Tournament of Legends started out as something special, something gory, something I wanted to play. But that's now how it ended.
Back before Tournament of Legends had a teen rating and a forgettable title, back when it was Gladiator A.D., it struck me as the sort of two-fisted, motion-sensing fighting game that I wanted to play on the Wii.
But the developers ditched the ultra-realism, the notion of role-playing, the morality system for a kid-friendly cast of mythological characters and control-flailing combat that is rarely satisfying.
Pick-Up-And-Play Fighter: With a lack of nuance befitting the worst of the Wii's library, Tournament of Legends doesn't so much have you control your digital fighters with one-to-one motion as it expects you to flail about wildly to deliver life-draining combos. There's very little here in the way of strategy. Button pushes let you block and dodge, but that's rarely necessary until the end of a single-player play through. The good news is that just about anyone could pick this game up for a quick run through a character's story.
Corny Dialogue: The one-liners and comments made by the characters in battle and delivered to fallen foes through a series of motions with your remote, are so corny that they're funny. I'm not sure if I like the pompous Marcus or hippy BraveHoff more, but they're all absurd.
Diverse Cast: Who needs gladiators with tritons and nets when you can have mechanised warriors, demons and the embodiment of death with a crow's head? The ten characters have a diverse armoury of weapons, spells and special attacks.
Fun Attacks: The game's special attacks are some of the most imaginative, mostly blood-free, attacks I've seen in a fighter. They can transport enemies across the screen, summon lions to attack and sprout giant, upper-cut dealing trees.
Change for the Worse: At best Tournament of Legends feels like a developer losing its nerve in a market that rewards Wii games like Carnival Games and doesn't support titles like MadWorld. At worst, the complete change from Gladiator A.D.'s provocative game design to Tournament of Legends blatant pandering feels like a bait and switch.
Short, Not So Sweet: Ditching the role-playing elements and any thought of a meaningful single-player experience, the game instead lets you play through the roster of challengers as the game's ten characters. Rewarding you with an incredibly short introduction and finale delivered with a voice over and still images. The brevity of these "campaigns" and the choice of a cartoonish art style for the cut-scenes makes the game feel unfinished.
Controller Confusion: While you can play Tournament with motion flailing or with a classic controller, both of which are documented in the manual, you can also choose a couple of alternate styles of control. The problem is there is no explanation of how to use them, not in the manual, not in the game, apparently not online.
Full Motion, Unappealing Video: During combat you will occasionally have to dodge timed attacks themed to match the arena you are in. It could mean ducking a giant crab claw, rolling away from a charging centaur or avoiding a crowd of skeletons. These attacks are all nonsensical and add very little to the experience, instead breaking up the battle with annoying delays.
Tournament of Legends is as forgettable as its title, which is unfortunate, because it sounded so interesting, so worthwhile back when it had a better name. Maybe High Voltage can still make that game. Just don't make another one of these games.
The best I can say about Tournament of Legends is that it is a bit, a very small bit, like Punch Out! only without the heart, the humour or the design of that terrifically casual fighter. Instead Tournament takes the worst of Punch Out! and tries to dress it up as something more when it is much, much less.
Tournament of Legends was developed by High Voltage and published by Sega for the Wii on July 6. Retails for $US29.99. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the game's single player campaign six times, tried all control types and tested local multiplayer.
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