After Conduit was released, High Voltage Software announced that it was making a fighting game called Gladiator A.D. The game, made exclusively for the Wii, would serve as an homage to Bushido Blade by providing some realistic weapons-based fighting set in the ancient Roman era. Gamers were intrigued with the idea of using a trident, gladius and nets to defeat their enemies and win glory. Somewhere down the line, however, things changed, and it wasn't just the title of the game. Gladiator A.D. became Tournament of Legends, and the Bushido Blade style of gameplay was replaced with something more comparable to Soul Calibur. In the end, the game transformed from something intriguing to something that needs to be defended.
As mentioned earlier, the fighting in the game is similar to what you would find in Soul Calibur. Each fighter has a weapon of his own, and fights take place in round arenas that share the inability to score a ring-out to gain a win. Like Soul Calibur IV, each fighter also has a breakable armor set that gets chipped away as the battles progress.
The game doesn't completely crib from Namco's weapon-based fighter, though, as it brings in some fairly unique elements of its own. For one thing, all of the arenas feature an environmental hazard that is randomly triggered. Unless the correct move is performed at a given time, fighters will take damage from the hazard before the fight continues. Players are only eliminated when their energy level has been depleted three times. During that time, the victor can try to regain some of his energy while the fallen fighter fights to quickly refill his energy bar, preventing the victor from being able to regain much, if at all. The biggest change, though, is with the timer. Unlike other games, where the expiration of time results in someone being crowned the winner, the end of the round simply gives both fighters the opportunity to refill their energy bars and repair their armor. This ensures that there will only be one real way to win a fight.
There are only three modes in Tournament of Legends. The standard practice mode is prefaced with a video tutorial that explains the combat basics. In versus mode, players can select any fighter and weapon combination to use against each other. Finally, the story mode pits one fighter of your choosing against eight others before you face and defeat the final boss, Thanatos, the god of death.
The lack of modes is already a strike against the game, especially when almost all of the other fighters on the system have more to offer. The other strike comes from the number of available fighters in the game. From the onset, you only have eight fighters to choose from, and after unlocking the secret characters, you're up to 10 fighters. Compared to other fighting games, this is a pretty paltry number.
Fortunately, each fighter can progress through the story mode to obtain power orbs and different weapons from their fallen opponents. The selection of orbs gives the fighters different powers during the fight, and while it may not be apparent at first, the different weapons change each fighter's style and attacks when they're armed. It's not much, but at least it will guarantee a decent number of combinations per fighter to compensate for the lack of different fighters.
When it comes to the controls, Tournament of Legends takes a somewhat unorthodox approach to the subject. Using the Wii Remote/Nunchuk combination, movement is handled by the analog stick while attacks are done with movements from both the remote and Nunchuk. Vertical and horizontal movements with the remote translate into similar movements for your fighter, while any movement of the Nunchuk will always execute the same secondary attack. The attack motions aren't 1:1, so simply flailing around can give you some decent attacks and combos.
No amount of flailing can help you with some of the specific movements needed when prompts appear, though, For the most part, movements requiring both Nunchuk and remote to go in one direction work out fine after a few swipes. Movements asking the player to move both controls in different directions, though, don't work so well and often result in missed opportunities. Considering how often that happens, it's quite frustrating for players. Fortunately, the game supports Classic Controllers, and even though the attack speed for the game is slower than expected, this is the preferred control scheme for the game.
With the recent slate of games from both first- and third-party studios, gamers know that a Wii game can look good even if the system can't display things in true high-definition. As it stands, the game's graphics don't look too bad. The textures on the characters and environments aren't excellent, but they sport lots of detail. The frame rate holds up pretty well, even when the screen is filled with particle effects. The camera displays the fight at a slight angle, somewhere between a behind-the-back view and a side view, but the odd perspective doesn't make fighting any more difficult. Overall, the game looks good with its bright colors, and while the title isn't the best example of the Wii's graphical prowess, it will look fine on your TV.
The sound provides an interesting mix of mediocre and interesting elements. Most of the levels feature music that isn't overwhelming but provides a good backdrop for fighting. Not all of the levels are like this, though, as the last level of story mode shows how some music doesn't fit the level decor at times. The sound effects are fine, with nothing that stands out as being exceptional or subpar.
The voice acting is done well but in a cheesy sort of way. The announcer has a tendency to be excited about everything she says while the Roman fighter Marcus sounds exactly like Plankton from the SpongeBob SquarePants series. Other voices simply have the wrong accent. The Gorgon fighter has a French accent, while the Egyptian fighter has a Jamaican accent. One legitimate complaint that can be levied against the voices is the limited library of lines each actor has to say. They each have two lines to say at the beginning of the match and two taunts when their opponents fall. The lines change a bit during the fights and end of fights, with winners commenting specifically about their opponents, but even then, the amount of voice acting is limited.
It's hard to say what kind of game Gladiator A.D. would have been if it had been allowed to stay its course and be completed according to the original concept. It is easy to say, though, that Tournament of Legends ends up being a pretty shallow fighting game for the Wii. It's capable of being fun, but given all of its positives — such as good graphics, a nice interchangeable weapon system, and a mostly decent control scheme — the negatives, like the sound and lack of characters and modes, doesn't do the game any favors. At the reduced price point of $29.99, Tournament of Legends may attract fighting fans who have already mastered the nuances of the other fighting games on the system. If you don't already own these games — Guilty Gear XX Accent Core, Mortal Kombat Armageddon, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom — or any of the fighting compilations from SNK, it would be best to try those other, deeper fighters before taking a chance on this one. This is a decent budget-minded fighting title, but it's not exactly one where you'll get much playtime.
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