There's been quite a resurgence in the fighting game genre over the past few years. Arcade titles popular among a niche market would later boom into mainstream success, while completely new titles would surface in hopes to bring innovative ideas to the table. The Nintendo Wii has provided us with various examples, some better than others, but all implementing a truly interesting and, oftentimes, debatable concept: motion-control technology. Motion-control technology is what High Voltage Software had in mind when developing Tournament of Legends, previously known as Gladiator A.D., a mythology-themed fighting game recently released on the Wii console. While the game does feature some interesting and unique elements, different doesn't always amount to better.
Tournament of Legends begins with a good start. Instead of presenting the game with life-like graphics common among just about every fighting game released today, Tournament of Legends opts for a more stylized, comic book feel. Not like this hasn't been done before, but it does add a nice touch and offers a visually stimulating experience prior to playing. These visuals will certainly pump up any gamer looking for a new concept in a fighting game, but beyond that Tournament of Legends falls flat.
Upon watching the opener, the game switches from its stylized graphics to a more familiar, albeit poorly rendered, 3D environment with a roster of eight characters (two more of which can be unlocked), each more visually bizarre than the next. You can choose to take on the game's Story Mode where you'll gradually progress through the various fighters, gaining an insight into their story lines as you go along or you can choose from the game's other modes including your typical Versus and Training. The story campaign is slightly amusing but not enough to warrant return trips. The same goes for Versus Mode which is limited strictly to local multiplayer with no online functionality.
Combat takes place on a wide array of locales, but doesn't provide nearly enough room to duck or dodge as preferred in a fighting game. In addition, simple acts like walking towards or away from your enemy can be a difficult task if the camera is in an awkward angle. There's nothing more aggravating than being trapped in a fixed position while your opponent wails on you. I strongly doubt that's what High Voltage wanted players to experience time and time again.
Aside from this, combat is generally weapon-based with the typical standard attacks, four special moves, a projectile attack and defensive options to block and dodge. Tournament of Legends does; however, sets itself apart by incorporating magical attacks and enchantments which allow you to poison, burn, or otherwise harm your foe. In order to execute these moves, you must first fill up your Energy and Enchantment gauges by pummeling your opponent. Both weapon-based or magic-based attacks can be pulled off using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk's motion controls or by connecting the Classic Controller for a more traditional experience. Unfortunately motion controls offer nothing but unresponsive, clumsy flail-fests so you're best off choosing the latter however even that can be grueling at times.
Despite the sluggish controls, the fighting does become more interesting as you learn the intricacies of battle. Every character has four unique special attacks that are activated by hitting a button in conjunction with a specific direction on the stick. These moves are, by far, the most beneficial in combat but must be used sparingly. In addition, Tournament of Legends incorporates quick-time events in order to spice up combat. Each area that you fight in has a giant monster hidden somewhere within that will eventually come into play. Wiggle both joysticks or waggle the controller in conjunction to avoid being injured, but fail to comply and you'll likely lose a good portion of your health bar; unfortunately, with the game's shoddy controls serious damage is a common occurrence.
At a reduced price of $29.99 Tournament of Legends should be a welcome addition to anyone's collection but poor and unreliable controls keep Tournament of Legends from reaching its promising potential. There have been various fighting games in the past that have managed to master both general and motion controls with such ease that the experience has been close to natural and while High Voltage has clearly strived for this (particularly in motion controls), it falls short of success. It's a shame, really, considering how interesting certain aspects of this game can be but it's just too difficult to have a satisfying back-and-forth match when it can quickly turn into incessant button-smashing.