On a whim this weekend I purchased the beat ‘em up game Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World for the Nintendo Switch. It was an impulse purchase of a game I had not heard of and didn’t know was any good. I have been wanting to play a brawler for a while, but it is a genre I have not played since I was a kid, so I was not sure I would still enjoy it. I have been eyeing, but have been reluctant to spend $30 of $25 on, River City Girls and Streets of Rage 4 for weeks now. I haven’t played a game in that genre since I was a kid, and as an adult I am terrible at a lot of the games I used to excel at (I’m looking at you, Mario!) so I was not sure if I could button-mash fast enough to play such games. $25 or more is too much to spend on a game that is too hard for me to play. While I dithered about a purchase, I spent some time playing NES versions of the Double Dragon games and River City Ransom, but found those games are too primitive to be much fun for me anymore.
The Scott Pilgrim game was on sale for a stupidly low price ($7.49 or something), so I picked it up. To my surprise and delight, it is awesome. It has a colorful pixel art style that mimics the Scott Pilgrim comics. Its level design, character design, and animations show a lot of humor and attention to the source material. The chiptune soundtrack is really catchy. Play controls are easy to pick up. It starts out really hard, but you can replay levels to level up your character (i.e., lean new moves), and earn money to upgrade your character’s stats (strength, defense, etc.), which makes the game easier. It is kind of grind-y, at least for a conservative, low-skilled player like me, but the grind is fun.
Basically, everything about the video game does justice to the source material. Playing it caused me to want to reread the graphic novels, which I started to do yesterday. Scott Pilgrim, in comics form, is weird, surreal, and a real mess—you know, a perfect reflection of the early twenties and late teens lives of its characters. The characters, plot, and themes of the book, are complex, messy, flawed, and not fully formed. Nobody is a role model. Nobody is mature. Reality itself is warped for them. It makes no sense that Scott goes into video game mode and kills his girlfriend’s exes. Is that a metaphor? Only kind of. You’re just not expected to take it seriously. It’s all problematic—like life, I guess. I don’t really think it is deep (maybe you would if you were much younger than me), but it is really good at stirring up complicated thoughts and emotions in me about how messy life is. During this re-read, I have thought about how I might judge people who haven’t figured their lives out yet, or overlook the good qualities in someone like that. My feelings about those things are different now than they were when I first read the series about ten years ago.
I also watched a couple clips of the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World movie on YouTube, too, and am trying to find a new respect for it. I saw the movie only once, after I had read all the graphic novels, and absolutelyhated it because my favorite parts of the graphic novels—the ones involving character growth—are mostly not depicted in the movie. It does have a stunning cast, though; it’s unbelievable that all those young actors who became so big later on are in the same movie.