On paper, Tournament of Legends sounds like it could be a genuinely good addition to the Wii's ever-expanding catalogue of games. After all, who doesn't want to play around with swords and magic in an extraordinary mythical world? To answer that question, the majority of people who have played any other fighting game in the past five years. Unfortunately for SEGA, the Wii wasn't designed for Tournament of Legends. This is a misplaced title on a console that can offer so much more.
There's a reason why beat 'em ups are few and far between on Nintendo's console; they don't work. At least not without some thought and effort. It's difficult enough when you're trying to deal with intricate combinations on a regular controller, let alone a motion sensor. Because of this, the simplistic nature of Tournament of Legends feels outdated, rushed and clunky. Fighting games should be enjoyable and challenging, but there isn't a single moment during the story where you feel as though this game could turn into something special. The recent releases of No More Heroes 2 and the truly outstanding Super Mario Galaxy 2 further emphasise the amount of wasted potential that can be found here.
You may be wondering what the scenario is - why is this tournament taking place and why aren't these legends relaxing with some fine wine in their respective homelands? As far as the story is concerned, you may as well switch off straight away because this delves into "facepalm cliche" with a horrible voiceover. In fact, the narrative is non-existant and while that isn't necessarily a terrible thing (let's face it, Tekken's story leaves a lot to be desired), it's a shame to see a developer waste such a great opportunity for opening up some level of character background. When you reach the main menu in Tournament of Legends, the story option will be flashing frantically at you, but it's just a facade for a bland arcade mode. Oh, but surely SEGA decided to spend their funds on the gameplay instead, right?
The more you play of the actual fighting, the more you'll realise that this game clearly didn't have a high budget, and the repetitive combat highlights this fact. Regardless of what character you pick, standard attacks will range from vertical to horizontal. Depending on which way you decide to swing the controller, each character will follow your motions and thrust their weapon at your opponent. Fairly straight forward, and for the most part, Tournament of Legends does react well to the player's input, but that should be a minimum requirement these days. The nunchuck is used for character movement and blocking, along with using your defensive weapon to inflict some damage. We sympathise with the developer, as there probably wasn't any other way of implementing the controls, but the problems lie so much deeper than this. What players will quickly realise is the fact that nothing other than a swing and an occasional block are required against most enemies. In comparison to the Virtua Fighter series (games which pride themselves in constantly challenging the player), Tournament of Legends does nothing to encourage taking a different approach or trying an alternative technique; depth clearly wasn't on the developer's agenda.
Visually, Tournament of Legends won't stimulate your retinas. Some of the character models look respectable with decent patches of detail, however it's the environments that really fall short of the pack. Just like the story, you're going to find more blatantly wasted potential with the stage design. The underwater mecca of Atlantis and a fragile Leviathan are two areas that sound interesting, but offer nothing. We have to remember that the Wii isn't a very powerful machine, but surely it's capable of adding some more interactivity to each stage. Apart from the occasional giant who might decide to raise itself from the depths of a murky sea, or a colossus that wanders by on his morning stroll, there's nothing else of interest when it comes to each stage. Considering the distinct look of certain fighters (take a look at the robot in the screenshot below), it's a great shame to see these battles taking place is such banal locations.
Undoubtedly the worst element in Tournament of Legends is its audio. An old-fashioned, what sounds to be Victorian English accent is the commentator and narrator throughout. Bayonetta, a game that received almost unanimous praise, managed to use the English accent in a way that increased the absolute absurdity surrounding the protagonist's situation. But here, listening to each voice can be gut-wrenchingly difficult to stomach. The characters have a distinct sound, but the appalling dialogue that pours out can lead you to the question; are the writers being genuine about all of this? Without ruining any of these one-liners, let's just say that Tournament of Legends makes David Caruso look like an outstanding actor. Yes, the bloke from CSI: Miami who wears sunglasses and constantly grips his waist. Prepare to cringe.
Following the pattern of simplicity and not wanting to break any rules, Tournament of Legends is presented like most other beat 'em ups on the market. From the main menu, players can choose between the story mode, versus and training. There's no option to bring this fight to the online world, and local play is limited to two players. An opportunity to battle in pairs would have been a nice touch, especially if both legends could combine powers; and that's the sort of creativity that Tournament of Legends is missing in almost every area. Of course, certain things need to remain unchanged. During battle, the obligatory health meter will appear on the top of the screen, and your magic meter will run along the bottom. Magic you say? As each hit lands, you'll receive a small bit of magic to release a power that's unique to each character. There are some eye-catching effects to be found when you pull off a characters special move, but it doesn't compensate from the under-developed nature of regular combat.
Longevity is another major issue with Tournament of Legends. Other games in the genre offer a mammoth roster of characters, all with different fighting styles. We have a total of eight characters to play around with here, that's right; we're not even moving out of single digits unless you want to unlock the two bonus characters, and still the roster won't be impressive. Since the character's are near impossible to relate with, you'll simply be referring to these legends as Robot-Man, Stone-Man, Gladiator-Man, Minotaur-Man and so on and so forth. Can you see what we're getting at? Unless you have some sort of fetish for mythological beasts and less than mediocre gameplay, then you won't find any encouragement to play Tournament of Legends for more than a couple of hours.
Apparently, Tournament of Legends went through a hectic development process. Both name and visuals received major changes, and some of the more mature elements were cut in order to stay in line with the Wii's demographic. Had these changes not been made, would this be getting a higher score? More than likely not. Almost every aspect of the game is severely under-par, and with repetitive gameplay that would have been criticised for being too simplistic even on the original PlayStation, it's no surprise to see why Tournament of Legends offers such a dull experience. The Wii has enormous potential for combat games which should be taken advantage of, so let this serve as an important example to developers making future beat 'em ups. Take note, take caution, and take this a lesson on how not to make a game for the Wii.