I’m generally suspicious of budget pricing in games unless the title encompasses a compilation or other previously released material. Given how much games cost to develop and the fact that many buy titles solely based on interest in the source material (as opposed to as a result of recommendations or reviews), setting the MSRP for a game at half the going rate for current generation titles seems like an admission of inferior quality. It’s almost as if the title is being positioned as an impulse buy or stocking stuffer as opposed to something that gamers would actually want to play for any meaningful amount of time. This seems particularly true in cases where the MSRP of a title is low enough that it almost seems like they could simply cut the price a few dollars more, do away with the physical commodity altogether, and market it as a meaty downloadable title.
That said, I’m not quite sure what to make of Tournament of Legends. It’s difficult to imagine that any publisher or development team would seriously consider it a competitor to the most popular fighters on the market. It loses out on a point by point comparison with any one of them. From graphics to sounds to depth to controls, Tournament of Legends is consistently lackluster, if not outright bad. With superior fighting games like Super Street Fighter IV, Tekken 6, and Soul Calibur IV (arguably the series from which Tournament draws the most inspiration) on the PS3 and 360, it may well have been a conscious choice to not directly compete with any of those titles by only developing it for the Wii, a console with limited fighting options.
Fighting games require precise controls, and Tournament of Legends doesn’t do well with this fundamental aspect. There are absolutely cases where the Wiimote’s motion controls provide an engaging and responsive input mechanism. But it’s not clear that it can function well for traditional fighting games, and Tournament of Legends is not a particularly compelling example. Classic Controller support is available and is definitely the better choice. But even then, the controls range from moderately to not at all responsive.
One surprising choice is the inclusion of quicktime events in the fighting system. While some games like Heavy Rain have been able to use quicktime events effectively and others like God of War have done so in an action heavy context, they somehow seem out of place in a fighting game. Why this should be so is not immediately clear, given that much of fighting game competency comes from being able to execute a canned series of inputs with the appropriate timing. Perhaps it has to do with the complete lack of headgames required for the initiation of these events in Tournament.
While diverse arenas can help to make a fighting game more enjoyable, I’ve never been a fan of fighting environments that have either hazards to avoid or terrain “deformability” that interrupts the flow of battle. In many modern 3D fighting games, you can find at least a few examples of this, but in Tournament of Legends, there’s some sort of creature to avoid in the midst of battle on every stage. Various visual effects and the previously mentioned quicktime events further disrupt fighting focus. The lack of flow turns battles into poke and retreat affairs, where stringing together even three attacks feels like some kind of success.
Given the limited number of characters and lack of depth on display in Tournament of Legends, the argument could be made that the game is targeted toward fighting game neophytes. But to be fair, any fighting game worth its salt can be fun to people of all skill levels. There’s almost always the “button-mash” character that anyone can be reasonably effective with. Beyond that, a fighting game’s enjoyment and longevity is almost entirely dependent on who you play it with. There seems to be no reason that someone new to fighters couldn’t approach something as deep as, say, Super Street Fighter IV, while swimming in the shallow end of the pool. Having a fighter that’s completely shallow by design seems silly.
If Tournament of Legends has anything going for it, it’s the mythological backdrop against which it’s all set, and the available characters. Though there aren’t very many combatants, the title itself has a number of references to classical mythology, and while it’s not nearly enough to make the game enjoyable, it might be worth an afternoon rental to some. Still, Tournament of Legends cannot be recommended to fighting aficionados. The sub par combat mechanics, controls and presentation render it a lackluster experience. Further, with only ten characters, and no online multiplayer, it’s completely out of the running when it comes to being competitive with the best examples of the genre currently available. Even at its budget price, there are simply far better fighting games to be played.