason I loved this game so much when it first released was its unending admiration for the source material. There’s absolutely no way you get a game so reverent to the original graphic novels from a team that isn’t massive fans. The translation from the graphic novel page to the 16-bit style the game employs is flawless. Each level is inventive and colourful, and each of the enemies you’ll spend the game punching to bits is full of personality.
The game’s soundtrack is an all-timer. The one chiptune band that everyone knows, Anamanaguchi, provides anthem after anthem that you’ll have to have surgically removed from your brain. I am not typically one to listen to a game’s soundtrack outside of the context of the game itself, but since its release in 2010, the SPVTWTG soundtrack has been a regular refrain.
It all contributes to the incredible energy of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. From the title screen which pierces your eardrums with a musical whine not dissimilar to the dropping of a missile, to the title music itself, practically screaming at you to start the game and have fun. The digital drums bashing away at such a speed that if played by a human they’d cause permanent nerve damage.
Unfortunately, after you begin the game and enter the mysterious land of Canada, you’re met with very bland gameplay. The combat itself is the weakest element of the game by far. Hits don’t feel satisfying, there’s some noticeable input latency and it’s common to find yourself unable to hit enemies due to them being a millimetre higher or lower than you on the game’s 2.5D plain.
This isn’t news, I’ve felt this way about the game since its original release, but in the intervening decade, the bar of quality for games of this type has gone through the roof, leaving Scott Pilgrim feeling decidedly sub-par from a gameplay perspective. It’s not terrible, and certainly becomes more enjoyable as you level up your character and diversify your move set, but the clunkiness remains. The game supports 4-player local and network multiplayer, which is a far more pleasant experience than the solo outing as the game has a tendency to overwhelm enemies to the point of frustration in later levels.
Despite the “Complete Edition” title added to this release of the game, the additions are disappointingly few. DLC characters Wallace Wells and Knives Chao are included as well as a few minigames that you’ll play for a few minutes each. For a game with such incredible art and music, it would have been nice to have some bonus features, but I suppose it’s a bit of a miracle that the game is releasing at all.
For those of you hoping to ensure that the game can never be delisted again, LimitedRunGames has announced a suite of options ranging from a simple boxed copy, all the way to an opulent $140 Collectors Edition featuring guitar picks, drum sticks and a stage diorama with working lights and sounds featuring Sex Bob-omb.
As is always the case with delisted games, the myth of the game is never a true reflection of the game itself. This is a licensed digital game from 2010 and as such, can’t really be compared to output from the current crop of games of its ilk, many of which are lauded as some of the best in the industry. I wouldn’t be surprised if newcomers to the title are disappointed, especially after hearing people talk about it in more and more excited tones since its disappearance.
I’m incredibly glad that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game finally made it out of the subspace highway of delisted games. This is one of the rare happy endings when large publishers and licenses are involved. One imagines that it only happened because Ubisoft saw it as a free win, but that should never be the case. Digital-only games are a massive cloud on the horizon of game preservationists. We can’t only look after the good games.
What remains as true in 2021 as it was in 2010 is that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game was made with an immense amount of love. A game with this level of attention to detail, creativity, and reverence simply was not the norm at the time in licensed games, and it still isn’t now. The gameplay still lets the package down from being something you’ll come back to more than a few times, but the soundtrack will rapidly make its way to your phone, perfect for when you need a bit more energy to get through the day.