The threads of fate are not kind to this Wii-exclusive fighter.
Ever since the launch of the system in 2006, fighting games that utilize Wii’s motion controls have been very rare, and those that do typically end up being broken and disappointing, leaving gamers to rely on traditional controls. High Voltage Software’s Gladiator A.D., announced in 2009, promised to create an engaging weapon-based fighter using the Wii’s MotionPlus add-on for enhanced motion control. But then the game received an overhaul, toning down its violence for a more fantastical and colorful mythological theme, eliminating the enhanced motion controls in the process. What we got instead is yet another basic Wii fighter that tries to be creative, but ends up being rather forgettable.
Tournament of Legends tells the story of how the Roman God Jupiter has vanished, leaving Thanatos, the God of Death, to rule over other gods and the mortals. A group of legendary warriors (creatures and characters based on various mythologies) set out to defeat him, reasoning that if they destroy death itself their heart’s desires will become a reality. These characters include Bravehoof, a Minotaur that wishes humanity to live with nature once more, and Marcus, the self-proclaimed Hero of Rome, along with many more.
Don’t be fooled by this promising backstory, though. Tournament of Legends barely takes itself seriously despite all the talk about fates and death. All of the characters are egotistical stereotypes that players will either love or completely hate. Each of the character stories are slightly interesting, but they all feature similar "watch what you wish for, because you just might get it"-style endings.
In terms of gameplay, Tournament of Legends tries to use the motion controls to maximum effect, with an emphasis on “tries”. The Wii Remote and Nunchuck are your primary and secondary weapon, respectively. Swinging either controller will make the character do a slash attack. Pressing the B button and shaking the Wii Remote causes the character to do an un-blockable attack. In addition to basic melee attacks, there are special magic attacks that players can choose before each battle, such as a fire ring that surrounds the character while damaging the opponent, and an attack that drains the opponent’s life bar when used. Finally, there are the character-unique special attacks, such as Marcus’s rain of arrows and bear trap. These sets of special attacks require energy that grows every time an attack is landed, or you are attacked.
Armor also plays a role in battle. Consecutive attacks can lead to pieces of armor being destroyed, stripping the fighter bare and exposing them to a higher level of damage. In addition, new weapons and spells can be unlocked. Weapons range from quick and light, to heavy but powerful. You can select your weapons before every battle.
One of the most interesting aspects of Tournament of Legends’ gameplay is its usage of mini-games and quick-time events to create a grander sense of danger and desperation. In each stage there’s a "danger" that can appear during a round, such as a giant stepping on the ring or a giant bird attacking the fighters. Successful execution of on-screen commands will protect one fighter, while the other gets his or her life bar significantly drained. In the event that the match ends in a tie, players are given the option of playing a mini-game in which they can recover some of their life and repair their armor.
Other minor control elements include weapon lockdowns where players must shake the Wii Remote and Nunchuck in other to push the other player and deal a damaging blow, and performing the on-screen commands while the opponent is slowly rising from defeat in order to regain some life back. These interactive elements, regardless of how neat they seem, are superfluous creations added to disguise a very basic game design. The motion controls are vanilla at best, and using them as the main method of control can prove to be tiring and very annoying. Luckily, Tournament of Legends also employs the Classic Controller, but even the more trustworthy control method can’t hide the fact that the game is one of the most basic fighters you will encounter on Wii. It is easy to learn, but with very little to master, die-hard fighting fanatics will get bored quickly.
Worse still are the gameplay modes. This is a barren package that lacks many of the essentials seen in today’s fighting games. There are only two modes of play: Story mode and Versus. Story mode can be a challenge to complete, mainly because the default difficulty features AI that can be really cheap and unfair, often using the same attacks over and over for a sure win. As wacky as the stories can be, they aren’t interesting enough to warrant repeated playthroughs. Versus mode is a very standard one-on-one multiplayer mode, and there isn’t any form of online play or even a local tournament mode. Other modes include a practice mode and a gallery mode where you can see the 3D character models (though strangely, there is no option to see the endings).
On the technical side of things, Tournament of Legends boasts the usage of High Voltage Software’s own Quantum3 graphics engine that promises high quality visuals on the Wii. But while the characters are grand and rich in detail, the game itself is average at best. Framerate is very smooth throughout, but the locales look very muddy and unappealing. The stages themselves are very basic in terms of visual design, and the character design is pedestrian despite a few clever ideas here and there.
But faring the worst is the music and sound. Tournament of Legends features a very quiet musical score. Players will barely hear each of the songs, much less remember them. The voice acting is also very grating. There are times when characters provide humorous one-liners, but they constantly repeat themselves; and with the characters being so egotistical, hearing them brag about how amazing they are over and over again can be very annoying.
Despite its promise of being a visually-detailed fighting game that uses all of Wii’s assets to the fullest, Tournament of Legends can best be described as a painfully average title. The game doesn’t feature any huge technical flaws, but its underwhelming game design combined with the absence of additional game modes makes this title a rental at best. Being budget priced, you truly get what you paid for in Tournament of Legends.