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A resurgence in 1v1 fighting games means that modern day video game aficionados are spoiled for choice when it comes to satisfying their insatiable bloodlust. Walk into any local gaming store and you will find the shelves stacked with the likes of Street Fighter 4, Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive (the latter being particularly popular with teenagers who are captivated by the exciting combat, attractive female roster and erm jiggle mechanics.) Back in the eighties this wasn't the case however. Yes there was a plethora of fighting games, but most of the entries in the 1v1 category were sub par. This included the original Street Fighter which was cursed with terrible controls and uninspired gameplay. I could make it to the end of that particular game by just spamming one move over and over. A simple yet effective strategy that would work until you encounter the final adversary, an eye patch wearing Thai fighter named Sagat, who would crush you in a couple of hits.
GAME BACKGROUND & STORY
Amongst the tripe there was however a 1v1 battler which I enjoyed named Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior (not to be confused with the insane WWE wrestler who has a thing for face paint.) The game, with more than a passing resemblance to the Conan films, started life on the Commodore 64 before being ported to other home computers such as the Amiga and Atari. As the proud owner of a CPC 464, the Amstrad version is the one I am most familiar with (ah the golden era of gaming, when you had to wait fifteen arduous minutes for the cassette tape to load providing that it didn't crash half way through due to a dreaded syntax error.) Apparently the game caused quite a stir when it came out as the promotional artwork featured a scantily clad page three lovely. Yes, it doesn't matter that the game is violent and gory - the real outrage is that the box art sports a smutty cover. I personally don't see what the fuss is about. The guys can ogle Maria Whittaker whilst the ladies can feast their eyes on Wolf (from Gladiators) posing as the bare chested barbarian.
In the game the player takes control of an anonymous barbarian who is on a quest to rescue princess Mariana from an evil wizard named Drax. You are encouraged to hone your slaying skills at the forest and mountainous wasteland against fellow sword fighters before venturing forth into Drax's lair. Once you load up Drax's stronghold it is time to defeat his eight guards, confront the spell caster himself, free the bikini clad princess and receive whatever "reward" is coming your way. Given the game's manly tone, after gazing upon the lass' curvaceous body, I doubt our hero asked that her highness buy him a pony as his prize.
In terms of sonics I have to say that I love the game's theme song. The in game sound effects are however sparse. All you get are thuds when registering a hit and a satisfying clang whenever two swords clash. Graphically, compared to modern day titles, the sprites come across as blocky, but all things considered they stand the test of time well. The combatants all look the same, but thanks to a good use of colour they distinguish themselves by their different skin tones and range of dyes that have been applied to their clothing. The game boasts four different backgrounds which include the forest, wasteland, Drax's throne room and the fighting pit where Marianna and her captor look down from a balcony at the carnage below. The screen border displays your health, represented by red dots as opposed to an energy bar, and two snakes wrapped around a pillar. The venomous serpents snarl whenever a fighter is struck which I always thought was a nice touch.
CONTROLS & GAMEPLAY
Barbarian shows that you don't need a controller with a trillion different buttons to have a deep combat system. Although you can play through the adventure on a keyboard, the control scheme is designed for a joystick which in those days only had one trigger. By pressing down the fire button and tilting the stick in one of eight directions you can execute different attacks such as an overhead slash, waist high slice and a showboating move were you spin the blade in a propeller like circular motion. Some of the attacks on offer don't even utilise your weapon, so if you really want to it is possible to kick your opponent or inflict a crunching head butt. Release the fire button and the joystick moves your character forward and back. It also allows you to jump and crouch which comes in handy for avoiding certain attacks.
One of my favourite moves is the ability to perform forward and backward rolls. Defensively speaking this comes in handy to get away from your opponent, but the roll can also be used offensively. By rolling into your adversary's legs it's possible to knock them down on their posterior. The impact itself doesn't cause any physical damage, but forcing your enemy to the floor is always an advantageous position to have.
Another move of note is the infamous head chop which decapitates your opponent killing them instantly, irrespective of how much remaining health they have. The finisher isn't as overpowered as it sounds given that it's easy to dodge (to gain enough momentum to inflict the strike you have to spin on the spot which can be seen coming a mile away.) Still it is worth trying during a losing battle in case you get lucky. Winning in this manner is always a laugh as it concludes with a green skinned troll dragging the carcass off screen and kicking the severed skull on the ground as if it were a football. I don't envy the troll's messy cleaning job, but it is good seeing him do something constructive over causing arguments on internet message boards.
Overall I think Barbarian deserves four out of five stars, if only because it is one of the few 1v1 fighters that I remember fondly from the era of shoulder pads and wild hair. How long the game keeps you entertained is dependent on if you have any friends to join you for a competitive two player duel. The single player campaign isn't terribly long and can be bested quickly once you suss out the enemy A.I. Although your opponents gradually get tougher they all are vulnerable to getting pinned against the corner where evading attacks becomes almost impossible. The final battle versus Drax boils down to having fast reflexes and a little bit of luck. You jump and roll over the magical bolts he casts attempting to get from one end of the screen to the other. If the spell connects you suffer instant death, but if you succeed you'll get to revel in the ending which has the princess saying "thank you big boy." I guess those tight shorts the hero wears don't leave much to the imagination.
Exellent game with friends to play or alone too.
I played it in 1990 or something and still remember its good game.I own still thiss game and i am just selling it in Huutokauppa.com
This game is wort of buing and if you don´t own Amiga 500 or 600 you can still buy it from internet.Not a new one ofcourse.Novadays games are gone wild but older games are wery exiting stuff still to enjoy. : )
What is it about scantily clad princesses and getting themselves kidnapped? A whole genre of games erupted as a result during the 1980's and beyond. Makes you wonder how heroes and computer game manufacturers would manage without the "damsel in distress" to chase.
You see this is the rather threadbare plot of "Barbarian". The Evil Sorceror Drax wants Princess Mariana and has sworn to wreak an unspeakable doom on the people of the Jewelled City unless she is delivered to him. However, he has agreed that if a champion can be found who is able to defeat his demonic guardians, the princess will be allowed to go free. All seems lost as champion after champion is defeated. Then, from the forgotten wastelands of the North, comes an unknown barbarian, a mighty warrior, wielding his broadsword with deadly skill. Can he vanquish the forces of Darkness and free the Princess? We must remember that this is the 1980's and plot is always an afterthought to the game itself. As such games had to excel in other areas.
"Barbarian" attempted to stand out from a crowd of two-dimensional beat em ups by the first in the genre to offer a truly tactical battle rather the button bashing gamers were used too. This game paved the way for titles such as Streetfighter and Mortal Kombat by providing an array of moves and intuitive controls.
Armed with a broadsword you take control of the mysterious Barbarian and must battle other Barbarians over four landscapes of forest, cave, dungeon and gladiatorial arena using imaginatively titled moves such as the web of death. It sounds dull and as a single player game it really is. On a static field of play against identical opponents the game is woefully simple to complete. Thanks to virtually no Artificial Intelligence the computer controlled character performs movies in predictable choreograph over only four levels of play that offer no variation or increase in difficulty.
Fortunately, this game is saved from a complete lack of use by its fantastic two-player versus mode. Obviously created primarily for this purpose two-players battling out makes for a far more interesting game. As you jump, roll, slash and parry your adversaries blows the array of moves and simplicity of gameplay draw you in.
A great two-player mode alone would not make this game a classic and in many ways this was the first game to value style over substance. However, for its time it was oh so stylish with little touches such as menacing voiceovers claiming "It's time to die" through your speakers and the ability to decapitate your opponent with an accurately time slash. The game was not without its humour either as an orc dragged your decapitated body away while using your head as a football.
Graphically this game was dated even for its time with little improvement from its original Commodore 64 release. Characters are very blocky although suitably "Conan" in appearance and moving fluidly enough this lead to some terrible collision detection were the computer always had the advantage if you both went for a head chop. Settings are also dull with only one colour dominating each background.
Sound is limited but there are some great effects such as the thudding of your head along the floor and clashing of swords giving the game a definite bloodthirsty edge. It was this edge that led to a storm of complaints from parents at the time but made this game a must own for children everywhere.
This is not a game that will last and is only really one for carting out for fifteen-minute nostalgic bursts with a like-minded friend. There is no doubt it made an impact at the time but even my rose-tinted glasses can see that there are better ways of spending money than this especially at the now inflated price of £19.95 (what mugs us retro collectors are). However, there are numerous ways of playing this via a PC for free either freeware or using emulation and for those with fond memories I do recommend you download this even if it is just to hear the cliched audio as you play.
This is a game which is probably more memorable for its cover design and free poster than actual gameplay. Featuring a musclebound oily barbarian and equally oily buxom amazon warrior this game created something of a stir amongst those who like to complaion when it was released. Couple this with the fact that the sole idea of the game is to walk to towards your opponent and hack off his head and they may have had a point... Barbarian can probably be described as a forerunner to such dubious classics as the Mortal Combat and StreetFighter series of games(although the original streetfighter game was also around at the time). Basically, you played a warrior with a big sword who had to hack/slash and parry his way to victory in 9(i think) progressively harder bouts of swordplay to win the tournament. Personally this was a feat I never managed but this was because Barbarian 2 was released shortly after I was given the game and this was far superior. The graphics are large and blocky and the sound effects limited to clangs and 'sword in flesh' sounds as well as a suitable tinny barbarian type musical accompaniment. The are a variety of sword manouvers which can be performed, the best of which being the 'spinning head chop' which basically separates your opponent's head from the rest of his body and ends the bout immediately...but only works in the earlier levels. At the time I have no doubt that it was a classic, although hugely eclipsed by its sequel which allowed you to roam around and fight more than just human adversaries in your quest to do whatever it is barbarians do. Now it looks incredibly dated and doesn't stand up at all well against games such as streetfighter and mortal kombat. Verdict: its ok, but there are far better games now in the same genre and better example then as well so its probably one better left to the archives.