As we sink deeper and deeper into the digital age, more and more discussions are starting to arise on the subject of video game preservation — particularly how we might preserve those games that are only available as digital downloads on proprietary platforms. A few games come up quite often in these discussions, with one of the most widely discussed being Ubisoft’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, originally released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2010, and subsequently delisted from digital storefronts in 2014.
The reason why this game in particular comes up so often when we’re talking about video game preservation is because it’s brilliant. Featuring beautifully animated pixel art from Paul Robertson, an absolutely banging soundtrack from chiptune maestros Anamanaguchi plus creative input from original creator Bryan Lee O’Malley and movie director Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game became, on its original release, a textbook example of how to do licensed video games correctly. And, on its delisting, the go-to example for why download-only games kind of sucked.
For the unfamiliar, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up for between one and four players in which you play the role of Scott himself, Ramona Flowers, Kim Pine or Stephen Stills — post-release downloadable content subsequently added Knives Chau and Wallace Wells as playable characters, and it’s also possible to unlock “NegaScott” through gameplay.
Unfolding over the course of seven multi-part stages, it’s up to Scott and company to defeat Ramona Flowers’ seven evil exes. The game takes a few creative liberties with the original source material — not that it was particularly grounded in reality in the first place — but overall follows a fairly similar narrative to the original comic series and the movie.
With Paul Robertson in charge of the game’s visual aesthetic, though, the narrative is primarily delivered wordlessly, with hugely expressive pixel-art animations helping tell the story in the same way as his classic Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight animation from 2006. This has the convenient side-effect of making the game highly accessible and enjoyable even to those who have no idea who or what Scott Pilgrim is.
While most beat ‘em ups from back in the day were designed to devour your pocket change in the arcades, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game was specifically designed to be enjoyable for players at home. That means it features a levelling and stat progression system similar to the one from Technos Japan’s classic NES title River City Ransom (seen in more modern form a little more recently in WayForward’s excellent River City Girls) that allows you to gradually increase Scott and company in power over the long term, eventually allowing you to blitz through the game with satisfyingly huge damage numbers in an attempt to see how quickly you can clear it.
It was simply a beautifully designed game that simultaneously captured the enjoyment of classic beat ‘em ups from the arcade while acknowledging that players from home want something a little more than a game where you have to hit “Continue” every fifteen seconds if you ever want to see the ending.
And now it’s back. Not only can you download Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition (which includes the aforementioned DLC as standard) for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 or PC from their respective storefronts of choice, but Limited Run Games has also opened preorders for a long-overdue physical pressing of the game for both Switch and PS4. (There’s also apparently a Stadia version if you’re one of the three people who stuck with that service after your trial period was up.) This is significant, because it marks one of the only times a game previously thought “lost” to the digital age has been successfully rereleased officially.
The Limited Run release comes in several distinct flavours: the game by itself for $34.99; a “Classic Edition” which includes a Mega Drive-style clamshell case, stickers and a soundtrack CD for $54.99; or a $139.99 “K.O. Edition” that includes a copy of the Classic Edition, plus a hardshell roadie case with working lights and sound and a pop-up scene of Sex Bob-omb in concert, a pair of drumsticks and a selection of guitar picks.
If you’re really feeling flush, you can plump for a $399.99 “Fan Bundle” that includes a copy of the K.O. Edition, plus a case of enamel pins, a trading card set, several T-shirts, a hoodie and the soundtrack on vinyl. Those outside the US, bear in mind that Limited Run’s international shipping costs at least $14.99 and will likely be more for large items — so bear that in mind when figuring out whether your budget can stretch to those shiny special editions!
Me? I’m just happy Scott Pilgrim’s back after all this time. And this time I get to keep him on my shelf!
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