The Wii is well known for a few of its high-profile fighting games, but otherwise the console isn’t exactly a haven for the genre. Everybody knows about Smash Bros, which is an unorthodox fighting game at best, and just this year we got the fantastic Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, but aside from the rather puzzling Castlevania Judgment, there aren’t many other heavy hitters on the Wii.
If anything, independent studio High Voltage Software has established themselves as innovators on the Wii. They fine-tuned their proprietary Quantum 3 engine to push the console’s graphical capabilities. They launched their first original IP, The Conduit, on the platform and are turning it into a franchise with a sequel due out later this year. They’re even working on a separate FPS version of their Left 4 Dead-style monster hunter, The Grinder, exclusively for the Wii, while the PS3 and 360 get a more traditional top-down version.
What HVS’s games lack in construction they more than make up for in ambition, and from what we’ve seen on Conduit 2, HVS is learning quickly. Early last year they demoed a strange fighting game called Gladiator AD. It used an unconventional behind-the-back perspective and sported gritty, bloody graphics in a Roman coliseum setting. At the time I thought the game looked interesting, but a bit homogenous. Apparently HVS and publisher Sega have similar thoughts: a year later and the game had been transformed into the flashy, colorful Tournament of Legends.
The result is a fighting game that looks more traditional, but retains a few of the novel ideas from its original design. If you want to visualize Tournament of Legends in a nutshell, think of Soul Calibur set in the myths of antiquity. Still, that’s only at a glance. Tournament of Legends is a game that is very hard to judge from outward appearances, because it combines so many traditional fighting game elements with new ideas.
The story is an epic tale of competing gladiators much like the Soul series or even Mortal Kombat, but the flavors of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse myths make it stand out. A collection of type-A personality gods, goddesses and supernatural fighters are trying to kill the god of death and claim his power, then ascend to the throne in Jupiter’s mysterious absence. The backgrounds for each character are actually well planned out, and fully voiced by an oracle-type character at the beginning of the story mode. This is accompanied by pictorial sequences showing the characters’ motivations, which works a lot better than it sounds on paper and makes each character a lot more relatable than your typical fighting game roster.
There are only ten characters in all, a couple of them unlockable, but the larger than life back-stories and the characters’ over the top personalities make each one stand out. You’ll play as insufferable Roman gladiator Marcus, a stone golem of Jupiter with a serious inferiority complex, Bravehoff the Minotaur with anger issues, the idealistic valkyrie Kara, and the spoiled-rotten Egyptian cat-goddess Bast. Each character’s voice acting is played-up and outrageous, but it does set the game apart from the rest of the genre, and in any case it’s interesting to see a Western take on a predominantly Japanese territory.
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