Tournament of Legends
Developer: High Voltage Software
Genre: 3-D Fighting
Release Date: 07/06/2010
Although younger or more casual gamers might know High Voltage as the makers of The Conduit, older gamers know that they have a history reached back to the 16-Bit era and have made games that are as diverse in genres as they are in quality. They’ve made some below average games like Evasive Space and Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, some games that received a “thumbs in the middle” from our staff (Such as both Matt and Joel’s reviews of The Conduit and some games we were positive about like Gyrostarr and NBA Inside Drive 2004. Right there, you have two shmups, a first person shooter, an adventure game, and a sports title. You can also throw in a second adventure game and one of the best platformers I have ever played if you include my own reviews of Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law and The Haunted Mansion. Finally, you can also throw in a multiplayer action RPG/Beat ‘Em series with the Hunter: The Reckoning franchise, which are agrubaly the best titles ever put out by the company. If anything it shows that High Voltage likes to make a variety of different games.
Which of course brings us to Tournament of Legends, a 3D fighting game for the Nintendo Wii. Now there aren’t a lot of fight games for the Wii unless you count those on the Virtual Console (and you really need a fight stick for those…). The best of the lot is of course, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, and the worst is Soul Calibur Legends, and then somewhere between the two you have Super Smash Bros. Brawl, TMNT: Smash Up and Castlevania: Judgement. Other than that, there really isn’t much for the system. So has High Voltage filled a niche that the Wii desperately needed filled, or has the Sammy Sega curse struck again, giving us yet another crappy title from a now crappy publisher?
Basically you have ten characters that were wronged in their existence somehow and now, with the help of the god of fate are having a big tournament with the final battle being against Thanatos, God of Death. If you beat him, you get to be the new God of Death. Each of the ten characters (and two unlockable characters, including Thanatos himself) have their own stories to tell.
For the sake of the review I will use Narcia the Gorgon as my control character. Her story is that she was the most beautiful woman in ancient Greece and the love of Poseidon, god of the sea. However another god was jealous and turned her into the snake woman you see in the game. Now, this story mirrors that of Medusa, who was considered the most beautiful priestess of Athena in all of Greece and who was RAPED by Poseidon in Athena’s main temple. Then Athena cursed Medusa for losing her virginity by turning her into a snake-woman (Gorgon is the actual term) and eventually sent Perseus to kill her. Nice way to reward your faithful, Athena. It’s obvious that Narcia is supposed to be Medusa, but why the game didn’t actually call her that is beyond me. The funny thing is that in Narcia’s ending the game accidentally calls her Medusa twice. That’s some bad editing right there and is a good foreshadowing of what I think about the rest of the game. Anyway, if you win with Narcia, you get to see that she becomes the new god of death and she restores herself to her original form, but finds Poseidon has moved on to a new lover and is no longer interested in her, even with her newfound god powers. She then spends the rest of eternity having to watch Poseidon get it on with other women. Wow, that’s a pretty cruel story to reward a gamer with, and for those that know the TRUE story of Medusa, it’s more than a bit unsettling to see this version. Other characters get an O’Henry ending as well, making this one of the least enjoyable games to actual beat in terms of rewards for your accomplishment.
I do like that each character has their own storyline and although there is nothing great here, it’s decent fare. I just wish there weren’t so many errors (like accidentally calling Narcia Medusa twice) in the story bits or have Thanatos look human in the cut scenes but have a bird head in the actual game itself. If you just play for the sake of playing, it’s acceptable, but if you pay attention to plot holes or outright errors, you will probably be irked like I was.
Story Rating: Decent
The backgrounds in ToL are detailed and diverse. In Kara’s stage, for example, the sleeping frost dragon is pretty cool looking. Character designs on the other hand… Well, they’re original, I’ll give them that, along with points for having different characters from multiple mythologies, but the designs are some of the lamest I’ve seen in a fighting game since Battle Monsters for the Sega Saturn. The best looking are Kara and Narcia, but characters like Volcanus, Akki and Juptier are just plain awful. Thanatos also has to be the least intimidating end boss ever in terms of looks/design. Things also get weird as when armour flies off your character, it lands on the screen looking like unidentifiable blobs. It took me a few battles to figure out what it was supposed to be.
Cut scenes are actually done with still art from what appear to be comic book panels. Even odder, I would swear the artwork is done by Rob Liefield. That’s not meant to be bad or good, but it really looks like his style. His name isn’t in the credits, but neither is a specific artist for the cut scenes, so I have no idea who did it and neither the press release nor the website for the game says who it is. Still, the art is very striking and it looks much better than the actual game itself. Even then though it’s usually just the same three or four pieces of art for each character used repeatedly with narrator voice overs. There was so much potential here, but it felt sloppy and rushed at the end.
Graphics Rating: Below Average
Back to Narcia as the control character. She is meant to be Greek. However she has a French accent. A very THICK French accent. At first I was like, “Well, maybe it is supposed to be a snake thing, like hissing or something.” Nope. It’s French. How do I know this? Because even the subtitles for her have a French accent such as “Ze” for “The” and other common Frenglish words that are used to show the speaker in question is talking in English with a French accent. Then one of her taunts is directly from Monty Python and the Holy Grail‘s French Taunter, which would be awesome if SHE WASN’T SUPPOSD TO BE GREEK. Thanatos also suffers from this strange malady of Grecian based characters speaking with a French accent. Even weird for Narcia, she is supposed to be obsessed with Poseidon yet a lot of her dialogue is about hating men or rocking people’s worlds.
Other characters have equally serviceable voice acting. The goddess of fate is by far the best out of the lot, but as the narrator, she damn well needs to be. The others can be a bit weird. But that’s more because of the dialogue than the actual talents of the cast. Let’s call it a push.
Sound Rating: Mediocre
4. Control and Gameplay
In 2007, Soul Calibur Legends won our worst game of the year award. Sadly I have to say that it still plays better than Tournament of Legends which is a horribly unresponsive mess that boils down to just randomly flailing both your arms and occasionally pushing a button.
Let’s start with the general controls. The nunchuk controls your left arm and the Wiimote controls your right. You have two different attacks with your right arm depending on if you shake it up and down or side to side. The problem is that most of the time the game can’t tell which you are doing. As well, the nunchuk seems to only do your attack half the time. All of that is like a bed of roses compared to actually moving your character which involves the control stick. Characters are exceptionally sluggish and slow to respond. Even the characters marked as “fast” move like molasses and god knows it is pretty damn hard to move your characters forward. Often they just stay in place. A double tap of the stick is the most successful way to move a character forward, but that’s a charge attack and 99% of the time those are countered by the computer. In fact, much of the game is just waiting for your opponent to come to you (or vice versa) or hitting them with the limited range attacks you have at your disposal.
At first I thought it was just bad Wiimote controls, but this game plays just as horribly with the Classic Controller. I was shocked at how god awful and nigh unplayable the game was. My battles ended up with me just flailing my arms every which way and still beating the game. There is no skill involved – it’s just hoping to god the game notices your movements and the responds accordingly.
Each character has three special attacks and a magic power that they can use, but again, the game only accepts your commands half the time and then half of that it’s not the right one anyway. It’s neat that you can change weapons and enchantments by beating opponents, but who cares when the game is barely playable?
Finally there are the battles themselves. Instead of being the best two out of three rounds like in most fighting games, you have to either knock your opponent out three times in the course of three ninety second rounds, or at least knock them down more than they did you. Another option for winning is if your opponent doesn’t make the “referee’s” count, which only goes to seven instead of ten. Odd. Equally odd is that when an opponent is down you can follow Wiimote commands to gain health and magic power back but once again, the game rarely recognizes one’s movements. You can move your Wiimote and Nunchuk until you are blue in the face in the direction shown on the screen and it may not accept it.
There are two other weird things. The first is that between rounds you can earn health and armour back. You get health by spinning the control stick and armour by shaking the Wiimote. You have to do these both at the same time and even after beating the game with all ten characters and the two unlockables I am still at a loss for what armour actually does besides fly off your body. The second weird thing is that occasionally you’ll get a quick time event in the middle of a round, like a Kraken attack you or a horde of centaurs charging you. You have to move the Wiimote and nunchuk in the directions shown on the screen BUT ONCE AGAIN, the game rarely registers your actual input so expect to take damage.
Simply put, the game is nigh unplayable. You can barely move, you can barely attack and the game only registers half of your attacks and movements. I’d knock off points for the insanity of adding QTE’s to a FIGHTING GAME and how long the game is due to being a best three of five instead of two out of three falls, but honestly, the game is so flippin’ horrible in every way, I don’t think there are any points left to knock off. Tournament of Legends is easily the worst fighting game I’ve played in a long time and that includes dreck like the most recent King of Fighters title.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Worthless
There are only a dozen possible characters, which is pretty low for a fighting game. Something like Castlevania Judgement dealt with that by having an action/platformer mode in addition to the fighting game. Oh, and characters people already know and love. ToL has…nothing! It’s just the fighting game in Story and Versus mode. That’s it. Then there are only three actual types of characters: big, medium and little and all the characters in each category play exactly the same, especially when you unlock all the weapons and enchantments and you know which ones work best. You can pretty much get all there is to be had in ToL in a few hours and god knows you don’t want to inflict it on friends, but if you do, that’s a little more playtime to be had before you trade it in to Gamestop.
As you can probably tell from the rest of the review, balance is one thing this game lacks. All the characters blur into one another, especially since you can swap out weapons and magic. There are only three styles of characters, which gets old quickly and the AI for the computer is all but nonexistent. The computer stands there most of the time and the only time you get hit is whether either A) you charge the opponent or B) you walk up to it or vice versa and the game doesn’t acknowledge your attacks or blocks, allowing you to get hit. Thanatos is the only character with any real AI and even then it’s not so much that he is a challenge but rather he does a lot of damage and gets an unbelievable amount of magic and special attack energy compared to the other characters. He’s rather like the Eternal Champion in Eternal Champions save that he only has one form and is far easier to beat.
With no real challenge even with the broken controls and lack of controller detection from the game, it’s not hard to see why this game’s as shallow as its character roster.
Balance Rating: Bad
The entire premise of the game is the same as Eternal Champions. It has the same amount of characters too. However Deep Water’s game was a classic and the character designs from that 16 bit title are actually more interesting and original than what we have here in this 2010 release. Also, that game had overkills. This has…ugh, quick time events. I’ll admit that’s something different to throw into a fighting game, but even if the controls worked properly, it would still be an annoyance rather than a neat twist. Other than that, Tournament of Champions is as generic as it gets. Really High Voltage, can’t you just make a fourth Hunter: The Reckoning? PLEASE?
Originality Rating: Bad
Let’s just leave it at this. My first time through story mode I kept asking, “Is it done yet? Is it done yet?” and sighing with each new battle I had to engage in. Then when I beat Thanatos (on my first try…), I realized I had nine more characters to beat the game with as well as trying to unlock the Skeleton Warrior (who shows up completely at random) and Thanatos. I was not a happy lad, that’s for sure.
About the only enjoyment I got was seeing each character’s beginning and ending, and even those were a bit lackluster. This was one game that felt like I had played it for days when it was only hours. Time flies when you are having fun and time was crawling here so…
Addictiveness Rating: Bad
9. Appeal Factor
You don’t really have a lot of fighting game options on the Wii unless you download classics from the VC AND own a fight stick or have imported the awesome Neo*Geo controller for the system from Japan. Besides, CV:J and TvC are superior games in every way, so why wouldn’t you get one of those. In the press release Sega sent, it talks about how it’s only $29.95. Well Castlevania: Judgement is only $19.98 right now and it’s a much better game. Hell, even if you hated CV:J (and there are many who do), you’d still like it better than this game. You can get a used version of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom for $34.99 from EBGamestop, and that’s only five bucks more than this, so why WOULDN’T you do that?
Bottom line, the only people that will enjoy this are long time High Voltage fans or Sega apologists. This is simply a poorly made game in nearly every way possible.
Appeal Factor: Bad
A budget game is only a good deal if it is a well made game. This is not. A good example of an excellent budget title for the Wii is oh, Sakura Wars, So Long My Love. It has the same MSRP as Tournament of Legends. It’s our front runner for GOTY right now AND it was a GOTY candidate (and winner) when it originally came out in Japan. Oh, it’s also a Sega published title back in Japan but because the US branch of Sega is so fundamentally screwed up, they sat on this game for over half a decade and gave us crap like Shadow the Hedgehog until Nippon Ichi finally brought it over for us. Tournament of Legends is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with Sammy Sega right now. Expensive shovelware has become the norm instead of the exception while awesome games like Valkyria Chronicles or Bayonetta have become so rare that gamers so hug them close to their torsos as they are reminders of what Sega used to be rather than what it now is. Tournament of Legends is not one of those games.
Miscellaneous Rating: Bad
Graphics: Below Average
Control and Gameplay: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Bad
FINAL SCORE: PRETTY POOR GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Tournaments of Legends is obviously meant to recapture the glory days of Sega fighters like Eternal Champions. Unfortunately it instead recaptures the horror of Acclaim fighters like Battle Monsters or Ravenloft: Iron and Blood. The game features graphics that would be more at place on the N64 or PSX, and the controls are so unresponsive and dysfunctional that even if you are such an awesome fighting gamer that you can perfect Nightmare Geese, you’ll find that this game comes down to blind luck and insane flailing. Even then, you’ll find the game easy to beat due no a near lack of AI from your opponents. There are no extra features or unlockables save for two more characters. In short, this is a huge waste of your money and a far cry from High Voltage’s glory days as the developer of the Hunter: The Reckoning series.