Tournament of Legends Review

Bonus Content! It doesn’t reinvent fighting games, but it’s still good fun.

By M. Noah Ward. Posted 08/19/2010 11:30 2 Comments     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Excellent vocal quips, interchangeable weapons, fun character and arena designs
Poison Mushroom for...
No online play, Wii Remote + Nunchuk isn't fun, bad camera angle

Tournament of Legends Screenshot

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

There’s nothing better than a campy fighter for gaming get-togethers. Xena: Warrior Princess: The Talisman of Fate delivered countless hours of pizza-fueled, game party mayhem for me and my friends back on Nintendo 64. You’ve probably not heard of that game, or intentionally overlooked it, but you did so at your peril. Games like the Xena title or High Voltage Software’s latest don’t have to be visually without peer or insanely deep– they just need to be accessible and fun. Campy, fun and accessible– with the Classic Controller Pro– is just what Tournament of Legends is.

The way this game has been vilified in reviews across the internet wouldn’t lead you to think that, though. Words like “mess” and “failure” have been used freely, but many of those reviewers seem to be missing the point. High Voltage Software did not set out to make the heir to SoulCalibur’s throne, boggle with combos as intricate as Street Fighter’s, or burden itself with the heavy storyline this game once had when it was known as Gladiator A.D. HVS even recognized that the revised scope and feel of the game– hammered out when partnering with Sega to publish the title– resulted in a product that should be priced at only $30. Yes, many of us would have liked to see the bloody fighting RPG Gladiator A.D. realized, and seeing these colorful, cartoon archetypes in its stead was very jarring, but it’s time to get over that. After all, you want to know where a lot of the requests for more fantasy, monsters and magic that’s in Tournament of Legends came from? Your same friends in the press who requested those elements when they saw Gladiator A.D. being demoed at last year’s E3. Nintendojo wasn’t one of the change requestors (we liked what we saw), but, after getting over the shock of its overhaul, Tournament of Legends is still goofy fun.

Like SoulCalibur, Tournament of Legends is a circular arena-based weapons fighter. Gamers can fight as one of a dozen mythological combatants sourced from Roman, Norse, Egyptian and Asian mythology, in small, one-on-one battles that occur within fantastical arenas– from the lairs of ice dragons and crab kings to an undersea Atlantis arena that cheekily foreshadows HVS’s upcoming Conduit 2 (which has an Atlantis-based hub world). Gameplay is relatively streamlined– fighters can execute left, right and vertical slashes, in addition to energy bar-powered special attacks, defensive and offensive auras, and weapon throwing (yes, weapon throwing uses magic power too). Each fighter also enters the arenas with head, shoulder and torso armor which can be gradually beaten to the point of falling off, adding a dynamic tweak to the proceedings.

Tournament of Legends Screenshot

Other twists take Tournament further– each arena has a large monster or deity-styled threat, and motion- or thumbstick-based minigames repair lost armor and replenish lost life when knocked out between matches. First off, an angry centaur, hungry kraken, horde of skeleton warriors or even Neptune’s gigantic trident will randomly pose a threat during some matches. At such a point, the fighters (and camera) must shift from combating one another to dodging the threat via a carefully timed remote yanks or thumbstick gestures. As said, it’s random in every sense of the word, but also amusingly comedic to see a strolling titan’s foot squish a fighter beneath his sandal. The same kind of frantic remote gestures or thumbstick wiggles are also required in between matches, or when someone’s been knocked out– executing the brief on-screen directions will bring broken armor back and boost life bars to full, though there’s only a small window of time to do so. Whether dodging monsters or reviving yourself, these minigames are always easier and much less tiresome on the Classic Controller: they’ll even bring back controller-breaking, nostalgic memories from Mario Parties gone by.

The Classic Controller is supported in Tournament, and as implied up to this point, is highly preferable. Flailing the remote and nunchuk for attacks and armor repair is tiresome and feels random at best. While the combat is pretty simple– circle your opponent, execute well-timed dodges and blocks, get close and strike– the lack of a deep combo system (it’s limited to landing three hits in a row) makes button tapping preferable.

Tournament of Legends Screenshot

Also helpful, yet indicative of a design flaw in the game, is an on-the-ground indicator that will light up to inform when a warrior is within striking distance of an opponent. If the indicator’s not lit, no attack will hit, unless you’re throwing a weapon or firing a magic attack. Someone who wants to jump in and button mash will be immediately frustrated if he’s not paying mind to the ground indicator, though HVS could have eliminated the need for such a clunky bandaid with a better camera angle.

Yet adjust to that flaw, and combat becomes much easier to understand and read. Plus, you’re incentivized to keep battling to see how the darkly comedic single player stories play out– they’re illustrated with comic book panels and usually show a morbid sense of humor. A┬ánear-constant stream of gameplay unlocks flows in both single and versus play. There’s only a couple extra fighters and arenas to unlock, but each fighter’s weapon and can be unlocked for use by any other similarly built (lithe, heavy, etc.) fighter in the game. The same is true for each fighter’s specific enchantment aura (poison, cripple, attack boost, etc.)– play enough, and it can be used by choice with any other fighter.

If you’re hoping for online play, though, forget it. Gladiator A.D. was originally spec’d to include it, but during the game’s reinvention into Tournament of Legends, online play was axed. That’s a shame, too, since one-on-one battles are very amusing and perfect for late night competitions with friends. You can still fight with your friends in Tournament— just make sure they’re in the same room and that both of you have a Classic Controller. Playing with one person on Remote and one on Classic will end with the Remote wielder whining that the Classic player has it too easy– true story.

Tournament of Legends Screenshot

But what really seals the game in a nice package are the sharp graphics– even with more fantasy-tinged aesthetics the game looks great– and the over-the-top voice acting. If anything, a primary reason to play this game is for the taunts and complaints this colorful cast emotes. Apparently, when HVS committed to putting a goofier look on the game, they decided to off-set that with full-on, super campy, B-movie writing and voice acting. The warrior sounds like a pompous Bruce Campbell as he preens and kisses his biceps. The valkyrie sounds part valley girl with a twinge of Texas. The Egyptian, cat-headed goddess is inexplicably Jamaican, which is just as logical as the Medusa character having a French accent and Death a Spanish one. And each warrior has unique victory statements for every other fighter you set them against. The warrior may say, “Hero, one! Bone, none!” after defeating skeleton warrior Valeska. Or the valkyrie may taunt, “He’s really hit rock bottom,” after besting the stone statue of Jupiter. Yet one of the best is when the nature-loving minotaur defeats the steampunk robot golem– “The tree hugger defeats the tree cutter!” You may ask who on Earth wrote this– all the while being glad they did and loving the over the top vocal deliveries.

That old N64 Xena game featured some campy voice clips, most notably Xena’s goofy “Yiyiyiyiyiyi!” cry when she executed her sideways, hovering bicycle kick. Like Tournament of Legends, that Xena game had simple gameplay that you could brainstorm ways to improve upon, but it also had unedeniable appeal without further embellishment. Tournament takes that kind of blueprint further with terrific graphics, novel minigame twists, multiple unlocks and amusing writing and voice acting. Being beholden to using a Classic Controller for optimal gameplay is not great design, and neither is the need for a visible strike zone indicator. However, this Tournament, at only $30, has plenty single player and game party fuel to spare.

2 Responses to “Tournament of Legends Review”

  • 1332 points
    Andrew Hsieh says...

    Brawlers, like this game seems to look like, don’t usually appeal too much to me, but considering the use of sundry mythological figures in the game (!), I might just have to check it out. And come on, $30? That’s less than a DS game. Pretty sweet.

    Also, my dream job after reading this article? Undeniably writing campy dialogue for video games.

  • 697 points
    Adam Sorice says...

    I have an odd relationship with fighting games, I either get completely into them, Soul Calibur 2 and Smash Bros, or they kinda fail to grab me cos I feel they go over my head, ie Street Fighter IV.

    ToL sounds tempting but I’ve not picked up TvC either, I’ll need to figure out which to get I s’pose. Or I could just go back to my pile of preexisting purchases. Or Street Fighter IV.

    Nice review, personal highlight was “clunky bandaid” :D

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