It wasn’t supposed to be this way!
PROS: Some ambitious design ideas
CONS: Small roster, unbalanced, fails to meet its goals
I’M CONFUSED: Why is there a Steampunk Robot in this thing?
Originally, titled Gladiator A.D., Tournament Of Legends was to be a gritty, cross between Soul Calibur, and Mortal Kombat. A game that would have featured all sorts of Greek, and Roman mythology inspired combatants. But in deadly, epic one on one sword battles in the vein of the old Commodore 64 classic, Barbarian. High Voltage Software had already shown the world that a competent, fun First Person Shooter could be done on the Wii with The Conduit. Which, along with its sequel, really drove home the fact that IR controls could best analog controls if done properly. Gladiator A.D. seemed like it might be HVS’s chance to do the same for fighters.
Eventually however, it was revealed that Sega wanted the game to be a little brighter, and a bit more fantastical. So characters were mildly altered, and early previews showed some colorful arenas. Then later on, word came out that they were going to try to make a game that could be both easy to learn, and difficult to master. What we received was Tournament Of Legends.
To be fair, after having been out for a while now, (and after hours of my own play time) I can tell you Tournament Of Legends is not quite as bad as many people would have you believe. There are indeed, a number of interesting, and different things Tournament Of Legends has to offer. The bad news is that these things don’t elevate the game to a level that would make anybody excited about playing it.
Tournament Of Legends has a fairly nice look to it, although it’s uneven at times. Some stages really shine, showing off what the Quantum 3 engine is capable of. Other stages are decidedly drab, and look reminiscent of early PS2 titles. Character models look a lot better, showing off a lot of little details. But they are also uninspired. Nothing really stands out here except maybe Volcanus, a Steampunk meets Gladiator character who is actually controlled by a gnome driving a cart in the stage background.
Voice acting is pretty bad. All of the delivery is hokey, and the voices simply do not meld with the characters being displayed on the screen. But all of these things are trivial. What you’ll want to know is how functional the fighting mechanics are.
Tournament Of Legends borrows mechanics from Soul Calibur 2, Street Fighter IV, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, and Fight Night. To say it’s different from the norm is an understatement to say the least. The game separates rounds into what it calls acts. The object of the gameplay is to knock an opponent down 3 times to score essentially a technical knockout. If for some reason your opponent can’t get up you’ll score a KO. Like Fight Night, and Punch-Out!!, you’ll control both arms for attacks. Swinging the nunchuck will move the left arm, while moving the wiimote controls the right arm. The control stick on the nunchuck moves your character around the play field. Here’s where the other borrowed conventions begin to come in. Like SC2, you can do overhead attacks, or side attacks. This is done by swinging either controller up & down, or left & right. There is also a dodge button (B) you can hold to sidestep, or do double taps while holding it to dash. You can also swing while holding dodge to do a dodge attack which can actually turn the tide for you in battle.
Like Street Fighter IV, there are special & super meters. They build throughout the match as you attack, and take damage. Pressing projectile (C by default) will drain the special bars, but allow you to throw projectiles at the opponent. The game also implements a little bit of RPG into the mix by allowing you to use spells called Enchantments. These basically act as your supers. When you press the minus button it will drain the Super meter as the Enchantment does its magic. Enchantments can do anything from give your attacks more power, to giving you your health back, to freezing your enemy in his tracks.
Going back to SC2, as you play through the game you’ll unlock different weapons to pick from, as well as various enchantments. The combatants on the play field will have a foreground/background stance, as opposed to most games where one is on the left, the other on the right. Or other games where it’s dynamic based on how players move through the 3D space. Players in the foreground have a slight advantage, and so doing aforementioned dodge attacks while in the background will cause the disadvantaged to switch places. Characters have their own colored line on the floor in front of them as well. The closer they get to each other the wider the lines become, which increases the odds their attacks will land.
Finally there is a block button. Pressing Z will enable players to block regular, and some special attacks. Dodge attacks, specials, and supers can get through blocks, although timing your block will start what the game calls a Critical block. Again cribbing from SC2, these temporarily stun opponents allowing for a chance at a combo.
To mix things up a bit, Tournament Of Legends also has a few mid round mini games that can help players, or harm them. For one, there are Quick Time Event based Stage dangers. Sometimes a creature, or cataclysm will arrive, and pulling off the QTE will allow players to escape. After being knocked down a player will also enter a QTE. During this they have to shake their controllers to not only get up, but this will restore more health. While this happens, separate QTE’s occur allowing the standing player to recover armor.
Speaking of armor, all players have some armor. Surrounding the mug shots under the life bars are armor bars. When the player takes enough damage armor falls off, these bars disappear, and further attacks do even more damage. The good news is that if you survive an act without 3 knockdowns occurring to you there is a mini game where shaking the wiimote restores some health, and spinning the control stick in a frenzy rebuilds some of your armor.
I should also note that like The Conduit Series, HVS gave players the option to remap all functions to whatever buttons they wish. They even allow players to use the Classic Controller.
Now, that I’ve explained all of those intricate little details I am going to blow your mind. Because all of this does indeed ON PAPER make for a wonderfully deep fighter. “Wow!” You might be telling yourself. “What strategy! I can go for broke mixing up specials, and swings. Conversely, I could master dodge attacks, and use my supers to make for a crazy upset! Tournament Of Legends sounds AWESOME!”
None of that matters. None of it. All of the depth, and creative play style will go out the window once you realize that any round can be won by shaking the controllers as if you were going into a seizure. There really isn’t much to elaborate on this point for. After learning all of these intricacies, you will go up against friends to find they school you faster than you ever beat them in Tekken 2 mashing buttons with Baek.
Moreover, there really isn’t much in the way of balance here. While there are only a handful of characters to choose from (2 of which need to be unlocked) Some of them are so overpowered it limits the selection even further. Flailing to win with these characters exacerbates the situation.
There are a few other things about the game I should go over out of formality, as other fighters have them, and so Tournament Of Legends’ should be mentioned.
First off is the story. You really won’t care. It’s been done in countless other games. The basic gist of it is various legends throughout the time period battle one another to achieve immortality. Some wish to do good things with endless life. Some wish to do evil. Even the manual completely ignores it merely mentioning the synopsis, and the fact that there is a story. When you start the story mode, and beat it for each character, you are treated to some respectable artwork you may find some passing interest in. But again, you probably won’t stay interested in the game long enough to bother.
Secondly, and lastly are the extras. The game has 2 unlockable characters. You can unlock the final boss to play with, and a super secret character. Both of these look awesome, but looking awesome alone, good characters do not make.
Tournament Of Legends is another one of those games where it pains you say it isn’t very good because you can tell a lot of hard work went into its creation. Had the underlying gameplay not been cancelled out by flailfesting, and some balancing gone into the characters Tournament Of Legends could have really turned out to be a sleeper hit. An alternative to traditional fighters with the underground fanfare relegated to titles like Guilty Gear, Blazblue, and SNK fighters genre lovers hold so dear. Instead, it will end up like other forgotten games that never realized their full potential, joining the ranks of Bio F.R.E.A.K.S, WarGods, Dark Rift, Dual Heroes, and Vs..
In many ways Tournament Of Legends is much better than those failed fighting experiments of yesteryear, but not better enough to warrant a recommendation.
Final Score: 5/10