If you're out of the loop, it may not seem all that remarkable that you can go purchase a copy of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game for PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and Stadia right now. Today. Or whenever you like. After all, it's a licensed game from a 2010 movie… what's the big deal?
The big deal, beyond the fact that the game is fantastic, is that this hasn't been the case for over half a decade. Due to licensing issues, the game was pulled from digital storefronts merely four years after its release in 2010. Until today, only those who purchased the game during this period (and have maintained the console it is stored on) have been able to experience it. Thanks to fan outcry, the 2D beat 'em up meta masterpiece can now be yours for just $14.99.
For game historians, this re-release presents a small but important victory. For decades games have been shoddily preserved, much to the consternation of nostalgia junkies everywhere. The Sega Channel exclusive Mega Man: The Wily Wars was, until recently, lost. The ROM eventually made its way online, then into reproduction carts, and, eventually, on to the Sega Genesis Mini. Some games haven't been so lucky.
Still missing are games like Sega Channel's Garfield: The Lost Levels or Nintendo Satellaview's BS Zelda no Densetu: Inishie no Sekiban, which has never been found. Some games exist, but only in the hands of those who've unplugged their consoles and set them aside specifically for this purpose. The infamous P.T. demo for the cancelled Silent Hills goes for hundreds of dollars on eBay. WiiWare games like Contra ReBirth, Castlevania ReBirth, and Gradius ReBirth can be found in unscrupulous corners of the internet and easily emulated — but can't be legally purchased at all.
That's been the case for Scott Pilgrim too. The game, like the movie and the graphic novels on which it was based, follows Scott Pilgrim and his friends as he attempts to battle the seven evil exes of his crush, Ramona Flowers. The game itself never explicitly explains these events to you (something I actually prefer to being spoon fed lore) but assumes you've come to it from the feature film or the graphic novels on which it was based — neither of which have ever been pulled from store shelves, both of which are beloved.
Much like the plot of its source material, today Scott Pilgrim beat the odds. This resurrection was helped immensely by just how good the game itself actually is. Combining light RPG elements with Streets of Rage style brawler action, the game is infamously difficult but incredibly rewarding. The game unlocks new moves as your character progresses levels, which is an excellent system for teaching newbies to the genre how to strategize their play rather than simply button mash. There's also a Shop which sells consumables and permanent stat boosts, to help ease some of the difficulty for those who've kept at it (and collected some cash along the way). This re-release touts itself as a "Complete Edition," as it contains all of the original game's DLC as well as some new side modes, which are nice additions but certainly not the headline of this story.
Today ‘Scott Pilgrim’ beat the odds.
The game takes visual and musical inspiration from 16-bit games and is littered with references to the long, long history of video games, aspects which are precisely why it has aged so well over the last ten years. And it should be noted that, if anything, the market for a game like this is much, much larger today than it was during the title's original release. Should new users purchase a copy, Scott Pilgrim feels like it was originally designed with the Switch in mind, allowing for short bursts of engaging combat whenever you have the time to pick the portable up.
Probably the main complaint you'll hear about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is that its online functionality pales greatly in comparison to its couch co-op abilities — but even on this topic, I must point out that this is only because the couch co-op experience is so damn good. It's rare for a modern title to understand, and even surpass, the joys of local multiplayer the way that games in the '80s and '90s did. It's sort of appropriate that Scott Pilgrim nails this, seeing as the developers' passion for the form is explicitly called out by the text itself. In its own little way, Scott Pilgrim is carrying the torch for an art style, a play style, and a genre of chiptunes that could easily be forgotten.
The future of game preservation cannot rest on the shoulders of gaming's loudest, most annoying fandoms — there simply aren't enough people to complain. Our systems for archiving and making available all this interactive art desperately need to evolve if we're going to save the history of this medium. But, in this one particular instance, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game found an extra life. The world is infinitely more fun for it.
Disclosure: Though he is no longer affiliated with Universal Pictures, Ryan Houlihan worked on the marketing team for the feature film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in 2010. A copy of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game — Complete Edition was provided to Input for review by Ubisoft.