It has been a long time since we were drowned in generic fighters all wanting a piece of the Mortal Kombat/Street Fighter action. Titles like War Gods, Time Killers, Cardinal Syn and Mace: The Dark Age all come to mind, and I will have you know I enjoyed each and every one of those games. Fast-forward to 2010 and leave it to the Wii to once again resurrect mediocrity from the past. Tournament of Legends is the latest creation from High Voltage Software (best known for The Conduit), and it really feels like the aforementioned games. If you can accept that it isn’t going to change the way fighting games are played, and take it at face value, there is some fun to be had here.
I will admit that when I first tossed the disc into my Wii I was truly expecting complete and utter crap. I mean a fighting game on the Wii that looks like the characters were created in a board meeting by the intern in fifteen minutes. The first thing I will mention is that I found playing with a classic controller much more enjoyable than trying to struggle with the motion controls. The mechanics are more based on defensive fighting instead of button mashing, and nothing gives you as much accuracy as a traditional d-pad and face buttons.
First up let’s discuss the motion controlled portions. The standard fighting works much like you would expect with movement attached to the analog and attacks mapped to the buttons. What is unique about Tournament of Legends though is the way battles play out. Each fight consists of six rounds, each requiring you to be the first to win three. There are also acts that split up the action. When the timer counts down you have a chance to play a sort of mini-game that will refill your health and repair your armor. When using the Wii remote and nunchuk combo this means it is waggle time. Waving the remote around in various directions never proved accurate or entertaining, which again is why I completely recommend the classic controller.
The overall combat system as I mentioned is very much based in defense. This is not the type of game where violently mashing buttons will wield good results. It is all about timing your attacks and waiting for a chance to strike. Blocking and sidestepping are key as well as mastering the various special moves. Your armor can be broken as the fight continues not only changing your appearance, but making attacks much more damaging. You can also unlock new powers by defeating enemies ala MegaMan, and even new weapons that open up new moves and combos. There is a breadth of depth within the game if you are willing to take the time to learn.
This is one area that Tournament of Legends falls a little short. Figuring out most of the combat requires you to dig through the practice mode. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, but the video describing some of the more advanced moves ends up buried where most gamers will never find it. The game also lacks enough modes to keep things interesting. There is no survival, time attack or any other standard fighting game add-on; just the quintessential Story and Versus.
The characters look generic on the surface, and there is only a handful to choose from, but they all play completely different. Marcus, the generic gladiator focuses more on quick combos, while characters like Jupiter deal more damage up close. I did like the array of special moves that can be executed by holding the analog in a direction and pressing the A button, but I especially liked that you can equip various other powers before the match such as extra damage and life drain.
Visually the game looks much like my description earlier. Yes it is a harsh statement, but Tournament of Legends barely looks better than the games it mimics from ten years ago. Sure you can blame the Wii, but there are far better looking games on the console. I do like the arenas as they have specific interactive objects and manage to feel unique, but the low-resolution textures really drive home the fact that the game is certainly not built for this generation. Sound is even worse as the repetitive taunts really start to grow weary after two or three fights.
Tournament of Legends was much better than I had initially anticipated, but I am a sucker for generic fighting games with off-the-wall characters. If they had kept it Mature rated like it was initially supposed to be, and added fatalities, it would have been this generation’s War Gods. Take that as you may I personally would have enjoyed it. Every now and then it is fun to have games that just try to be like the big boys as they end up becoming cult favorites. Now if you will excuse me I have to go back to writing my petition to bring Time Killers to Xbox Live Arcade.
Review copy provided by publisher.