Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition Review (Switch)
Release Date: January 14, 2021
File Size: 1.1GB
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It isn’t everyday that I get to talk about a beat’em up, especially one that can be filed as an RPG. The original arcade beat’em ups were designed specifically to eat as many quarters from the player as humanly possible, and RPG-style progression would likely further inhibit the player’s pacing – a good call for lining the developer’s pockets, but not so much for the end user. While arcades are but a relic of the past now, the beat’em up RPG subgenre remains a niche within a niche, only being represented by a handful of titles over the years.
Though many (including myself) associate the beat’em up RPG with the long-running Kunio-kun franchise, there have certainly been others that have taken up that torch over time – one being Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game. It was released to generally favorable reviews on PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2010 before being repackaged with DLC content and re-releasing on all modern consoles earlier this year. Now having just completed the game, my only real complaint is that I didn’t play it when it first came out.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition is a side-scrolling beat’em up RPG in vein of classics like Golden Axe and TMNT, with a progression system akin to River City Ransom. The player, with up to three others via local co-op or online multiplayer, makes their way through seven unique levels, cleaning up the streets with various kicks, punches, and character-specific special abilities. In Story Mode, the ultimate goal is to defeat the end boss of all seven stages, which are traversed in a progressive single-screen fashion just like the classic beat’em ups of old.
Buying All The Things
Each playable character has their own separate levels and progression. Defeating enemies will grant EXP and, upon a level-up, will unlock additional moves for combat. Shops are strewn about each level that offer a variety of goods for purchasing – enemies shower the streets in money upon death, a la River City Ransom. There are three types of purchases that can be made: snacks, meals, and accessories. Snacks generally provide minor boosts to HP and GP (more on this later), permanent (but minor) boosts to the player’s primary attributes, and will give the player a shot in the arm in any scenario that would otherwise have killed them outright. Meals are more expensive, are often more potent than their snack counterparts but cannot be carried into combat. Finally, accessories are usually the most expensive, but can have some of the best stat boosts in the game and their benefits can be reaped multiple times through multiple purchases.
I say “can” because items and gear aren’t created equal, and the game does not give you this information until after you have purchased said items. While a cute nod to games like River City Ransom, where the lack of information was likely due to hardware constraints rather than an actual design choice, it is better to know what you’re investing in before making a purchase. Unfortunately, a guide is recommended for this unless you just enjoy wasteful spending. It’s not that you won’t get anywhere by going into shopping blind, but the truth is that many items are simply not worth buying.
Each playable character has their own set of moves that will unlock as they level up, some of which function the same across the board but have different animations based on the current character. Many of these, again, are in reference to River City Ransom, such as the Acro Circus (aerial flips that can damage opponents) and Grand Slam (lightning-fast weapon attacks). The heroes start out with measly stats and few moves, but will become gods and goddesses by the end of the adventure.
Combat in general can be quite fun and dynamic, with an array of enemies capable of attacking you all at once, and many that attempt to exploit you when you are tangled up with another foe. Character-specific super abilities can help create some breathing room between you and lots of opponents, though at a cost. Supers require GP (or Guts Points) to use, which also double as a way to continue getting back up after losing all of your health. Lose all of your health and you die, losing a life in the process. Losing all lives leads to a soft “game over” that will force you to restart the entire level (with money and stat progression intact), so be careful. Super abilities can be extremely useful, particularly early on, but nothing compares to the fear-inducing, head-bashing power of Grand Slam.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition is completely enjoyable via solo play, but is clearly designed with multiplayer in mind. There are additional functions in-combat and even game modes designed around dishing out mass beat-up sessions with a friend or two. Players in a multiplayer environment can share health with one another, revive each other, and even steal lives from other players! Throw in some friendly fire, some united attacks, and hilarity will ensue!
The only potential downside with combat is the grinding requirement. While the game is in the visual vein of classic arcade beat’em ups, the RPG progression demands the player to issue beatings en masse in order to build up stats and their arsenal of moves. Oftentimes, this means you can and will repeat different maps in order to accumulate money and experience. But hey, it is a beat’em up after all. Is more fighting a bad thing? I think not. This honestly only applies to the very early game, as after a base level of progression is made, the game becomes much easier.
Being the Complete Edition, this version of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game includes all of the previously released DLC (and hidden) content, including Survival Horror (zombie mode), Boss Rush, Dodgeball, and Battle Royale. While the first two can be enjoyed solo, the latter two are obviously designed with multiplayer in mind even though they appear to be limited to local co-op.
It is rare for me not to discuss story content in my reviews first, but it’s also rare that I play a game devoid of meaningful story content. Being a game based on a graphic novel series and subsequent movie by the same name, and having no knowledge of either article whatsoever, I expected there to be some confusion in this category. I was okay with it because beat’em ups aren’t usually even about the story.
That said, I have no idea what happened in this game from a narrative perspective beyond minute details. Playable characters Scott and Ramona are a thing, but she has some crazy exes that we now must beat into the ground – seven, to be precise. There’s virtually no meaningful dialogue to help advance the plot, instead playing out in briefly animated cutscenes after each boss fight. The actual endings of the game change based on whatever character you control, but I don’t see how anyone but diehard fans of the series would care about them at all. The one I experienced was short, and added no meaningful depth or sense of resolution to these characters I already know nothing about.
Again, I know that my lack of the source material is to blame here, but it would have been appreciated to at least have a little something to make the story a bit more compelling to series newcomers. Heck, I feel that the original River City Ransom on NES provides a more compelling story within the game than this does – that’s not the fanboy in me talking either, there’s just not much of anything here for those not already “in the know.” Regardless, it is but a minor rant in an otherwise impressive package.
Speaking of impressive, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition boasts an impressive visual and audio package. The soundtrack kicks, sound effects are appropriately impactful, and both enemies and allies are highly stylized and emotive – wincing in pain and reacting in joy when appropriate. The cutscenes provided in between levels, while lacking meaningful narrative context, are always fantastic.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition is a brilliant homage to both classic arcade beat’em ups and the niche beat’em up RPG subgenre. It is short, as is the case with most beat’em ups, but has decent replay value as a solo player and has exponentially more longevity with friends. My own, single playthrough of the story campaign concluded in less than five hours, so you can get in, beat up some folks, and get out without too much commitment. The extra game modes are there if you need a change of pace, but again, are best suited in a multiplayer environment. It may not be my favorite beat’em up RPG, but it is a dang good one that I will surely revisit many times in the future.