We've seen quite a resurgence within the fighting game genre over the past few years, in terms of both 2D and 3D varieties. While flashy over-the-top special moves and an almost limitless arsenal of moves have become the staple of these titles, we are beginning to see a bit more innovation within the games, especially those released for the Wii console with its unique motion control scheme. High Voltage Software has now tossed its hat into the ring of fighting games with the release of its mythology-themed Tournament of Legends, and while the game does feature some interesting and unique elements it ultimately feels like a game we've all played before.
Namco's Soulcalibur immediately springs to mind when you first sit down with Legends, as the overall look and feel of the two are quite similar. You've got a roster of eight rather bizarre characters to choose from (two more can be unlocked), each with their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. You can choose to take on the game's Story Mode where you'll gradually progress through the various fighters, gaining an insight into their unique story lines as you go along. Of course, if you'd like to choose which characters you'll square off against, or feel like going a few rounds with a human opponent, you can always tackle Versus mode. While not quite as entertaining as the Story Mode, it's still fun to be able to customize the options and go one-on-one with another player.
The combat takes place on a 3D plane, although there's not nearly as much freedom to duck and dodge attacks as you'd like in a game of this nature. Combat is weapons-based for the most part, although you do have certain magical attacks and Enchantments at your disposal once your Energy and Enchantment gauges fill up by pummeling your opponent. Executing attacks can be pulled off using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk's motion controls or you can connect a Classic Controller for a more traditional experience. Both work equally well, so it becomes more a matter of personal taste than anything.
While you won't find the mammoth arsenal of moves normally associated with this genre, you can string together small numbers of combos with the limited slashing moves at your disposal. You can mix and match the regular and strong attacks to catch your opponent off guard if you're timing is right. The game also offers up longer-ranged magical attacks that are unique to each fighter, and these can be very useful for those times when you're unable to get in close to your opponent. There are even items called Enchantments that can be switched in and out in between battles that offer your character different types of magical powers that can be used both offensively and restoratively, depending on the need at hand. You'll even be able to unlock new types of weapons and Enchantments by defeating fighters in the game's Story Mode, all of which will come in quite handy during the more difficult battles you'll face later on in the game.
As mentioned above, there are also a number of unique twists in the game that prove to be a mixed bag when it comes to what they bring to the table. Each area that you fight in has a giant monster hidden somewhere in it that will eventually come into play. It's generally an attack of some sort that will require you to duplicate the control movements displayed on the screen just before your character is pummeled. As long as you duplicate the move, you won't be injured, but fail to comply and you'll likely lose a good portion of your health bar. Likewise, not finishing off an opponent within the allotted time limit will take you to a mini-game of sorts that presents you a variety of controller moves to duplicate in order to gain health before you're taken back into the fight. While these diversions are interesting enough, they tend to break off the natural flow of the battle and feel more bothersome than enjoyable.
The developers have done a very impressive job of giving the motion controls a smooth and responsive feel, but you can't help but think that including these motion controls ended up limiting the variety of attacks a bit too much in the end. Even with the inclusion of the magical spells and Enchantments, the game's combat still feels a bit lacking. The ability to customize the button assignments is a nice touch and the basic gameplay stylings do lend themselves to making the game better-suited for players who aren't quite as seasoned in the fighting game genre, but diehard genre fans expecting the depth of a Tekken or Virtua Fighter might find this title a bit too much towards the shallow end of the pool.
There's plenty of flashy visuals to be found, something High Voltage Software tend to push with their various projects. It's certainly not on par with some of the higher-end 3D fighting titles we've seen this generation, but still impressive enough to carry the game's unique mythological theme throughout the Story Mode. The Matrix-style special attacks with the camera panning around are a nice piece of eye candy, but the highlight of the game would have to be some of the special attacks that, at times, span the entire screen in their execution. It's these moments that you finally see some of the "wow" factor of the game and appreciate what the developers were trying to accomplish.
As epic as some of the soundtrack is, it tends to get pushed too far into the background of the audio mix. The female voice announcer does a nice job of calling the fights, but she sounds like she belongs more on a TV game show than in a video game. The actual thundering sound effects also tend to greatly outperform the game's musical score, although you'll appreciate them far more if you're playing through a decent surround sound system. Toss in some very humorous voiced dialog from the characters and you have a fairly well-rounded audio package that goes quite well with the overblown theme the game offers.
Tournament of Legends does indeed present an interesting spin on the typical 3D fighting game, but you can't help but feel that the game is constantly trying to do too many things at once. The motion controls offer a nice change of pace from the standard one-on-one fighting game experience, but with that also comes a reduced level of depth in the controls that will likely rub seasoned fight fans the wrong way. Tournament of Legends features a lot of unique charm with its over-the-top settings and quirky roster of fighters, but when it's all said and done, the game still ends up feeling like little more than just another average 3D fighting game with a few original gameplay twists tossed in for good measure.