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Review: Tournament of Legends

Tournament of Legends was originally conceived as Gladiator A.D., a fighter hinged on stylized gladiatorial combat. But the concept -- and, as it turns out, its potential -- was later scrapped in favor of the shallow SoulCalibur imitation we're now left with.

The real tragedy here isn't the lack of any real depth or character. No, the tragedy is how a seasoned developer managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of potential victory and turn what, at one point, appeared to be an inspired historically-influenced brawler into a forgettable mess.

Gallery: Tournament of Legends (E3 2010) | 7 Photos

Shucking its former self, Tournament of Legends adopted a limited cast of mythical yet generic brawlers. The lone exception: a gladiator mired in the 10-character mix, the last vestige of the game's historic roots. Even the group's most interesting fighter, a steampunk golem called Volcanus, feels tired and uninteresting, indicative of the dearth of personality in the entire class. Lets just say assembling a cadre of weird and wooly brawlers from all corners to do battle for a nonsensical reason has been done better a few times before.

In Tournament of Legends, fighters pummel each other for their shot at battling Greek god Thanatos and claiming his power. And while this meager thread would be enough "narrative" for any fighting game, the handful of available moves ensure fights become laughably predictable long before you get a shot at the god of death.

Each fighter has a normal attack, launched by swinging the Wii Remote, as well as two distinct special moves (assigned to Wiimote buttons) that draw from a glowing gauge at the bottom of the screen. Once your arms tire, you'll also be happy to find that the game also supports the Classic Controller, which gives the game a more traditional -- if not more enjoyable -- feel.

In addition to your natural abilities, you'll also collect new special powers and weapons as you climb the ranks. But don't start thinking Tournament is channeling its inner Mega Man. Few of these collectables stand out as different from the next, making what initially comes across as another layer of depth just as shallow as the rest of the package.

The handful of available moves ensure fights become laughably predictable long before you get a shot at the god of death.

When knocked out or between rounds you are given the opportunity to repair armor and health through "mini-games." I wouldn't describe the tedium of shaking the remote up and down or wiggling control sticks incessantly against the clock as "fun" by any standard. In fact, if these awkward exercises can be considered considered games -- "mini" or otherwise -- then I dare say I may have found myself invested in the wrong hobby.

The real crime here is that, technical foibles notwithstanding, High Voltage would have likely captured my interest far more easily with its original, historically-grounded vision. At least then this game could have potentially stood along fighters like Bushido Blade that, while flawed, attempted to forge new territory.

Instead, Tournament of Legends is mired in its own sameness with countless other "me too" brawlers riding on SoulCalibur's gilded coattails. It's been done before, and without even competent mechanics to lean upon, it seems fated to cross the River Styx into the Bargain Bin Underworld.

Freelancer by trade, lover at heart, Jason has been writing about video games for the better part of a decade contributing to such websites as Gamasutra and Joystiq. He holds a degree in Management Information Systems, and also handles social media for the Cherokee Nation. His favorite game of all time would be Wizardy 7, natch. This review is based on the Wii retail version of Tournament of Legends provided by Sega.

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