A callback to the awesome chiptunes of old.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Genres: Action, Fighting
When many people first heard that, in addition to getting a movie, the Scott Pilgrim comics would have a video game as well, there were lots of worries that the stigma associated with media tie-in games would apply. Thankfully, this was not the case and the game turned out to be a fun beat-em-up that called back to older NES, SNES, and Genesis classics in many ways, not the least of which being its soundtrack. Composed by the indie chiptune rock band Anamanaguchi, not only is the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack a great reminder of the basic songs we loved from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, but a truly amazing series of songs in its own right.
The energy and care put into each track is obvious from the first track, “Scott Pilgrim Anthem.” Despite the name, the song isn’t only building up to the rest of the soundtrack, but also celebrating chiptune music at its finest. The slow, almost somber-sounding start flows into an energetic rock very well, which only allows for further buildup to the nostalgic impact given by the end. It is a great mirror for both the game’s song progression and the lifetime of chiptunes.
Celebration of the nostalgia isn’t the only thing the soundtrack is aiming for, however. Anamanaguchi seemed to equally want to demonstrate the great range that can be achieved with a genre of music I’ve seen many call, no pun intended, one-note. As such, the amount of styles incorporated into the soundtrack considering the relatively simple tools being used is nothing short of remarkable.
The different influences creeping into a number of the songs is immediately evident, such as one song having clear oriental instrumentation and another meant to have a very intimidating and dark feel. Most likely the best example would be the first boss theme, “Bollywood.” As the name would imply, the track uses Indian influences through both tone and accompaniment to present an unique feel.
Of course, even taking out the intentions with which the soundtrack was made, the music is still very impressive. Every song is played in just the right area and the various catchy tunes are a constant reminder that orchestration and the like may improve a soundtrack, but they are by no means required. Despite beating the game quite a while ago, I still find myself pulling up the catchier songs for a listen more often than not. While nearly all of them could realistically be put under such a banner, my personal favorites are the mood-setting “Technoman,” the amazingly energetic “Rock Club,” and probably my favorite song of the soundtrack, “Rox 300.”
In all honesty, if given the opportunity, I could keep going on about the quality of every single track in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World for far longer than necessary. In a day and age where chiptunes are not the easiest thing to come by, there are always happy exceptions to the rule and Scott Pilgrim is the most shining of the bunch. Every aspect is tailor-made to be a nostalgia bomb and the music succeeds beyond any expectations I held when I first purchased it, while being a wonderful soundtrack by its own merits. While I appreciate the regular musical style of today just as much, if not more so, than the old, it’s always good to see a callback done right.
Music Mondays is a weekly column by Austin Yorski and Robert Heck dedicated to discussing the most interesting audio experiences in electronic interactive media. Tune in every week for more original game soundtracks that you need to hear. Feel free to disagree with, add to, or question everything. I welcome your feedback.
I can’t say I’ve been to many clubs, but this one is awesome!
There was once a time when comic book knowledge was my specialty. When The Watchmen movie was released, I told countless people of the original source material. When Kick-Ass appeared on the silver screen, I called it when I claimed that a large amount of the original content would have to be changed. The Dark Knight? ‘Well it’s not really based on the Dark Knight comic,’ I said. So when someone mentioned Scott Pilgrim to me, asking if the film will be any good, it was a shock to find myself twiddling my thumbs. When I later discovered Scott Pilgrim was a fantastic rip on modern pop culture and gaming in general, I cursed the day I missed the original release.
|PROS||Old School Brawler, 4 player co-op, Full of humour|
|CONS||Unnecessary repeating soundtrack, Horrible Levelling system, Off-line multi-player only|
|WTF?!||Paying off your tab at the video store|
Of course like any comic to movie release, a computer game was inevitable. Scott Pilgrim Versus the World comes to us in a much preferred arcade style, giving the title an opportunity to not suck like nigh on all movie game releases. Forged in the style of a 2D brawler, ala Final Fight, Scott Pilgrim Versus the World takes you through 7 extreme levels of ex-boyfriend ass kicking. With up to 4 players supported (offline only) friends can sit down and engage in some old school action with multiple references to gaming history. With a less than complex leveling up system, a strange shopping section and an unforgiving difficulty level, Scott Pilgrim certainly offers up a solid experience. However the title does have its up’s and down’s that may turn many players off.
First of all, don’t expect a plot. If you want to know what Scott Pilgrim is about read the books or at least see the film. All you need to know is that you need to get to the end of several levels to fight bosses, who are ex-boyfriends with a selection of funky powers. Apart from that you need to be able to combo your attacks, while keeping yourself safe from enemies who will drain your life bar in an instant given half the chance. There are dozens of enemy varieties each with their own strength and if you’re lucky weaknesses, learning enemy types is vital to completing the game. By defeating enemies and pulling off additional hits (i.e. strike a fallen enemy in the air), you will be rewarded with money, which must be collected before it flashes and disappears. This money can then be spent in shops scattered through-out the game. Nigh on everything you buy will reward you with experience or a stat boost for your character, making each purchase worth more than just refilling life bars.
Your stats and experience are the most important factor of the game, unfortunately so. Without constant upgrades to your stats, players in Scott Pilgrim are doomed to failure. Just achieving the max level will not see you out to the end of the game. While this does add depth to the title (I suppose) the point of a brawler is to be just that. Equipment and a level up system would have been fine, as it requires the smallest amount of thought and time before jumping back in to the action. Instead the game becomes a constant reliance on money and unrelenting multiple plays through levels in order to be strong enough to pass further into the game. In single player this is a frustration, in multiplayer it is slightly less punishing, as players have 10 seconds to reach a downed friend and bring them back into the game. However good this trick may be in the levels, the amount of opponents is also increased depending on your player count, so the balance is hard to determine.
The problem is that Scott Pilgrim Versus the World seems to be a solid brawler with plenty of laughs and challenges for players to overcome, bogged down by unnecessary additional baggage. Apart from the ludicrous complexities of the leveling up system, even basic ideas like the guts bar are over thought. While the bar can be used to pull off special moves and call in (generally useless) support characters, the amount of guts left determines the amount of health you can return to life with should you fall in battle with guts left, giving you additional health in essence. Considering the amount of damage you take in the game compared to how much these special moves dish out, I found myself using the guts bar only as additional health, with the special moves relegated to less than useless.
Scott Pilgrim versus the world is a game made up of brilliant old school action, fantastic in jokes and horrendous over design. The looks and sounds complement the original comic perfectly, while the action reflects a lost time in video gaming that needs to make a return. However it is all ruined by a complex nature that has no place in the genre. It’s all the more frustrating that the game is like this, as the old school gamers like me are drawn to play even broken brawlers for our fix. If the developers had spent a less time saying ‘hey, why don’t we add this’ and a bit more time thinking ‘Do you know what would be fun?’ Scott Pilgrim Versus the world could have been one of those titles everybody had to download. Now it’s a shadow of a game, you can almost see the beautiful game underneath crying to be free of its frustrating prison. Scott Pilgrim Versus the World ends up looking too closely at itself, unable to see how it’s treating its friends and will be lucky if many gamers don’t dump it.
This game was reviewed on the Playstation 3 console (PSN).
A callback to the awesome chiptunes of old.
A callback to the awesome chiptunes of old.