The gameplay is a similar strange hybrid of established conventions and HVS’s own novelties. For starters there’s that weird perspective. You face your opponent head-on and with the view canted slightly to the right. This makes it a little difficult to judge distances, and for that purpose there are two opposing crescents—one for each fighter—projected onto the ground, which light up when you get into striking distance. Having your opponent in full view makes it easier to predict what they’re doing, but also a bit harder to judge what moves your character is performing, at least at first.
Overall it’s somewhat reminiscent of the over-the-shoulder style pioneered by Resident Evil 4, but with an emphasis on combat balanced between both arms. You can tell the basic idea was to map the Wii remote to the right arm and the Nunchuk to the left, letting you mimic your character’s body movements with motion gestures. It’s a cool idea, but the relative slowness of the attacks in Tournament of Legends and the typical loose response time of the Wii remote made it very difficult for me to get used to the standard control scheme.
Luckily, HVS has implemented the extensively customizable control options that have sort of become their unofficial trademark ever since The Conduit. You can assign any move or command to any button, and what’s more the Classic Controller is fully supported. After years of fighting games on traditional game pads I found this old-school method much easier to pick up, and it was a nice excuse to get more use out of my trusty Nyko Wing.
The rest of the gameplay flowed naturally but was a bit of a strange fit. The basics of the fighting genre are all present—combos, selectable weapons, timed matches ands KOs—but HVS has added other innovations besides perspective. While it takes the standard 3 KOs to end a fight, if you’re good enough you can get all three in a single round; scoring a KO does not automatically start the next round. When you’re knocked down both you and your opponent can perform on-screen combos to restore HP. Every character also has armor that visibly degrades in combat, and as your helmet and armor plates shatter you take increasing damage to your HP bar. Between rounds you get a brief chance to rebuild your armor and replenish health, by means of a simple minigame.
In homage to the classic Marvel vs. Capcom series, you also get a special power bar that increases as you deal and take damage. Combo-ing your special button with a stick direction unleashes one of four character-unique attacks at the cost of magic, or you can use smaller amounts to throw projectile weapons. In addition to this, however, is a second single-use meter that temporarily gives your weapon a unique attack power. These enchantments are unlocked as you progress through the story mode and can be chosen before a match. They are similar to game-type modifiers in other fighting games but can be used tactically.
All of these elements make for a curious hybrid of the genre’s longstanding ideas, many of them implemented in novel ways. The only problem is that they’re executed somewhat sluggishly, making fluid combat difficult at first. For example, each arena has a hazard that randomly attacks both opponents, which can be avoided by a quick-time event. These sequences are more like interactive custscenes, however, and break the flow of combat. In the end managing all of Tournament of Legends’ disparate ideas is a juggling act, and coupled with the slower than usual combat pace, this makes the game a bit awkward to get into.
That doesn’t mean the game is bad—not by a long shot. The production values are high and the graphics represent the same raw technical quality we’ve come to expect from the Quantum 3 engine. Like Conduit, Tournament of Legends is a first attempt at an original IP; it has several good ideas that are used in creative ways, they just aren’t put together smoothly enough for a consistent, intuitive experience.
It’s fair to say that there are considerably better fighting games on Wii with more content, but Tournament of Legends at least tries to be humorous and inventive with its story and characters, in a genre that has trended toward the same clichés year after year. For that I think Tournament of Legends deserves a little extra credit. I also place high importance on value. Tournament of Legends might be lacking in a number of areas but for $30 it’s a quality package, with more class, creativity and heart put into it than the vast majority of Wii budget titles. For that price, it’s a solid addition to any Wii library and an interesting take on the fighting genre.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Tournament of Legends has a lot of good ideas but it falters a bit in execution. Still, it's a much higher quality game than most Wii budget titles and it has some honest creativity and heart behind it. For $30 it's a solid buy and a quirky companion to the Wii's modest fighting game lineup.
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