If, like me, you’ve been waiting for a modern-day River City Ransom to materialize, your prayers have just been answered. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a brawler, firmly entrenched in the traditions of the old school, but with a surprisingly deep combat system, should you choose to explore it.
The plot loosely follows the graphic novels, where Scott must defeat Ramona Flowers’ seven evil ex-boyfriends (The League of Evil Exes, mind) in order to date her. There are a lot of little touches, such as earning a skateboard after defeating Lucas Lee (though you can’t use it because you never took skateboarding proficiency back in grade 5) and the game’s lone extra life is earned after defeating Todd Ingram. If you’re a fan of the comic, you’ll appreciate these little touches, but the game doesn’t rely on your familiarity with the source material.
The comparisons to River City Ransom are not unfounded, as this game feels almost exactly like a long-lost sequel made for an alternate-reality post-NES system. Hell, there’s even a secret shop inside a tunnel in the first level. Enemies leak Canadian coinage rather than blood, and you earn experience by defeating enemies and eating different types of food, which goes towards unlocking new moves (each character has a few unique ones you pick up along the way).
Much will be made of the art style, and with good reason. Pixel artist Paul Robertson, of Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 and Kings of Power 4 Billion% fame was tapped to be the art director, and that decision has paid off in spades. Sprites are huge, detailed, full of personality, and complement the style of the original graphic novels well. A mistake many modern sprite-based games make is using too many frames of animation, which might look good but ultimately makes a game feel sluggish. Wisely, Scott Pilgrim doesn’t make this mistake and the game feels very tight because of it.