Scott Pilgrim is another beat ’em up released in recent years, one with dazzling art by Paul Robertson, and I think those graphics helped to confused many game players and critics alike into thinking the game “got it”, because it hadn’t. I am asked frequently if I have played it in reference to my own work, and of course I did, but I learned mostly what not to do in a game from Scott Pilgrim. Instead of being River City Ransom for the new era, it instead stands as a pale copy of some of the ideas that were in River City Ransom while functioning more like along the lines of “wouldn’t it be cool if we took RCR & infused it with a bunch of new stuff?”. I have read that the development was hindered by publisher interference, and it shows.
It felt like a poor example of understanding the brawler genre. Enemies block often and can magically do so in both directions at once, making a cooperative game sessions that I was able to wrangle kind of useless. These enemies took too many hits to fell, and when in a juggle combo they would not fall out or give the player any indication that they were dead, leaving a player to juggle a corpse just to make sure; letting that enemy get up would only lead to more frustration. Enemies were boring, button layout was not intuitive at all and the environment was full of punch sponge boxes that often yielded very little in the way of rewards for the amount of effort put in.
Furthermore there is a direct confusion here as in for everything Scott Pilgrim tried to mimic about River City Ransom on a superficial layer, it missed out on the weird physics based weapon throwing system & the fast paced and eloquent combat that required a mere 3-5 hits to knock out enemies. RCR was not about cool juggles or heavily scripted levels. It was about danger at every corner, cool power ups gained from grinding and playing around with the environment in which could be explored in a rather open nature. Scott Pilgrim ignored these things and failed to deliver a great core experience.
With Scott Pilgrim & Castle Crashers held up as passable, even being considered valuable contributors to the the beat ’em up genre, I was reticent to believe that Dragon’s Crown, a game that had also been in development limbo for some time, would be the game that I had been wanting for many years now, especially coming from a fantasy background, as fantasy games aren’t really my bag; I’m more of a street fighting fan, theme wise.
Now before I dive into what makes Dragon’s Crown tick, I couldn’t with any conscience ignore the topic of much debate this year, the art, or rather hone in on the portrayal of women in the game. It’s unfortunate that we have to argue artistic intentions at all, but the video game industry has a large problem with disempowering women for the sake of creating digital sex fantasies for the mythical male majority, or for the male niche that a game like a fantasy brawler such as this one would be aimed at.