Ten years after its initial release—and four years after it inexplicably vanished from distribution platforms— Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game – Complete Edition launched earlier this month on basically every platform imaginable, opening up a subspace door back to the vibrant, bohemian world of Canada, where every half-hearted hipster’s life is gently going awry.
The 2010 classic was a warmly celebrated, side-scrolling beat-’em-up game highly reminiscent of River City Ransom. Scott Pilgrim charmingly gamified the narrative beats of legendary Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley’s treasured comic book, which charts the fraught path to maturity of “loser-hero” Scott Pilgrim. First published in 2004, the Scott Pilgrim comic is set in an age of attack hugs, flip phones, and the achingly slow death of grunge. A time when dumb and mediocre yet well-meaning boyfriends were more forgivable, and the lasting infamy of Ready Player One hadn’t made floods of references kind of lame. Over its six-year run, the Scott Pilgrim comic built the foundations of a die-hard fan base, which the movie and game adaptations would multiply many times over. Now the game’s back to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.
It’s Not a Remaster Though
People have been aspirationally referring to this game as a remaster, presuming something is different about it—although sadly, this isn’t the case. Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game – Complete Edition is the same game from 2010 with the Knives and Wallace DLCs baked in. On January 14, Bryan Lee O’Malley tweeted that there were originally talks of including a “Montreal DLC” featuring a playable Gideon Graves alongside Envy Adams and the other members of the Clash at Demonhead, which was originally planned for the 2010 release—along with a slew of other concepts—although this was tragically re-canceled for reasons unexplained.
The original game’s development—shouldered chiefly by Ubisoft Chengdu—is a story of its own. The inexperienced team were expected to ship the game in just five crunchtastic months. In a 2013 interview with Siliconera, Ubisoft Chengdu managing director Richard Tsao shared that the game we got was “probably maybe 50 percent of the original vision,” and that “if we had twice the amount of time, I can tell you, we’d have twice the amount of game.”
If you were hoping for some Worst World references (O’Malley’s current project) in the new version of the game like I was, you’re plum out of luck. Given the development hell of the original release, we’re probably lucky to have the game back at all. O’Malley himself was complaining on Twitter about not being able to play it as recently as August of last year. Four days after his complaint, he reported that Ubisoft had “reached out,” followed by confirmation that the Complete Edition was in the works.
On the upside, the game’s still fantastic. Gorgeous pixel art animation accents a game that streamlines the winning beat-’em-up formula from the Game Boy generation. Although the game’s quite short at roughly four hours, it’s nothing if not sweet. Combos still feel great, sprites are beautiful, and bosses are original, challenging, and dynamic.
Chiptune indie pop/rock band Anamanaguchi’s soundtrack adds some of the best 8-bit music out there to an already stellar game. Frenetic with energy, it gets you hyped to charge into the next fray. These fantastic elements come together to make for a great game that’s a blast to play and replay.
While the reasons why the game disappeared from digital marketplaces PT-style in 2016 remain unknown, a number of colorful theories have been proposed by scottaholics, the most sensible of which center around licensing issues with Universal.
That Retro Feel
The biggest frustrations I had with the game—once I remembered how beat-’em-ups work—increasingly felt like constraints of the genre itself. No matter what your stats are, getting hit-stunned and knocked down doesn’t really change, and positioning your character can feel imprecise. The rare platforming sections and tiny robot swarms—may they live in infamy—are especially nightmarish and feel pretty token-taker in the later levels. Of course, many of these things are sort of endemic to beat-’em-ups, and they often felt like they were an intentional part of the retro aesthetic.