Deadliest Warrior has caused quite a stir in the office this past week. Perhaps you read our review of it, or maybe you watched two of the VideoGamer.com team bashing each other's brains to pieces in our Extended Play feature. It might seem like a shameless plug, but I reference it to illustrate an important point. Whilst Deadliest Warrior is so bad that it's actually quite entertaining, Tournament of Legends is so bad that you'll actually find yourself snapping the disc in half so that you have something sharp enough to slash your wrists with.
While the two games are different in this respect, they share fundamental similarities in other areas, hence the comparison. Deadliest Warrior pits generic warriors against one another, a samurai against a centurion, for example. Tournament of Legends uses more specific, characterised warriors that draw their inspiration from a range of real-world mythologies. Players can look forward to doing battle with the likes of Marcus Antonius; The Hero of Rome, Kara the Valkyrie or Jupiter the King of Gods. They might well be mythological legends, but there is nothing even slightly legendary about the game's roster of characters.
The models are actually incredibly detailed, with bits of armour that will come flying off your enemy once you've dealt enough damage. Against all known logic, however, this level of detail shouldn't be considered a good thing. With such intricacies to a characters armour and weaponry, the Wii just isn't able to process the models sufficiently. Subsequently, the game looks incredibly scrappy; an undistinguishable mess of blurry polygons brought to life with clunky animations.
On top of these God-awful graphics, the camera hangs at such an angle so that one character is in the foreground, and one in the back. At certain points during the fight, usually after a critical hit, the camera will swoosh 180 degrees through the arena so that the character that was previously in the background is now in the front. It's weird, it's confusing, and it's completely unnecessary. Either keep the action restricted to a 2D plane, with a camera that adjusts itself after a side-step or special attack, or make use of a fully 3D arena. The weird amalgamation of the two simply doesn't work.
Despite the eye-sore, I suffered through the Story mode in its entirety, taking control of Bravehoof; the Defender of Justice. If that doesn't mean anything to you (and why should it?) imagine an axe wielding Minotaur clad in iron armour, and you're thinking along the right lines. The irony of Story mode is that there isn't much of a story at all. There's just an ugly cutscene introducing the character before the game starts, and then one again once it's been completed. Still, this is a fighting game and an expertly crafted narrative is not what we've come to expect from the genre.
The battles themselves take place in quasi-3D environments, with your standard health bars at the top of the screen and special-move gubbins at the bottom. In terms of structure, however, Tournament of Legends is quite different to the majority of other beat 'em ups. The fight is split into two rounds, but it's completely unnecessary given the fact that if you kill your opponent three times (in either round) the match is over anyway. In this interlude between rounds, there's a wholly bizarre mini-game where you have to rotate the analogue stick whilst waggling the Wii-mote to restore your health and armour. It's all very strange.
Moment to moment play involves manically thrusting the Wii-mote in front of you with the vague intention of stringing together a combo. Horizontal motions result in horizontal slashes and vertical - unsurprisingly - vertical. If your special meter has enough juice, you can use the Z-button to fire off a few projectile attacks, while the A-button is reserved for special moves. Each character has one unique attack, but it's executed in exactly the same way for each character. There are no grabs, throws or elaborate combos to master, just a limited set of moves shared between each character. After enduring a few matches of this, things start to get desperately dull.
Attempting to make things slightly more interesting is a perk system, with orbs that can be equipped in between matches for different bonuses. One such perk might invoke a higher critical hit ratio, or increase speed - but this fails to add that much depth to the overall experience.
Perhaps the worst thing about Tournament of Legends is the female commentator that feels compelled to announce each character's name when you hover over them in the character select screen. This isn't too bad in itself, but the exact same voice sample is used when she introduces a match. "Bravehoof.....versus.....Marcus" she'll say, but in a horribly disjointed tone. It sounds like one of those automated telephone lines, with sentences that are painfully constructed from words of contrasting intonations. This, in part, is why the game feels so horrendously dated, and made my ears bleed every time I heard it.
Tournament of Legends isn't a broken game, but it's not the least bit enjoyable either. It ditches the tried and tested formula of similar fighting games in favour of strange new conventions that simply spoil the experience. With Capcom's Street Fighter IV kick-starting a fighting renaissance, tripe such as this only serves to drag the genre back into the dark ages. Avoid.