Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was a great movie that referenced video games with a type of respect and genuine admiration that you’ll probably never see again within the mainstream media. Too bad then that it completely bombed at the box office, and while I don’t have an exact figure of how many tickets it sold, I’m pretty sure at least 4 people watched it.
Which is a good thing, because now you should be able to wrangle up 3 other friends to play the (mostly) great Scott Pilgrim game with you.
Just as the Scott Pilgrim movie was filled with clever allusions to classic videogames, the Scott Pilgrim game itself is a complete homage to the golden age of 8 and 16 bit games; sly references to Mario Bros, Zelda, and more litter every single screen, the graphics themselves are made of classic, iconic pixel art, and the soundtrack (provided by indie chiptune group Anamanaguchi,) is easily one of the best 8 bit style soundtracks to grace a game since Mega Man 2. Even the gameplay itself is an homage to the classics, combining the left-to-right, beat-em-up style progression of Streets of Rage or Final Fight with the RPG-like persistent character upgrades of River City Ransom.
The appeal of the game doesn’t completely lie in retro fan-service either;while the Scott Pilgrim game was obviously created with the idea of paying respect to the classics, in many ways it surpasses the games it draws inspiration from: Like Streets of Rage, certain button combinations result in different attacks, but the combo system is much, much deeper in Scott Pilgrim, with new combos and special attacks unlocked as your characters defeat more enemies. In addition to that, the character upgrade system, borrowed from River City Ransom, is much more fleshed out here, as the number of different items you can buy to upgrade or heal your character with is immense… And just like any good NES or Genesis game, there are loads of secret moves, items, and even additional characters (as well as the best obscure Zelda II reference ever,) hidden within the game.
Like any good brawler, the experience becomes better with friends. Single player is fine and fun enough on it’s own, but when you play with 3 or 4 people, the game amps up the difficulty by throwing significantly more enemies your way, and this is when the game really shines; on higher difficulties the game requires genuine co-operation and strategy, with players likely having to cover each other as they try to resuscitate dead colleagues or deciding how best to pool their money to spend on upgrades. The action can get a little chaotic and the screen a bit crowded with four players, but the added challenge makes tracking down 3 friends to play the game with worthwhile.
Unfortunately, that’s also the one area where the Scott Pilgrim game stumbles: While the game is best played with a group of friends, it doesn’t support online multiplayer, meaning you’re going to have do things the old school way and actually play with your friends in person, which may or may not be that big of a hassle depending on how anti-social you are. The game also doesn’t let you add or drop players in the middle of the game, meaning that if someone new wants to play or somebody has to go, you have to exit your current game and go back to the title screen to change the amount of players. Furthermore, while I stated earlier that the persistent character upgrades are one of the best aspects of the game and lend it a lot of depth, if any of your friends play through the multiplayer on guest account on your system (as they are likely to do,) the game won’t save their character’s progress, which can be a huge setback if you’re trying to level up all your characters equally.
But despite all the annoyances created by the awkward multiplayer set-up, the game itself is, without a doubt, one of the best sidescrolling beat-em-ups ever created. If you love classic videogames and miss the days of the SNES and the Genesis, or if you’re simply in the mood for a clever, arcadey action game, the Scott Pilgrim game will not disappoint you.
Final Score: 8/10