|Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game|
|Platforms||PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade|
|MtAMinutes to Action||1|
"No More Heroes: The Movie." That's how I've been introduced to a film that opened last Friday, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, each and every time a friend first mentions it to me. I suppose it's a valid parallel: it stars a maladjusted young adult living on the fringe of suburban society fighting over-the-top duels through an organization in order to win official rights to a girl he already has some sway with, utilizing a presentation style that pays tribute to classic video game quirks. Whatever you liken it to, it's a unique movie worth seeing for any self-diagnosed gaming nostalgist, or anyone who wants to see a quirky romantic comedy that doesn't take itself seriously and manages to make Michael Cera actually seem kind of badass.
Prior to seeing the movie, I played a bit of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, which was released on PlayStation Network last Tuesday and will be available on Xbox Live Arcade one week from today. In an interesting blend of media paying homage to each other, Scott Pilgrim: The Game borrows its name from its film counterpart, its artistic style from the comic series that was adapted into the movie, and its gameplay from the classic video games that infuse the culture of the comics and movie. Specifically, this is a River City Ransom clone if ever there was one, sharing that cult classic's brawler mechanics, RPG elements, and humorous tone.
Considering I wasn't too impressed with River City Ransom when I downloaded it off the Virtual Console, I had mixed feelings going into Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. I'm all for modern throwbacks to the era of chiptunes and sprites, but I've never been a big supporter of the RCR-style focus on stats. How did the trade-off fare in my first hour with the game?
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I've heard the game is tough on your own, so I pick the easiest difficult, "Average Joe." Of the four characters, I go with Scott, and pick his standard colors. With that selection made, I'm taken to a Super Mario Bros. 3-style world map. Well, let's go right into the first stage, Frozen Suburbs. Snowy Toronto: Don't be late for the big show! A few other characters run down the street, calling for Scott to follow.
01 - X jumps, square is the quick attack, triangle is strong attack, circle blocks. Double-tapping the D-pad sends Scott into a dash sideways or a hop vertically. I walk down the snowy streets a bit and am attacked by some standard thugs, one of whom is wearing the shutter sunglasses brought back by Kanye West, much to my amusement. Mashing square triggers an easy quick attack combo, while the strong attack deals more damage. After beating a few enemies, Scott starts flashing yellow, making him faster and triggering a mash-square-to-build-combo flurry of punches, this combo climbing to 130 hits before Scott uppercuts the two thugs away.
02 - Enemies seem to enjoy attacking from behind while your attention is elsewhere. I got knocked down, and then a dog-pile of thugs jumped on me! Have to mash buttons to knock the crowd away. Some baseballs and bats are sitting on the road, and can be picked up and thrown or used for melee attacks, the bat specifically adding some welcome range to Scott's attacks. Enemies can use the items too, mostly tossing baseballs my way.
03 - Amusingly, emoticons float above enemies' heads when they're knocked down. I've leveled up and acquired a dash attack! The quick attack is a foot-first baseball slide, the strong one is a charging headbutt. A larger enemy wearing a fedora shows up and is a bit more aggressive than the others. If I hover near him while he's grounded, he'll kick me before getting back up. A bus pulls in and a fat guy stops off to confront me. He shrugs off my weak attacks with his bulging belly, but a strong kick will stun him. I'm up to $9.00 in Canadian currency now, dropped by each enemy.
04 - The ramming head attack doesn't seem especially useful yet, but the baseball slide can be used against foes lying on the ground to add some damage while they're vulnerable.
05 - You can even use enemies as weapons! Grounded foes can be picked up and slammed or tossed into others. I've made it to Hillcrest Park now, with swings in the background and beer bottles strewn about. Some more thugs approach, tossing bottles and snowballs at me.
06 - There are footsteps in the snow heading into the background, but I can't seem to follow them. Oh no, emo kids! They keep their distance and then dash in to strike you. Every so often, they fix their hair. Maybe that's the time to strike. Didn't think emo kids could put up much of a fight, but they're managing better than the standard thugs for sure!
07 - I think I should start blocking more, the all-offense strategy I've been using tends to take its toll on my health. I assume the heart next to my Lives counter is my HP, not sure what the fire under that represents. Another huge-sized brawler shows up, and I use tires and umbrellas to make up for the size difference. Dobermans attack afterward, they're fast and tough to hit.
08 - I'm up to $21.35 now as I pick up a downed fat guy and use him as a battering ram against the bigger brawlers. Level up and New Move acquired: the back attack. Scott can elbow an enemy behind him with this, though its range is short and doesn't seem very useful.
09 - Now that I've got a moment of peace, I'll try hitting random buttons to explore what they do. The L1 button summons a ninja girl, who hops in and retreats again without doing anything. Maybe because there's nobody here? R1 triggers a hurricane kick, not unlike Ryu from Street Fighter. I guess the Fire under my HP represents special attacks, because some of it was used for each special. A shutter opens up, and there's a rainbow inside! It's the Subspace Highway, apparently, which has a rainbow road. Flying piggy banks pass by, surrendering coins when smashed. I exit the other side of the highway, though it seems to have only taken me a few doors down from where I entered.
10 - "SNOWBALL FIGHT!" flashes across the screen. Fittingly, several thugs show up and grab mounds of snow from the ground. It's annoying trying to take them out, because the others will run behind you and throw snowballs, which go right through whoever you're beating at the time.
11 - Got my yellow flashing stuff back, more big combos make taking out enemies fairly easy. The emos and the shutter sunglasses guys seem to be teaming up against me, an odd combination to be sure.
12 - My HP drains to zero after taking a tough beating from emos (ouch, my pride) but Scott revives himself somehow. Two numbers pop up, I guess one represents the HP gain? Maybe the other is Fire being used, because that is now at zero.
13 - I redeem myself by taking out the emos. I've made it to the Shopping District! The first shop is No Account Video. Apparently Scott's late fees are $504.25, and I have to pay those before I can buy any videos. I'm sitting at about forty Canadian bucks, so...pass. Plenty of non-player characters are standing around in the background here, some of whom cheer me on while I fight. If you take the fight near them, they get flustered.
14 - Next shop, Delicious Cup. Tea, coffe, espresso, hot chocolate...Let's go for hot chocolate. I can take it to go, but I don't. Healed 40 HP, 20 GP(?), 10 XP. I'll also get an Iced Latte to go. 56 HP, 16 GP, 2 XP, +1 DEF. It seems stat upgrades from food are permanent. My HP says 49+ now, so I guess it automatically uses that Iced Latte when I'm KO'd. You can't tell what the item you're buying is going to do until you buy it.
15 - And here's a Mexican restaurant. I'll have a Burrito Grande - 120 HP, 105 GP, Def +3, 20 XP. A mini-mart has chewing gum, chocolate bars, cola, energy drinks...I don't need any of that. Back to fighting in the streets. I've noticed that, if you're right on top of an enemy, you can't seem to hit them even if they can hit you, so spacing is important.
16 - A sushi bar? Too rich for my blood right now. A thug surprises me by jumping out of a trash can, I retaliate by beating him into submission with a cardboard box.
17 - Shockwave CD/DVD shop...The Clash at Demonhead, Smashing Turnips, Crash and the Boys, Winifred Haley, and Kupek for sale. The short description of each doesn't explain much. Let's go for Crash and the Boys, "Music that bends the space-time continuum." GP +64, XP +64, Speed +8. I guess the CD deosn't do anything special, just more stat upgrades. And here's a bookstore...101 Pushups, How to Study Hard, Get Rich Now, Vegan Cookbook, Lost at Sea...let's go for Get Rich Now, maybe that'll increase money drops. XP +230, Speed +10...guess that's all.
18 - I do definitely move faster with that speed increase, though. Leveled up and got a new attack, tap circle when attacked. I'll have to try it out in my next brawl.
19 - Bus incoming! I got hit by the bus and knocked around a bit. Wow, these guys just get right off the bus and wail on me, then go grab weapons while I'm on the ground. I manage to pull off a counterattack, which does good damage and knocks the enemy into his pals nearby. Hard to pull it off, though, because enemies attack so quickly. I come to a tunnel with Mario graffiti, and I take the sidewalk above the road. Good thing, too, a bunch of cars just drove by and knocked all the enemies below around.
20 - I've noticed you can juggle enemies if you get them into the corner and pull off a combo-ending uppercut, then just keep punching or kicking them as they fall. I drop down to the road in the tunnel and explore the wall of graffiti. A star opens up into a secret door!
21 - Wallace's Mystery Shop. Tlaloc's Feast, Ambrosia, Bionic Arm, Never-ending Fantasy, Speedy the Porcupine. Video game references, yay! I don't have enough money for any of these, so I guess I'll head out. Big brawlers and dobermans attack me all at once, six-on-one just isn't fair.
22 - My attacks seem to be doing more damage, I guess that comes with leveling up.
23 - Walking through the heavy snow now, and there's a door in the middle of nowhere with a star on it. It's the Subspace Highway again, this time with huge Mario blocks inside to break, some with coins in them. Blocks and piggy banks get me back up to $20 in Canadian money.
24 - I come out the other side, through a doorway into a club with a stage, called The Rocket. Crash and the Boys are on stage, with smoke coming from them. The audience on the floor is KO'd and disappears. Some guy jumps out of the audience at the top and attacks Scott, who counters and regroups. Matthew Patel, Ramona's FIRST evil ex-boyfriend! Powers: Mystical.
25 - He attacks a lot like a regular enemy, but has much bigger combos. It's very useful to get him in the corner and juggle him with a combo. After taking some damage, he surrounds himself with a force field and summons lady vampire groupie chicks, which I have to take out. After destroying them, the fight resumes as normal, except now he has a shockwave attack and is flashing yellow like I was earlier. He also summons more vampire groupies, each teleporting in and shooting more shockwaves at me.
26 - It's incredibly tough to get away from the vampire chick attacks and stay concentrated on him at the same time. I got knocked out but recover 56 HP from my Latte. I finally headbutt him for the KO! He explodes and lets out a few coins, disappointingly amounting to less than three dollars! Area Clear: 97KOs, 2112 XP, $85. A still image of Scott and Ramona making out on the swings in the park while Kim and Stills look in disgust advances what little story there is so far.
27 - Back to the world map, I pass a few stage dots (one of which is the Shopping District) to get to Stage 2. There's also a path going in the opposite direction from Stage 1, so I guess there's a secret exit I didn't find.
28 - Stage 2 is Movie Madness: Follow That Star! A big guy walks by the red carpet with a skateboard, cameramen and crowd in tow. Scott shows up and the cameramen turn around and attack! They use the flash on their cameras to stun me. Just beyond the red carpet is a Chip Wagon food van, from which I buy a Buffalo Burger.
29 - In the next area, a stage set, a director named Lucas pops in and clasps the film marker. A camera-recording border closes in around the screen. Stuntmen run in and explode at me! People in dinosaur and alien suits follow, breathing fire and shooting lasers at me. After taking lots of damage, the dinosaurs and aliens reveal the person inside, huffing and puffing. After they're all KO'd, some motion-capture actors jump out of the green screen, but provide no real threat.
30 - At the next set, it's a bomb! Someone in the background is trying to defuse it or trigger it, I can't tell. Either way, I'm prompted to break it and do so before he can finish. At the next set, I find a key and use it in a nearby door.
31 - The next set is a prehistoric-themed cave, and big boulders are falling from tunnels. Bats fly in and hit me, which is very annoying while trying to maneuver through all this danger. Another key and a door ahead, but enemies attack me while I try to get to it. I decide to unlock the door before taking them out, the key isn't very useful as a weapon.
32 - The big guy from earlier is trying to beat open a treasure chest, but runs away when he notices me, locking the door behind him. I kill some dinosaur-suits and open the chest with the key they surrender, getting plenty of money from it. The open chest triggers a spike-wall from behind, and I barely beat open the door before getting skewered.
33 - The next set is beach-themed, and the director returns. More stuntmen, aliens, dinosaurs, and mo-cappers. It helps to keep moving up and down to stay out of enemies' range. Level up and new attack: Down and the light attack triggers a sweep kick, which knocks the enemy to the ground and lets me pummel them while they're down.
34 - There's a ton of background detail in this game, definitely some gorgeous pixel art. A car lowers down, I have to break it! I lose some time by throwing a baseball bat at it, which ricochets back at me and knocks me over. Annoying cameramen throw another wrench in my plans, and the car drives away, leaving explosives. The screen-filling explosion nearly drains all of my HP. Nearly KO'd, I walk outside the studio and see the big guy smoking by the side of the road. He flicks his cigarette away and approaches. Lucas Lee, Age unknown. Ramona's SECOND evil ex-boyfriend! Powers: Look him up on the web...
35 - This guy's much bigger than the last ex, and he's got skateboarders backing him up. I knock them off their boards and use them as weapons, but so do they. Lucas Lee grabs one of their skateboards and skates around, knocking me out of his way. He's got invincibility frames, meaning he can attack me while I'm striking him. He does so, and I lose my first life.
36 - Now he's flashing yellow, and seriously beating me. In a single combo, he took 50 HP away. Blocking is useful but tough to pull off at the right time. A few lucky counterattacks do good damage to him, but I get KO'd again, regaining only 22 HP this time. That doesn't last long, and I lose another life. Only one extra left...
37 - His skateboard posse is annoying, so I take them out and throw the skateboard at him for the KO! He gets back up, grabs the skateboard, grinds down a short railing, and then explodes or something...into coins, of course A present also appears, and inside it is a skateboard. Not sure what that will do. Area Clear. 29 KO, 988 XP, $51. Scott teleports away from the stage just like Mega Man. Scott and Ramona are making out on top of a pile of defeated enemies, while Kim and Stills look cool in the background.
38 - The next stage is Leo's Place. Evil Ex Crossover Takedown: The Clash at Demonhead! A limo that looks like KITT from Knight Rider pulls in, and the crowd cheers. One big guy and two girls walk in, I guess they're The Clash at Demonhead.
39 - I take control and pass the red carpet, but a mob runs in from behind! I beat the incoming crowd, though I guess I could have just let them pass by...thugs appear, one of whom holds me from behind, like the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game.
40 - A couple big brawlers show up, are they bouncers? I decide to summon my ninja-chick friend again, she blows a kiss and a big cloud of "LOVE" shows up...not sure what that did, if anything. Distracted by the love, I'm KO'd and lose another life, down to my last one.
41 - I get my revenge and learn a new move: near enemy, press forward and triangle. It's a judo throw! It doesn't seem to do any damage, but it can't be guarded against and can hit other enemies. Damn it, the emo kids are back, they're so fast.
42 - A door leads into Leo's Shop - Carbonated Water, Potato Chips, Concert T-Shirt...let's go for the Hipster Cap, adding +6 defence (yes, spelled the Canadian way with a C) and +7 WP, whatever that is.
43 - The same two big guys are back, and do a lot of damage when they hit me. A guy in a red jacket jumps out of the men's room, he's quicker and more powerful than most of the thugs. Red guy, bouncers, and tons of small enemies are overwhelming me...
44 - And I'm dead! Game Over. This is hard even on Easy. Guess I have to retry the level.
45 - Still geting back to where I was. I've noticed that, the longer you run, the higher you jump.
46 - The big bouncers can pick me up and throw me, though my body hits his friends too. I also think that grounded enemies only kick you if you try to pick them up.
47 - Getting do- piled is actually kind of favorable, as I only take 4 damage if I mash the buttons fast enough and I get a lot of coins in return for taking out so many enemies, plus I often flash yellow right afterwards.
48 - Back to the emo kids again, damn their quickness and style. It seems all enemies will huff and puff when low on health, which lets you know they're almost dead and provides a chance to strike.
49 - I try summoning my ninja again. She still loves me. It still doesn't really help. I get swarmed, but back myself into a corner so all my enemies are in front of me and it seems to help.
50 - Counterattacks feel really good but are tough to pull off. I got KO'd, and 70 WP is taken to return me to 35 HP. I guess WP acts as special attack fuel but also revives you with more health if you store it. Interesting trade off...
51 - Up to $103 now, I could go back and buy some of those secret shop items if I wanted! New attack: dash and Triangle when holding something. It's a faster item throw, not sure if it does more damage, though.
52 - An enormous crowd of enemies is fighting me now, this is where I was before when I got Game Over'd. It's still tough, and I lose a life.
53 - The flashing yellow combo actually does more harm than good, I think. Getting caught in a flurry of punches leaves you open from behind, so I've begun stopping the combo once it starts rather than going for lots of hits.
54 - Now I'm at the stage. One girl from The Clash at Demonhead shows up and taunts me, the guy and the other girl walk in from another room, she gets furious and they all jump on stage. Guess she's supposed to be with him...
55 - I jump onto the stage and the two girls are fighting while the guy sits in the corner. Then they both turn on me. The nerdy-looking one has long arms that she shoots through the ground and teleports around. The other is sitting in the corner near the guy. She yells at the nerdy one after I deal some damage and they switch out. The new girl jumps on the wall and kicks back at me. Like the last boss, she has invincibility frames, making it dangerous to attack her head on. I've lost another life!
56 - My ninja girlfriend pops in and again is useless...I manage to beat the two girls anyway. Nerdy girl's arm falls off and she teleports away, while the diva spawns a raincloud over her and she melts away. The big guy walks over with his bass guitar, strums a chord, and sends me smashing through the wall with the shockwave. Now he's pursuing while wreaking havoc with his four-string and I have to break through several walls to escape. Guess my stats aren't quite up to snuff, because I didn't escape the madness ni time and lost a life. Time for a "Bass Battle"! A Guitar Hero note highway shows up and he's wailing on it, my chart is empty. A button prompt finally appears and I smack him with my bass, prompting the dude to knock me through the wall into the alley for a proper boss fight.
57 - Todd Ingram, Age Unknown, Ramona's THIRD Ex-Boyfriend! Powers: Vegan. I guess being Vegan gives you the Force, because he seems to have the Force Choke and Force Lightning going on. He can also use telekinesis to toss trash at me, not unlike Luke's humiliating first-meeting with Darth Vader.
58 - Every so often, he gets tired and gives me the finger, my chance to get in a few good hits while he's vulnerable. Eventually he starts morphing his arm into a giant pulsating mass of what appears to be vegan-friendly foods...it does a lot more damage than you'd expect from tofu. Two guys in a police car show up immediately afterwards and stun him. I don't know who the hell they are, but thanks for the opportunity to strike!
59 - He's flashing yellow now, guess I'm making progress. Still, he's very dangerous, I'm just trying to jump kick through him, hoping he doesn't hit me. I'm down to 0 health but still alive somehow...that doesn't last long, as he electrocutes my phantom health away, and my GP is sacrificed to revive me.
60 - He's puffing now, so he must be near death. A satisfying jump kick KO finishes this fight at the one hour mark! Those vegan powers don't seem to be agreeing with him, as they all force their way out of his body and he explodes into coins like the others, only he's got a 1-up as well. 102 KOs, 1944 XP, and $61.44 Canadian finish this sixty minute romp through Toronto.
Minutes to Action: 1
Video: The visuals wouldn't look out of place on the Super Nintendo, and I mean that in the most flattering way possible. The pixel art style adds a charm to this game that makes it impossible to envision with modern graphics.
Audio: What is it about archaic NES sound samples that is so catchy? The renowned chiptune/punk rock band Anamanaguchi has created a soundtrack that doesn't directly copy the 8-bit sounds we used to love, but plays exactly how we imagined they did in our minds once we turned the game off.
Story: I hadn't yet seen the movie when I played this first hour, so I didn't understand much more than the overarching quest to defend the quirky girl's honor from evil ex-boyfriends. After watching the film, I've noticed tons of little nods to the more full narrative. The game is packed with detail, so I'm sure eagle-eyed Scott Pilgrim fans will have a field day picking out references.
Gameplay: It's River City Ransom. Or, if you aren't familiar with that cult classic, take your pick of Double Dragon, Battletoads, Streets of Rage, Final Fight, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game...and add some light RPG elements.
Challenge: Even on the easiest setting, it's a bit of a challenge. Don't expect to breeze through this one without dying. Having friends around makes it a bit easier because you can revive each other to prevent lost lives.
Pacing: It's all action, except the brief respite of shopping to better prepare you for forthcoming action. Be ready to restart a full level once you lose your last life. It can get a bit repetitive, but never dull.
Fun Factor: The combat is pretty satisfying, but the nostalgic feelings that permeate the Pilgrim-verse are my favorite part of this game. Adding a few friends to the mix makes almost any game better, and Scott Pilgrim is no exception.
Would I keep playing? Yep. The stat-building requirement rubs me the wrong way, but I want to see everything that this pixelated Toronto has to offer.
Words from beyond the First Hour: I've finished Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game on the easiest difficulty now, entirely alone. I've also played a good two or three hours of the game with friends. It's evident that this game, like most brawlers, was meant to be played with friends on the couch. It's just more fun taking on The World when Scott Pilgrim has a Ramona, Kim, and Stills with him, reviving each other and performing rocking simul-taunts. The lack of online multiplayer may be a deal-breaker for some.
There is one crowd I can absolutely recommend this game to, however, and that's anyone who has an appreciation for pixel art, love of chiptunes, and a NES gamer's soul. The original soundtrack of Scott Pilgrim's video game debut matches many of the classics that inspired the series in the first place. The blocky graphics are about as detailed as you can possibly get without passing up the capabilities of the Super Nintendo. And there are plenty of video game references everywhere, from the items you can buy to the character intros and exits to a final boss that made me laugh out loud in nostalgic joy once I finished him off. Oh, and if you liked the comic books, you'll like the game, which is probably pretty obvious considering those things I mentioned at the top of this paragraph are big contributors to the comics.
So yes, SPvTW:TG is basically River City Ransom, a cult classic that I turned my back on for its focus on stat-building and RPG elements rather than mastery of the combat mechanics. But it's also a celebration of how River City Ransom and other classic games of its ilk made us feel when we were young and in love with angular 8x8 character sprites in a way that actual retro revivals like Mega Man 9 might not even match. Is that feeling worth $9.99 to you? Go beat up some of your significant other's evil exes; they'll drop enough coins for you in no time.