Tag Archives: Fighters

Rivals Of Aether Review

BTRivalsTitle

Super Smash Bros. It’s arguably one of the most popular Nintendo franchises. Some may even say the most popular Nintendo franchise. From the original Nintendo 64 game all the way up to the Wii U iteration, it’s an iconic game. But fans will constantly debate what version is best. A passionate group of Smash fans would tell you it is the Gamecube version. And whether you agree with that or not, you have to admire that level of dedication. Not only have they gotten it recognition in the fighting game community as a competitive game, they’ve gotten it featured in tournaments.

So of course it was only a matter of time before companies would try to make their own platformer fighting game hybrids. Some of them terrible, some of them just okay, and some of them pretty damn good.

PROS: Super Smash Bros. Melee pacing. Unique features. Great character designs.

CONS: Relatively small roster compared to other fighters. Not a lot of single-player stuff.

WHAT?: Is what you’ll ask confusedly upon seeing some opponents’ recoveries online.

It would be easy to dismiss Rivals Of Aether as another Smash pretender. It has a similar 4-player party fighter feel. It has the same general goal; knock everyone off of the stage, and be the last one standing. It has a cast of characters with nowhere near the recognition of Nintendo’s major IP. Some of you may even ask “Why bother playing this over any of the Super Smash Bros. games?” But before you sigh, click on a different site, and prepare to see if Mr. Game & Watch has finally made it to S-Tier thanks to a professional player’s new discovery hold on.

BTRivalsRoster

Because Rivals Of Aether is actually quite good. The game may not have the high production values, marketable Nintendo mascots, and blockbuster score. But it’s probably the best of any attempt to compete with Nintendo’s formula yet. Yes. Better than Sony’s attempt. And better than Papaya’s Cartoon Network themed clone. Both of which were solid efforts.

BTRivalsCinema

Right from the get go, this game makes no qualms about who it targets. If you’re one of the die-hard Super Smash Bros. Melee fans out there, Rivals Of Aether is hoping you’re going to pick it up. Assuming you haven’t already. But if you’re not, and you enjoy the Smash games, you may just enjoy this as well. This game embraces the competitive end of the Smash fandom. You’ll find no items, or power ups. Not even for simple fun. What you will find, are some really cool looking stages, and characters. All of the characters make a great first impression here. They’re fairly unique (Except for maybe Wrastor who is clearly a Falco Lombardi stand in.), and have designs that stand out.

Upon getting into a match, you’ll find it plays very much like Smash. You’ll want to be the last one standing, as I mentioned earlier. It has similar play mechanics under the hood. Directional Influence is a major part of defensive play, affecting the angle of knock back when you’re sent flying. There are tilts, specials, and meteor attacks to boot. Enthusiasts will feel right at home here.

BTRivalsMap

But it isn’t a carbon copy of Super Smash Bros. either. Rivals Of Aether makes some enhancements that make it feel different enough to justify looking into it. It adds a second set of regular attacks it calls Strong Attacks. Where the Smash games have a button for regular moves, a button for special moves, and then different attacks based upon whether or not the stick was moved simultaneously with a button press this one adds a third button. It’s a small thing, but it also means another few moves per character.

The game also has a bigger emphasis on parrying. If you can time the block button perfectly, it grants you a brief moment of reprieve by putting an opponent in stun for a second. It also brings in advanced tech techniques by timing movement just before hitting surfaces. Rivals, also puts in a wall jump technique which can be really helpful when recovering from a strong knock back.

BTRivalsStages

One thing everyone will love is the sprite work on display. The pixel art is really, really nice stuff that hearkens back to the 16-bit console era. This game oozes Super NES, and Sega Genesis in terms of motif. The chip tunes aren’t half bad either.  Every stage has its own thumping songs that fit its visual flair. Interestingly, some stages will favor certain characters. To balance this out, at least in multiplayer, players can vote on what stages to disallow for a conflict. So if you see your opponent has chosen Orcane, you can put a giant red X on his stage so he can’t make easy saves by swimming.

BTRivalsStats

The game also has a pretty robust tutorial in it. Honestly it gives the level of care, and attention some of the better Street Fighter, and Tekken tutorials have had in recent outings. If you’re a newcomer it’s honestly worth checking out, and if you’re a Super Smash veteran you should at least look at it, as it can go over some of the differences nicely for you. It covers the absolute basics, but then covers combos, cancels, and the advanced wall jumping mechanics as well.

 

BTRivalsCustom

Rivals has both offline, and online matches where you can play against random players, or friends. It’s, pretty fun. It doesn’t usually lag that badly unless the opposing player is on the other side of the country or world. And even then I’ve still had some matches that were playable. Not great by any stretch, but at least I could move without having to expect to wait 30 seconds to see Zetterburn take a step. Be that as it may, I still don’t recommend veering too far outside the realm of low ping opponents.There are also tag battle modes which can be fun to play, though I suspect most will play the Free For All mode the most. I was also impressed with the character creation tools. Like the ones found in King Of Fighters XIII, and Capcom Vs. SNK 2 you can change the color palette of the characters to use as a custom appearance for yourself. So if you want to make Wrastor green, you can do so.

BTRivalsAbyss

Where the game falters a bit is when it comes to one player modes. Aside from the excellent tutorial, the only real thing it has is the Story mode. Here, you take each of the characters, and play through their part of the game’s lore. Like most fighting games this is told by picking a character, playing through computer opponents in a 1v1 match, until you reach the final boss. After defeating the boss, you’ll get a bit more backstory, and credits. Once you beat the game with every character though, there isn’t much left for you to do. You can take the points you earn for playing, to unlock the secret characters. But beyond that there really isn’t much else. When considering the small roster, it doesn’t translate into much single-player time. Sure, one could point to the Abyss mode where you try to exceed goals the game sets with enemies, and items to beat. But for a game that wants to tear you away from Smash, that isn’t much.

BTRivalsBoss

Don’t misunderstand me though, Dan Fornace, and his small team have done a terrific job in making a Smash-like fighter. If you don’t presently have a Nintendo console, and played a lot of Super Smash Bros. in the past, Rivals of Aether is a no brainer. If you do have a Gamecube, Wii, or Wii U, and love Super Smash Bros., you still may want to give this game a shot. Because it’s going to be more of what you love. As long as what you love is playing against other people in person, or online. This game has the competitive end set. But if your favorite parts of Smash have been breaking targets, Adventure modes, and Subspace Emissaries, Rivals may feel a little bit anemic. That said, if you’re a big fan of fighting games put this one on your radar.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Tournament Of Legends Review

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