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Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game - Interview with Jonathan Lavigne

Updated: Nov 30, 2023


Interview's cover announcing show the Johnathan's name with the characters from the game around it.

They say later is better than never, and we couldn't agree more. That's why, thirteen years after its release, I decided to look back and talk about this that, at least in my opinion, is one of the most important modern beat 'em up. Not only did I decide to play the game all over again to bring to you my Definitive Review, but I also had the chance to interview Johnathan Lavigne, one of the game's designers, to talk about the game's history, how it came to be, and what the heck happened to the game that had to be moved from Canada to China to be completed.


Today, Johnathan works at Tribute Games (Mercenary Kings, Shredders Revenge) and is also one of its co-founders. He started studying 3D animation but ended up working with 2D after being hired by Gameloft, which, in his words "was actually a good thing because I loved both drawing and classic video games, so it ended up being right up my alley."

 

TFK - Scott Pilgrim is a gorgeous game, with large levels filled with small details. We know a lot of it was inspired by the comics, but you had in the game way more things than what was

shown in the original work. What other inspirations did you look for when creating the world

of Scott Pilgrim?

J.L. - Honestly, anything that went through our heads at the time! This production had a crazy time schedule and it felt like we didn’t have time to think. So whatever went through our heads (mostly Stephane Boutin, Justin Cyr, and I, while we were in China), we’d just put it in if we thought it was fun and it’d fit the world of Scott Pilgrim. There are even some inside jokes in there that don’t make sense to anyone else, but us (like some store names, item descriptions, or graffitis in backgrounds), but still add some charm to the game because they look like they fit in.


TFK - While I am sure the comics had a degree of influence, you probably had to create a lot of animations yourself. How did you guys come up with the moves, idle animations, and

everything that gave the characters their unique personalities?

J.L. - The main creative force behind the animations was Paul Robertson. He led the way with his crazy ideas and the other animators on the team went along with it.


TFK - The game seems to be heavily influenced by the Kunio-Kun series, with stores selling

items that can boost your stats and a world where you can revisit any past level as you want

it. Are you a big fan of River City Ransom? And what other games influenced you?

J.L. - My mind was blown when I first played River City Ransom back in the NES days! I mean, it is an 8-bit NES game from 1989, with modern concepts such as character building, an interconnected city, a deep level of interaction with objects, and it had a ton of charm and humor. In my opinion, it’s not even been surpassed today by all the remakes and sequels the Kunio Kun series had during the last 10 years. So yes, it was a huge influence, partly because I’m a fan (and Justin too), and also because the Scott Pilgrim books were partly inspired by it and had a strong River City Ransom vibe.

The design took cues from other beat ‘em ups as well (some stuff from the NES version of Double Dragon II), and the visual language of the game steals stuff from many different games, a notable one being Super Mario Bros. 2.

 

As I worked on more games,

I gradually realized that my true passion

(and skill) was game design.

 

TFK - Scott Pilgrim vs the World was released in 2010, at a time when beat ‘em ups weren’t as popular as they used to be or are nowadays. At the time, the only beat ‘em up that you could call commercially successful was Castle Crashers, released two years prior so, why Ubisoft, an already well-established triple-A studio, decided to create one?

J.L. - Scott Pilgrim as a 2D beat ‘em up, by Ubisoft, was definitely an anomaly. Not usually the type of game Ubisoft would go for. However, Hayden Walling, the IP Manager who worked on obtaining the Scott Pilgrim IP for Ubisoft was a huge fan of both Scott Pilgrim and Paul Robertson. And Justin Cyr, who was the last remnant of the GBA team at Ubisoft got in contact with him and started working on a pitch. When the project started concretizing, Justin worked on getting the old GBA team back together again… well, part of it at least: Stephane Boutin, Jean-François Major, and I. That’s how it started.


TFK - Reading about the game’s history now, it sounds like everything happened too fast, so I would like to ask you what really went on. Why did Ubisoft move the development, so close

to release, to another subsidiary?

J.L. - I’m not sure how vague/precise I can be about it. Nothing juicy or evil though, I can probably describe it best as: difficult corporate decisions they had to make. Management felt they had more important productions they needed to focus their efforts and resources on. After all, as you mentioned in an earlier question, with Castle Crashers as pretty much the sole example of a modern 2D commercially successful beat ‘em up, the investment was difficult to justify.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World - The Game Screenshot showing Scott fighitng four different types of enemies on the first level.
Amazing Art Style

TFK - You left Ubisoft to found Tribute Games around the same time the game was released.

Did this change affect your decision in any way?

J.L. - Not really, I had plans for going indie since late 2007 (when GBA games stopped being developed at Ubisoft), but it certainly reinforced my convictions of going for it!

 

My mind was blown when I first played

River City Ransom back in the NES days!

 

TFK - How did you feel seeing the game being re-released now in 2021 after so many years

delisted from the stores?

J.L. - I was honestly happy I was finally available again. I did not directly benefit from the re-release, but I was always sad that our work had maybe disappeared into the void forever after being delisted. At least, now, the game is available again and there are even physical copies of it.


TFK - It is possible to see some influence of Scott Pilgrim in Shredder’s Revenge, like the map being somewhat similar, and the static, but extremely detailed scenes between levels. What else did you bring from Scott Pilgrim to Shredder’s Revenge?

J.L. - For sure! We learned a lot from the experience of making the Scott Pilgrim game and it helped us greatly develop all of the game mechanics for TMNT:SR. It also helped make it a tighter-designed game (though their design philosophies were entirely different).


TFK - Both beat ‘em ups you worked on are someone’s else intellectual properties, which

surely limits what you are able to do with them. Have you ever wished to someday create

your own beat ‘em up?

J.L. - Make it four beat ‘em up based on external IPs! I also worked on Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith for GBA and TMNT GBA. So yes, as much as all of these IPs are awesome, and it’s been an honor to work on those, I 100% want to make an original Tribute Games beat ‘em up one day!

 

I 100% want to make an original

Tribute Games beat ‘em up one day!

 

TFK - I can imagine you were pretty busy with Shredder’s Revenge in the past years but did

you have the chance to play any of the games released in that time?

J.L. - Not a lot of time honestly. My wife and I also had a baby during the development of TMNT: SR, so time to play games mostly became an unattainable distant dream. I would have loved to play through Elden Ring or Diablo IV, but I just do have that kind of time these days. I mostly just replayed NES games and discovered a new love for the Shmup genre on TG16 and Sega Genesis.

Image of the game showing Todd Ingran, the third boss of the game using his special move.
Vegan Power!

TFK - What are your all-time favorites?

J.L. - My all-time favorite revered god status games are: Mega Man 2, River City Ransom, TMNT 2: The Arcade Game, Street Fighter 2, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Star Fox. I would also add R-Type with my recently discovered love for shmups.

With the exception of TMNT which I already touched, I wouldn’t even want to have a chance to work on these because they’re sacred, and wouldn’t risk ruining them.


TFK - On a different note, what about the Scott Pilgrim vs the World show on

NetFlix. Have you watched it?

J.L. - I binge-watched it on the first day it was released! I loved it. It’s a really fun, lighter-hearted, re-imagining of the original work. They even used some stuff from the game in the series! I hope it’ll be a success!


TFK - Anything do you want to say to the fans of the game?

J.L. - Thank you for your dedication! You made the game a legend after it was delisted, and I’m sure this dedication helped the re-release become a reality. Keep it up!

 

I would like to thank Johnathan for taking the time to answer this interview, and if you want to learn more about Tribute Games and their awesome games, you can check their site by clicking on this link.














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