Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'm Taking a Vacation

You know what?  I haven't given myself a proper vacation in years; you know, the ones where you go to one of those high class pleasuredomes; walking along the beach as you slaughter the aquatic monsters that come up with the tide; playing polo with Hun rules (it involves giant warhammers and a severed head); sleeping on a bed of naked, voluptuous women who are all too eager to fondle you, or your wife, or both.  That's changing right now.

It's too damn cold here.  Me and the Mrs. definitely need a change of scenery.  I'm gonna take off for an undisclosed amount of time.  Until I get back, The Ablogcalypse is closed.  I'm not gonna post anything, period.

I'm leaving Abdominus at home (most pleasuredomes won't take yeti).  I'm hoping he'll behave himself while I'm gone.  He knows how to use the bathroom and can fend for himself when it comes to food, but he is not allowed to be on The Ablogcalypse while I am gone.  If anyone sees him posting anything on this blog, you let me know.

Don't wait up for me.

Kaiser out (for a while)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Message From the Creator of The Ablogcalypse

Greetings, Steel Legionnaires.

Most of you know me only as Kaiser Crowbar, a demigod who travels the multiverse, conquering every Earth I come across, in search of the power and wisdom to become the God of Metal.

But how many of you know the real me?

Personally, I'd say about half the people who follow me even know my real name and how much more there is to me than just what's on this blog.

For the past few months, I've been trying new things to see what belongs on the Ablogcalypse and what doesn't.  There are a lot of things I like to write about, but some of them don't necessarily fit with Kaiser's personality.  I am telling you this because changes are coming.

First off, some of the segments that have become fixed installments on The Ablogcalypse are leaving.  "Games You Should Know About...," which I wrote about extensively, for a while, is going, as is the newly created "Forgotten Worlds" segment.  I felt that these, and other, topics didn't mesh well with the Kaiser Crowbar philosophy.  "Kaiser's Metal Moment" isn't going anywhere, nor are some of my RPG segments, as I have plans for something that will involve both RPGs and this blog.  Of course, it's still in a very early stage of development, but I'll give you more details when I have something more concrete.

What will be in the near future for The Ablogcalypse will be more in line with Kaiser Crowbar, himself.  So far, I've given you readers a taste of what's coming in the past couple of posts.  First off, I'm going to go further into the ancient history of Kaiser Crowbar, detailing his past triumphs, losses, and adventures taken straight from the pages of his most prized artifact, the Libris Metallum.  These segments will take a more serious, adventurous tone, as these segments will definitely be inspired by some of my favorite sword & sorcery writers (though I am far from "channeling" Robert E. Howard).

Then, there will be the "anecdotal" stories of Kaiser Crowbar.  This is the stuff you won't find in the Libris Metallum.  It's all the ridiculous accounts of Kaiser's misadventures on our own Earth.  And, because some people have asked for it, there will be a lot more of The Abdominal Snowman (in certain ways; don't expect to see any "good" photos of him).

Originally, Kaiser was meant to be somewhat of comic relief (Hell, I put on his profile that he's an "air guitar virtuoso").  As I continued through 2009, he started developing into something a little more serious, one with a deep history, which stemmed from some "tough times" I was going through.  While I do want to flesh him out as great warlord of the fifth dimension,  I don't want to lose what made me want to create the character in the first place, so I'm going to keep myself from getting too heavy-handed.

As for the segments that are leaving The Ablogcalypse, they're going to a new home.  I've decided that Kaiser has been taking up a lot of my time; so much, that I felt I was losing my own identity (which is a dangerous thing, for a writer).  In response, I created my own personal blog space, called Infinite Worlds of Jonathan Huskey (yes, that's my real name).  This is a place where I can be myself, without the restraints I have by writing as Kaiser.  I can write what I want, when I want.  It's something I should have done a long time ago, as it will be good, not just for me, but for The Ablogcalypse, as well.

Anyway, if you've only known Kaiser Crowbar, take the time to get to know another side of me.  Follow this link, and you're on your way.

I hope to see you there.

Jonathan Huskey (aka: Kaiser Crowbar)

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Litany of Tempered Steel

In the realm of mortals, the four dimensions of space and time stretch into infinity so that no man may see its beginning or end. Boundless as they seem, there is more to existence than mere time and space. Such is the fifth dimension, a multiverse that contains every possible past, present, and future in existence. Every action is a choice and every choice, no matter where in the whole of creation or how insignificant it may seem, gives rise to a new universe, a new Earth.

This is the story of one being, adrift amongst the alternate Earths of the fifth dimension, who, in his search for something greater, will traverse the dimensions and realize his true destiny.

These are the first words written in the Libris Metallum, a book that was bestowed to me from beyond the stars.  None may write in it, as the words appear of their own accord and chronicle my law, my philosophy, and my quest for greatness.  Only I may read and comprehend what is written within and live.  This book is my treasure, my guide, my fate.

For my Steel Legionnaires, the most important part of the Libris Metallum is the Litany of Tempered Steel: a code of honor to the people designed to encourage them to rise above their base desires and become a person of pure metal.

It was written when I had conquered the first Earth, my home Earth.  I had amassed a great army from those who were forsaken, like me, and trampled over the thrones of tyrants until I had surpassed all who stood against me.

I held the Earth in my hand, but it would not last.  Greed and ambition had seeped into the minds of some of my greatest generals.  They persuaded my soldiers to fight for them.  They betrayed me and murdered those still loyal to my cause.  Only I remained against their armies.  They thought me defeated.  I may have been, had it not been for one last weapon I wielded; a terrible one.  I summoned the demon dragon, Balauss, to decimate their armies with flame.  None were left alive.  All that remained burned to nothing.  I was a king of a shattered land.  There was nothing left for me.

In my moments of despair, these words formed in the Libris Metallum, giving a philosophy for my soldiers to adhere to.  I do not know why the words chose this time to appear, when it was already too late.  Perhaps it was for me to see that power and ambition alone cannot change the world for the better, though I cannot say.

Since that fateful battle, the Litany of Tempered Steel has been an integral part of Steel Legionnaire philosophy.  Each member must take these words to heart and act in accordance with them.


The Litany of
Tempered Steel


The basest man is a tainted ore. One must be forged in the fires of tribulations and shaped with the Hammer of the Just to emerge as a being of the purest steel.


While the sword of a warrior sunders flesh so that one may conquer their enemies, the sword of immortals sunders delusion so that one may conquer himself.


Turn not your back on the forsaken. All great men were once forsaken. Their tears have washed the dross of the world from them until only the desire for great deeds remained.


No light burns through lies and corruption greater than the subtle light within, for it is the light of Creation.


Iron is easily broken and tarnished by rust. Steel is refined and strong. Silver is the Moon and its mystery. Gold, the Sun and its knowledge. Orichalcum is the Furnace of Creation, beyond time, space, and thought.


A true man of steel need only let his deeds speak for him. Words do no justice to him. He does not let his actions speak ill of him.


A true woman of steel is fearsome indeed. She is a pillar of strength draped in feminine beauty. It is only a fool who dares cross her.


Emotion may drive you to accomplish great deeds or drag you and those you love into destruction. Do not let your emotions decide your fate. Master them and leave the choice in your own hands.


One need not be of great physical strength to become like steel. One only needs the desire to refine themselves and to act upon it.

Look, Mom, I'm on CROM!

About four months ago, the guys at CROM! decided to post some letters from stupid people that were published in the old Marvel comic, Savage Sword of Conan, looking for anyone to come up with some funny responses.  I produced something that was almost godlike in hilarity. 

Fast forward to the beginning of this month, when my good buddy, Cromsblood, asked if I could, once again, bring my merciless contempt to the dumbasses of yesteryear.  Eagerly, I obliged.  Thus, Swords and Scrolls: Kaiser Crowbar Edition was born.  Follow this link for my first ever (hopefully, not the last) guest post on CROM!.  When you're done laughing your ass off, go here to find my unofficial debut from last year (check the comments section for my reply).

Disclaimer:  Reading Swords and Scrolls: Kaiser Crowbar Edition has been proven to make people uncontrollably spit out their food/drink from laughing too hard.  Please exercise caution and do not read with a full mouth.  If you are reading this after checking out The Year of Beer, please finish your beer before proceeding.

Friday, January 22, 2010

More Nostalgia for Conan

Okay, so part two of the Nostalgia Critic's review of the Conan movies is out.

Here it is.

Yeah, that's it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Legion is Growing...

During my break, I noticed that the Steel Legionnaires has grown.  To all those that have joined the mighty ranks, I bid you welcome.  All Steel Legionnaires, check your e-mail for a personal welcome message from yours truly.  If you have not joined, what the hell is wrong with you?  Go to the Steel Legionnaires section on the sidebar and click "follow," now.

Since my warriors have grown sufficiently, I have enough to begin the first stage of my plans for world domination.  My Steel Legionnaires, you shall become the world's mightiest softball team.

It may not seem like an ambitious plan, but, I assure you, it is only the beginning.  Of course, we must start out small, dominating the local leagues.  Eventually, we will work to regionwide, then statewide, then nationwide.  After that, we will invade the International Softball Federation and play in their ultimate tournament, conquering, nation by nation, the world of softball.  Eventually, we will come to the final defenders, either Australia or New Zealand, and decimate them to claim our rightful place as the Lords of Softball.

If any of my Steel Legionnaires are concerned because they aren't good at softball, rest assured.  I don't plan on conquering the softball world by "playing softball."

You see, one hour before every softball game we play, we shall seek out the opposing team and beat the crap out of them.  You can injure them, maim them, beat them into a coma, but killing will be frowned upon (it's just a game, people).  Then we'll show up at the softball field while the other team will be to busy nursing their wounds to make it.  We win by default.

It's a perfect plan.  I even convinced Abdominus, the Abdominal Snowman to be our "mascot."  Actually, he'll just be busting people's heads against his diamond hard abs.

All I need right now is a sponsor and I can sign us up.  Once we rule the softball world, doors will open up to us.  Kings, Queens, and Prime Ministers will not hesitate to do our bidding; sports endorsements will start pouring in; women will fall at our feet.  It will be glorious.

Play ball!

Kaiser out

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting "Nostalgic" on the Conan Movies

If you've never watched the Nostalgia Critic before, you may be missing out on some hilarity.  Basically, he looks at movies from the '80s and '90s and pokes fun at them.

All this month, he's dedicated himself to Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.  Guess which movie he did this week?

C'mon, guess?

I've actually been anticipating this video.  In it, he does speak some blasphemies (he bashes on Crom's name), but it's a parody and it's funny.  Check it out here.  This is only part one, dealing with Conan the Barbarian, in part two, he'll finish off with Conan the Destroyer.

Of course, he does make that stupid joke that everyone makes about Conan O'Brien the Barbarian.  Thankfully, it is relevant, as the late night talk show host is bringing the pain to NBC, which I fully condone and support.

Why do I get the feeling that one of you guys is going to tear the Nostalgia Critic a new bunghole?  Perhaps it's because half of my readership are loyal followers of the Ultimate Conan Fan Blog.  Just be gentle with him, okay?

Monday, January 18, 2010

My buddy, the Brewmeister.

Do you like beer?  If you do, then I have blog you should check out.  My cousin-in-law, James Patrick (or JP for short; I'm trying to steer away from calling him Patrick because he hates that name) is sort of our resident beer aficionado and started a blog called The Year of Beer (http://brewyear.blogspot.com/), where he explores the world of beers outside of your usual Budweiser, Miller, or Coors comfort zones (we actually live outside St. Louis, so this is Bud territory).  Every Sunday, he tries out a new beer and gives his own personal review on it.  He also talks about microbreweries, beer news, and other items that pertain to things like wheat, hopps, and getting "fitshaced."  If you love beer, or you just like watching someone drink the stuff, then you have my full permission to see his blog (by "permission," I mean I command you to do so, with haste).

Oddly enough, and this may surprise some, I'm not an alcohol drinker, at all.  You would think that someone who is into metal and other things demigods do would be all over guzzling beer and crushing beer kegs with his bare hands (or bear hands, if you got any).  Not me.  I like to have a clear head in all my doings and alcohol kind of ruins that for me.  They used to call me "Sir half-a-beer" during my college days.  They really should have called me "Sir two-sips, Lord of the warm, morning-after brew."

Even though I do not drink, I will support a man and his passions.  So drink on, JP, drink on.

By the way, that "Ultimate Barbarian Video Game" segment took a lot out of me, so I'm going to take a break for a few days.  While you eagerly await my return, why not check out the archives of my blog (if you haven't done so, already).  I'm close to, what, 130 posts so far?  Go ahead, read them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Search for the Ultimate Barbarian Game - The Aftermath

So, I spent a whole week looking over the video games I found in my search for the ultimate barbarian game.  The question is did I find it?

While I do have my favorites, Rastan and Golden Axe II, I actually have to admit that, despite how great they are, neither are what I would call the ultimate barbarian game.  So, the answer is no.

The question that must be asked, then, is what would I consider to be the ultimate barbarian video game?  Well, in this age of video games merging with books and movies to become a powerful medium, I would think the ultimate barbarian experience should be immersive.  Take games like Dragon Age: Origins or The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion; both, in their own ways draw you into their respective worlds.  Dragon Age gives you deep story and characters to sink your teeth into while Oblivion has the play philosophy of a kid in a playground; you're free to do whatever you want, but where do you start and what do you do?  I would have to say if BioWare or Bethesda (the creators of Dragon Age and Oblivion, respectively) turned their focus onto a sword & sorcery style RPG, they could definitely create what may be the ultimate in barbarian gaming.

Let's put that under the microscope a little.  Let's say I could suggest ideas to both companies to make their magnum opus of swords and steel.  What would I tell them?

Well, for Bethesda, all I could really say is take the formula that's worked so well for its RPGs and run with it.  Oblivion is a great game and Fallout 3 is even better.  If they were to refine their formula and liberally mix in elements of sword & sorcery, they could do fantastic things with it.  With the freedom found in the games they make, you could find yourself as a mighty-thewed barbarian warrior; a swift, nimble thief/assassin; even a foul, demon-worshipping sorcerer whose minions steal beautiful, young women to offer as blood sacrifice to glut the appetites of their patrons.  To be honest, some of these ideas have already been explored, to a certain extent.  If they could be refined and brought to a more savage world, it would be perfect.  Of course, Oblivion and Fallout 3 have a main underlying story that the characters can undertake.  The main quests seemed to take greater precedence over the side-quests (ergo, they are called side-quests), which, in my opinion, kind of limits the freedom.  I wouldn't want to see a "main" quest in a game like this.  The main quest should be replaced with a "starting" quest; something that the character initially goes through to insert him into this greater world of possibilities.  In Fallout 3, the main quest did have some great import, but didn't seem to be as pressing as it was in Oblivion, so they're kind of taking the right steps.  The "starting" quest should be about one thing - revenge.  Someone or something wronged out hero (or anti-hero, or villain) and brings them to seek power, in whatever way they see fit, to enact vengeance.  This vengeance, however, need not necessarily end in blood.  Say your character becomes a power hungry warlord or sorcerer in his own right.  You could amass enough power to where your sworn enemy recognizes your superiority and offers themselves to your service.  If you're really sinister, you could order your enemy's own men to kill him, or even order him to fall on his own sword in a show of loyalty.  That would be a terribly awesome vengeance.

This kind of game would require some definite improvements to Bethesda's formula.  This could definitely be a huge game, maybe even bigger than anything they've ever done before.  Either way, it would be an ambitious project.  One thing they definitely need to work on is character models.  Most NPCs in Oblivion were ass ugly.  It doesn't surprise me that there were no children in Cyrodiil, because I can't imagine these people actually having sex with each other.  There has been an improvement in Fallout 3, but, if Bethesda ever decided to take my idea and run with it, there needs to be some really sexy women in the game.

Now, if BioWare were to make a sword & sorcery RPG, I've got a great concept for them.  I'm surprised that no one took a look at sword & sorcery movie staple, The Beastmaster, and said, "That would make an awesome game."  As BioWare is more into making story and character driven RPGs, this game should follow the story of a young man who has been taught by a secluded shaman the ways of communing with the spirits of animals.  This power gives him the ability to command animal familiars, see through their eyes; all the stuff that Dar could do in the movie.  What kind of animals you could commune with should be regulated by an attribute, like "Spirit."  The higher your Spirit rating, the more powerful beasts you can command.  You can level up your animals, like the Mabari war hound in Dragon Age, to make them stronger.

Of course, the animals will fight by your side, but I think it should go even further.  I think a game like that should also deal with the deaths of your animal companions.  If one of your animals dies in battle, you can take its remains and return them to the shaman, who could make talismans out of the fur, feathers, teeth, and claws of the animal; granting you greater powers when you equip them.  It would be kind of like the spirits of your brave beasts still fight by your side after death. Of course, too many animal deaths could result in the depletion of your Spirit rating, so as to prevent assholes intentionally killing their beasts to gain their power.

Anyway, these are just ideas I have.  If anyone from Bethesda or BioWare should come across this post (fat chance of that happening, though), definitely take note of these ideas.  The only thing that matters to me is that I may see a video game awesome enough to be considered the ultimate barbarian game.

Well, I guess I'll just have to keep dreaming, won't I?

At least I have Golden Axe II to comfort me on those long, lonely nights.  Tyris Flare is so damn hot, after all.

Kaiser out

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Search for the Ultimate Barbarian Game (Part 6)

Conan

The quintessential barbarian has had a few outings on video game systems.  I haven't had the chance to play them all, but what I did play pretty much covers the spectrum from bad to good.  Let's do this chronologically.

Conan (NES)

The NES game, called Conan: The Mysteries of Time, is a steaming pile of shit.  Being an NES game, you can't expect much from the graphics or sound, but the gameplay is terrible.  Conan begins with nothing but his fists and feet to defeat skeletons and green imps.  He has to pick up weapons from enemies to get out of the caves.  There is a fire breathing lion beast that guards the entrance.  To try to get past him without killing him is certain death.  In the video, the guy playing the game makes it look easy.  It's not.  First off, you have to do exactly what he is doing and there is nothing in the game that tells you what it is you have to do.  You have to figure all this out for yourself.  Bullshit.  Once you get out of there, you fight in a desert with these soldiers, or whatever.  There's also this woman who just stands there.  You see the guy playing kill her, but when you first see her, she doesn't look like she's doing any harm.  Once you get close, though, she turns into a giant snake and instantly kills you.

This game is ass backwards.  Kicking seems to do more damage than your sword against most enemies.  Punching is worthless.  You even get this fireball magic that is one of the most effective attacks (against most enemies - it doesn't work on that lion beast).  Problem is that Conan doesn't use magic.  He shuns magic and anyone who uses it.  He relies only on muscle and steel.

Pretty much avoid this game at all costs.  It's fucking terrible.  That's all there is to it.

Conan (XBOX, PS2, PC - 2004)

This game, which was originally to be called Conan: The Dark Axe, but was changed to just Conan, was available for the PS2. XBOX, and PC.  The catch: it was only released in Europe.  Fortunately, I found a download of the PC demo here.

To be honest, I thought this game would suck, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It does have its problems.  The controls could use some refining, as could the camera.  The graphics aren't the best.  They aren't the worst, but there are some giant serpents that look like they belong in a Disney cartoon (you'll see one in the video).  One thing I did like is the use of different buttons for certain types of attacks, which you can combine together for some combination attacks.  The action is okay.  During the demo, I fought against some cultist guards and skeletons, none of which were real dynamic combatants.  This game came out in 2004, one year before God of War set the standard on how modern hack 'n' slash games are made (which, of course, was influenced by games such as Devil May Cry).

Despite a lack of polish, overall, this is still an enjoyable game.  It feels a bit like Tomb Raider with swords.  There's quite a bit of those 3D game puzzles that were present in many Playstation-era action games, but I didn't come across anything that required any amount of lame-ass platforming, which is good.

This game also featured Conan's superior climbing skills, as he scaled sheer walls while skulking through the city at night.  This characteristic is usually not shown in most Conan games, so it was pretty sweet to see Conan climbing walls and going along rooftops like any respectable Cimmerian would.
I also like the cover of the 2004 game, which features a hot woman - always a plus.

Conan (XBOX 360, PS3 - 2007)

If the 2004 game is a product of pre-God of War action gaming, then the 2007 game for the XBOX 360 and PS3 was definitely a product of the post-God of War school of action gaming.  A bunch of whiny-ass Kratos fans complained that this game was a huge rip-off of God of War.  Well, yeah, of course it is.  God of War did a couple of things that kind of revolutionized hack 'n' slash games (for better or worse), so it makes sense that this game would utilize gameplay elements from it.  Some of these guys were even big enough dipshits to proclaim that Kratos could kick Conan's ass...

Okay, sure, Conan was highly derivative of God of War, but you little pussies better watch your fucking mouths!  Conan was one of the originals and you will give your respect to the man.  Kratos was nothing but an emo little douchebag.  "Oh no, I killed my family because I'm a bloodthirsty twat who does Ares' bidding like a little bitch.  I guess I'll just make everyone else feel like shit and then go kill myself.  That'll teach 'em.  You know what?  Fuck the gods of Olympus.  They don't care about me.  I'm gonna become an atheist and kill Ares."

When you follow the brutal greek god of war, what the hell do you expect, dumbass?  Go wear some eye makeup, emotard.  Yeah, he's a tragic hero.  So was Elric of Melniboné and he was 50 times cooler than Kratos' pouting ass.

So, boys, either you respect Conan or learn a lesson in soul crushing pain.
Anyway, this game does use what it learned from God of War to make a hack 'n' slash game with some high-octane action, but it's a mixed bag.  Combat feels much more brutal than the 2004 game, but it's also ridiculously complicated.  There are too many damn combos.  Conan can wield all kinds of weapons, which is awesome, but each one has about 20 different combo moves, which is too much to remember.  I hardly even used 10% of the combos when I rented the game.

Enemies who constantly block can also be a pain in the ass, too, as you have to use a certain move to break their defense.  I hate that.  In the 2004 game, all you had to do was attack where the enemy was not blocking by changing attacks, something that Age of Conan would utilize later on.  What really gets annoying is that, once you get far enough, that's all the enemies do, constantly block your attacks.  It's a cheap and stupid way to ramp up the difficulty.  Once I got to that level, I got sick of playing.

2007's Conan also had topless women, just like God of War.  While this is kind of awesome, it's not that big of a deal.  In God of War, the breasts look kind of funny.  Does every woman in Greece have dark brown or red nipples?  What happened to pink nipples?  Thankfully, Conan has better graphics and the women don't have strange nipple colors.  Unfortunately, the girls aren't really a significant part of the game.  You usually find them hidden amongst levels, chained to a post.  When you free them, nothing really happens.  You can't even get a good close up at them.  At least Kratos had the good sense to fuck the women; I'll give him that.  Honestly, God of War was more gratuitous about showing bare tit flesh.  Conan just kind of put it in as an afterthought.
Conan cannot live on battle alone.  He's got to take some time to partake of naked female flesh.

Though the game does have some good action and nice graphics, it wears thin after a while, as the game just gets cheaper with the enemies you combat.  I'd say rent this one.  Don't bother investing anything more than a few days into it.

Oh, and Kratos, I'm sorry I called you a whiny emo bitch.  I just wish you'd stop being such a grumpy dick.  I can't see myself playing through four games with you pitching a damn fit through the whole thing.  Take a Prozac, learn some meditation techniques; just quit being cranky.


Finally, we come to Age of Conan, the long awaited MMORPG that allows players to explore the world of Hyboria with more freedom than ever before.  Of course, everyone was too damn busy playing World of Warcraft to notice, but screw them.

Visually, Age of Conan looks fantastic, not just for the graphics, but for the scenery itself.  Epic landscapes await you - ancient ruins, shadow haunted jungles, lush forests and mountains, and cities whose majesty is only matched by their corruption.  You can enter a town and actually watch townspeople haggle and converse in the bazaar, though there are those quest giving NPCs that just kind of hang around there with nothing better to do than ask 500 players per day to retrieve their sewing supplies.  The music is great, too.  It lends a sort of exotic flavor to your traditional sword & sorcery variety.

Actually, I'm not a big MMO fan.  The only games I enjoyed playing prior to this were City of Heroes, Champions Online (I like superhero MMOs), and Guild Wars (you can do your own thing there and not worry about some motherfucker interfering with your quest).  I tried the 14-day trial they offered and went forth into Hyboria.  Of course, I played a Cimmerian.  For the most part, I enjoyed the game.  I didn't get past the starting area, Tortage Island, so there was a lot of things I didn't get to experience.  I was almost high enough level to delve into a ruin filled with devious Black Ones, though, which would have been awesome.  For the most part, I fought shitloads of Picts (they were taking residence in an old Acheronian ruin) and a lot of savage beasts.  Also, if you play a female (and, no, I didn't), you can actually go around topless, you know, if you like to do your adventuring with your tits out, which is great.

One thing I need to mention, though.  I wanted to see what kind of roleplaying servers (which are servers on the game that actually reinforce and encourage roleplaying, instead of just running around, doing quests and chatting about a bunch of bullshit that's irrelevant to the game.  It seemed that the only RP server was also a PVP (Player Vs Player) server, which meant if someone wanted to kill me, they could sure as hell try.  Of course, I couldn't find one single person who was roleplaying their character on the server.  Needless to say, once I reached a certain level, I couldn't go around doing quests without some unwashed, sexually inept motherfucker who had a character that was twice my level come up and just fucking slaughter me within seconds.  At first, I told myself, "Hey, I'm on a PVP server.  These things happen."  One day, I went into an underground ruin for a quest when I find a bunch of these cocksuckers camping out, looking for lower level characters to massacre.  I kept respawning and they kept killing me, all the while masturbating over their tiny little victory while their grandmother sits right next to them watching The Price Is Right (which I have nothing against that show, by the way).

It was about this time that I said, "Fuck this," and stopped playing, period.  I would have made a new character on a non-PVP server, but, by that time, I had already invested so much in that character that I didn't want to go through that again.

Honestly, those little fucks better be glad I don't know where they live.  If I ever find one of those PVP-sexual taint-lickers, I'll pull out the business end of their large intestine and graft it onto their mouth, so that they'll be constantly forced to eat their own shit.

As a whole, Age of Conan is a pretty good MMO.  If you're not too busy having World of Warcraft's baby, you should give it a try.  Honestly, I have problems tolerating stupid people long enough to play MMOs for an extended period of time.  If I could get a bunch of friends together for a group, that would be nice.  Alas, no one seems to care enough, so the hell with them.

That not only wraps up the Conan games, but my exhaustive list of barbarian games I've played.  So do any of them rank high enough to become the ultimate barbarian video game?  Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Search for the Ultimate Barbarian Game (Part 5)

Here's a list of some of the other games I've tried during my search.


Barbarian

The name says it all, that is if the title of this game was "Poorly put together crapfest."  Then, at least, it would have a more original title.  This game was published by Titus, one of the most notoriously bad video game companies out there (fortunately, this was the last game they put out).

I want to like this game.  Every time I play it, I try to find something to enjoy.  There's just nothing there.  It's nothing but a sword & sorcery rip-off of Power Stone for the Dreamcast, which doesn't seem like a good idea to me.  The gameplay is painfully boring, the AI is frustratingly cheap, the controls are terrible, the camera hates you, the presentation is third rate, at best.  Have you ever seen those commercials about going to school to be a game designer, where it's a bunch of guys saying, "Wow, I can't believe we're getting paid to play video games!"  This game wouldn't even get them a passing grade in a college like that.

The only good thing I can find in this game is the intro cinematic, which seems to be advertising a completely different game.  The intro has awesome action, decent graphics (I guess the rest of the game does, too) and great music.  If only the game was more in line with the intro it would probably be much better.

This video showcases the awesome intro as well as gameplay videos which kills it a bit.


Oddly enough, this game was picked up by Taito and brought over to Japan.  When they realized how disappointingly terrible it was, they decided to rename the male barbarian with unsightly skull-crotch as Rastan, to boost sales.  All I can say is that Japan now has a new least favorite Rastan game.


Viking: Battle for Asgard

A viking video game is close enough to a barbarian video game.  There were Aesir and Vanir in Robert E. Howard's Conan and that's good enough for me.

At first, I didn't like this game.  The hero, Skarin, is slow, lumbering, and dumb.  Running feels more like trudging and he takes too long to swing his weapons that there's a better chance of getting your ass handed to you if you're facing more than one enemy at a time.  Stealth in this game is a joke, though there are missions where stealth is your only friend.  When I rented this, I was about to take it back early and see if they had any copies of Dragon Age: Origins.  But I tried it again and found it slowly growing on me.  Once you have amassed an army of vikings to fight against Hel's legions, you can lay siege to their forces in massive battles which are actually kind of fun.  Unlike soldiers from other games, your soldiers are surprisingly competent fighters, which not only means that the job of killing every enemy in sight is not solely on your shoulders, but also that you'll want to beat your fellow soldiers in getting as big of a body count as possible.

Of course, once you've taken over an entire area, you have to start all over with a new area, which means more awkward solo missions.  By that time, though, I felt I had received my $7.50 worth of enjoyment out of this game.  The verdict: it's okay.  On top of that, Freya's actually pretty hot in this game, which is how it's supposed to be.

Forget Aphrodite.  For my money, Freya's the hottest piece of divine ass around.



Sword of Sodan

For some reason, in the late '80s, Electronic Arts were interested in bringing ports of games from systems, such as the Amiga, onto the Sega Genesis.  Sword of Sodan is one of them and it sucks.  I'm not talking about the Amiga version.  I'm talking about the Sega Genesis version, which is significantly different from Amiga's.  In the Amiga version, enemies only come from the front.  Electronic Arts decided to be assholes and make you fight enemies in front and behind you.  It wouldn't be so bad if turning around weren't so goddamn frustrating.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  In Sword of Sodan, you play a barbarian, either male or female, for those of you who have some weird fantasy about being a towering, kick-ass edifice of hardcore lesbo action, rescuing damsels and then tearing off their clothes, subjecting them to the nipple clamps for...  Okay, I've said too much.  Now you all must die.

You fight through levels trying to get to the stronghold of the evil necromancer, Zoras, who has killed your father and assumed rule over the kingdom.  The hero does more shuffling than walking through the levels, which looks and plays stupid.  Combat in the Genesis version is a fucking joke.  Some enemies can only be hit with certain attacks.  Of course, these attacks require you get so close to the enemy that you press your womanly body against theirs as they beat on you like the filthy whore that you are.  Ooh, such a filthy whore...  Okay, seriously, I need to step back for a bit.

The gameplay is bad, the sound is terrible (there are giant insects that sound like monkeys!), the traps are a pain in the ass to get past, my voluptuous breasts are ready for my female sex slaves to...

No, no, no, no, no, no, no!  What the fuck is wrong with me?!  Okay, if you like the Amiga version, keep playing the Amiga version.  If you like the Genesis version, well, you've lived a very sheltered life and need to play some better games.  I'm done with this one!

Why does my mouth taste like Brigitte Nielsen?


Blades of Vengeance

After screwing up Sword of Sodan, Electronic Arts decided to try again.  Fortunately, Blades of Vengeance is a bit of a step up.  This game is an action platformer (with an annoying emphasis on platforming) where you can pick from three characters.  Of course, the male barbarian and sexy amazon are in the mix, but they added a sorcerer this time around.  Your character has been summoned by... Underwater Moses, or whatever, to defeat The Dark Lady.

Gameplay is kind of tough, as there's lots of platforming to be had (I hate games like this).  Plus, once you run out of lives, there are no continues (Underwater Moses does not smile upon failure).  It's game over.

While I don't like this kind of game, it's still an improvement from Sword of Sodan.  It has better graphics and sound.  The levels are pretty sizable, with plenty of secret areas.  That's about it, though.  If you like this kind of game, well, good for you, but I'm giving this one a pass.

Well, that takes care of the rest.  Now it's time for the best (maybe).  Conan's coming up next.

Now I'm off to find one of my wife's bras and pretend I'm Red Sonja.

Yeah, no.  That's not happening.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Search for the Ultimate Barbarian Game (Part 4)


Rastan

In 1987, Taito created a classic arcade game heavily inspired by both Conan films, which they called Rastan Saga.  When the game made it Stateside, it was renamed Rastan and gave gamers one of their first tastes of sword & sorcery action.

It was around this period in time when arcade games were looking significantly better, graphically, and Rastan was no exception.  The lush vistas of mountain passes, forests, marshes, and lava fields that Rastan had to fight through were a feast for gamers.  The music, though limited even for arcade standards at the time, was perfectly fitting for sword & sorcery.  Each level had three parts: the varying wildernesses (forest, marsh, etc.), the fortress, and the boss room.  Throughout the entire game, the different parts all had their own "theme music," so the music in the first part of stage one would be the same as the first part of stage two.  Nonetheless, it sounded great, in a strange, almost otherworldly sort of way.

Gameplay can't be broken down any simpler: you traverse through different levels, slaying enemies, swinging on ropes, jumping from platform to platform; but the game is genuinely challenging.  It wasn't until last night that I finally got past this one area on the second part of stage one.  For a long time, the ropes swinging over the pool of fire were frustratingly unforgiving, especially with that goddamn swarm of bats closing in on you (you'll see what I mean in the video, though the guy playing makes it look easy).  Eventually, I cleared it and got to see a good portion of the game.  I think I finally got to stage four before calling it a night, so I'm glad I stuck it out.

There really isn't much more to say about this game other than it is a great arcade classic that I think helpled bring more interest in sword & sorcery games.  Of course, Capcom released Black Tiger in the same year, which also has a similar feel to it, but I think Rastan made a bigger impression on arcade gamers as a whole.



Nastar Warrior/Rastan Saga II

Taito decided not to rest on their laurels and immediately released Rastan Saga II in 1988.  The title was changed to Nastar in Britain and Nastar Warrior in the US.  This was possibly done to avoid confusion, as this actually seems to be a prequel to the first Rastan and not a sequel, as the Japanese title would imply.  I got the impression that this was a prequel because, after you beat the game, you find out that this adventure is where our barbarian hero got the name Rastan.  In the first game, it's pretty much assumed that the character was already known as Rastan, so that the events in Nastar Warrior lead up to him receiving that name implies that it takes place before the original.

Everything about Nastar Warrior feels like a step down from Rastan.  While the graphics are slightly better, the sprites seem way too cartoony.  Rastan looks like shit, seriously.  His body looks like it's wracked with hunger - muscle hanging precariously off of bone.  Was Rastan bulemic at one point?  What the hell is wrong with him?  The cinematic images between each stage look okay, but the graphics overall look worse.  In the first game, Rastan was fighting wizards and swordsmen in boss battles.  In Nastar Warrior, the bosses are more monstrous, with demons, mythical fiends, and what look like demigods fighting our hero.  Of course, the cartoony look still prevents us from taking them seriously.  The sprite animation is not as good either.  Instead of the smooth swing of the weapon from the first game, we have a laughable two stage animation where Rastan impotently stabs his sword (or whatever weapon he picks up) repeatedly.

This game is slightly easier than the first, only because you continue playing right where you die, instead of starting back at a checkpoint like the first one.  The platforming and bosses are actually tougher than in the first game, but this retention of progress every time you come back to life nullifies any challenge.

On top of that, this game allows two people to play cooperatively.  Player two looks exactly like player one, but with a darker skinned pallette swap.  Whoever the hell this guy is, though, is beyond me.  It basically looks like two guys are driven by stomach shrinking hunger to fight these demons and find a huge ass buffet at the end of the game.

While the game looks crappier, the music didn't take as much of a hit.  It's not as good as the original, but it's still enjoyable.  They added female voices, which you'll hear every time you begin a new stage or put a quarter into the machine, which sound a bit bizarre, but keep in line with the sword & sorcery theme.

Basically, it looks like Taito not only didn't waste any time putting out a sequel, it also looks like they rushed the production of the game immensely.  This could have (and should have) been a better game.  Nonetheless, it's not entirely bad.  I play it every once in a while on my Taito Legends collections.  You can still get some enjoyment from it, just not as much as the original.



Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III

When Taito decided to return to the Rastan series, they took notes from one of their competitor's arcade games: Golden Axe.  The result is Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III, which could be considered a rip-off of Sega's sword & sorcery hit.

This game has Rastan, along with Dewey, the martial artist, and Sophia, the sexy, whip wielding thief, fighting against the Evil Tribe and their hordes of armored warriors, horse riding barbarians, aztec-like tribesmen, chakram throwing ascetics, dragon riders, sorcerers, lizard men, fish men, shambling skeletons in ill-fitting armor, tentacled abominations, and oozing lava men.  Seems this Evil Tribe is not picky about membership.  Needless to say, if you can imagine it in sword & sorcery, you'll probably be fighting it in this game.

Thankfully, the graphics have been improved from their abyssmal predecessor, though the music doesn't seem to fit the game as much anymore, since they decided to go with more generic fantasy music instead of the strange but fascinating music of the first two games.

If you've played Golden Axe, this game won't show you anything new.  In fact, Warrior Blade doesn't surpass it's competitor in terms of gameplay.  The characters move pretty stiff.  It's actually amusing to watch Rastan dash across the screen, as if he's holding a marble in his ass, or something.  Trust me when I say this, this game does nothing that Golden Axe already hasn't done better.

So, instead of better gameplay, what does Taito use to entice you into playing this game?  Warrior Blade actually uses two screens, just like the six-player version of Konami's X-Men, to capture all the action.  Actually, Taito had used mutliple screen cabinets before with their 1988 game The Ninja Warriors, which actually used three screens.  Does this really add much to the action of game?  Not really.  It does give you a wider area to fight, though, and can be used for putting more enemies on screen without unecesarily flooding the area.  Also, the game cabinet has got to be one of the most impressive looking ones I've seen (check it out in the beginning of the video, below).


While this isn't as good as Golden Axe, it's not that bad of a game.  I actually remember playing it once.  I don't remember where or when, but I know I did play it.  It's not bad, but it's not as good as the original Rastan.

One last thing: one of the elements of this game series is that the stories are told from a much older King Rastan, as he reminisces about his adventures of the past.  In the beginning of Rastan and Warrior's Blade, we see him sitting on his throne, as he begins the stories we're about to play through.  It seems very similar to Conan's yearning for the adventure of his younger days while sitting on the throne of Aquilonia.

Tomorrow, I'm going to talk about a few standalone titles that I've come across.  Then, on Saturday, I'm going to end with an extravaganza, looking at every Conan game I could get my hands on.

Kaiser out

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Search for the Ultimate Barbarian Game (Part 3)

Today, we delve further into the Golden Axe franchise.  If I'm not mistaken, I think Sonic the Hedgehog and Phantasy Star are the only Sega properties that had more games than the Golden Axe series. The success of the original arcade game spawned numerous sequels and offshoots.  Let's take a look at them.

Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

This is considered by some to be the "real" sequel to the original Golden Axe arcade game, completely ignoring Golden Axe II (seriously, people, quit your goddamn whining).  Some have even been so bold as to fully call this Golden Axe II:  The Revenge of Death Adder.

Here's a reality check for you assholes out there.  Even though this game came out a few weeks before Golden Axe III, chronologically, it would have to take place after the third game.  You see, at the end of Revenge of Death Adder, Gilius Thunderhead dies, which means he can't come back to help the characters in GA III.  If this game is part of the canon, Revenge of Death Adder would have to be considered Golden Axe IV.  Sega didn't put a number two in the title of this game, so either face facts or shut the fuck up.

As an arcade game, Revenge of Death Adder does make improvements over the original arcade game.  The game did receive a serious graphical overhaul, better sprite animation, and better sound.  It's the first Golden Axe game to allow up to four players at once, making this game great for you and three friends to hack through the game.  It also does another first: Revenge of Death Adder has branching areas that let you choose which path you want to take, which allows you to play certain levels in one playthrough, and try another route the second time.  Golden Axe III also utilized this, but Revenge of Death Adder was the first.

I must say, this is a pretty impressive offering.  It keeps a bit of the sword & sorcery feel intact.  It has some good levels, utilizing upward scrolling to change things up.  The bosses are cool.  All the ridable beasts are giant insects that either shoot fire or sting the opponents with an electric shock.  The magic for two of the characters is fucking awesome (both Stern, the barbarian and Goah, the giant have magic attacks that let you see a close up of an enemy as his flesh turns to stone or burns in a firestorm).  For the most part, Revenge of Death Adder is a solid game.

There's just one thing that keeps this from being the best Golden Axe game: the main characters.  Someone had some lame ass designs for some of them.  First off, we have Stern, the requisite barbarian.  Nothing wrong with him.  He's pretty much filling one half of the staple of characters you expect in a Golden Axe game. 

For those who want a hot female warrior, there's Dora  But I've got good news and bad news for you.  The good: she is a nicely stacked, hot female warrior.  The bad: she's only hot if you look above the waist because she's a centaur.  This kind of sends mixed messages here.  I mean, you take a nice piece of ass and cross it with a horse.  Unless you are really interested in some sexual encounter that could only come out of greek mythology, you're going to be a bit uncomfortable with that.  To top it off, when she gets on a beast to ride it, her lower half transforms into human legs.  What the hell is up with that?  If you were going to let her have a full human body when she rides a giant bug, what's the fucking point of making her a centaur at all?  If you check out the video, you'll see what I mean.  Watch when the heroes go through the waterfall in the first level.  She'll be riding a flame mantis, sidesaddle, no less.

If you look at the arcade marquee pictured above and the video below, you'll see that Dora wields one of those boffer staves like the ones used in the Joust event on American Gladiators.  I guess the game designers wanted a female that was sexy, disturbing, and slightly ridiculous all at the same time.  Mission accomplished, guys.

If you thought that a horse woman wielding a giant Q-tip was bad enough, they also had to include some stupid kid with spiky hair and a trident.  Trix (yes, that's his name) seems like the bitch character that no one wants to play.  His magic, while it may be extremely useful in an arcade game with no other health pick-ups, has got to be the most retarded.  His magic grows tiny fruit trees, that's it.  Sure, the fruit gives you health, but what kind of stupid power is that?

The cast is rounded out by Goah, a big guy wielding an axe.  Gilius Thunderhead is actually riding on top of his shoulders, so, in a way, Gilius is actually a playable character in this one.

Despite some lame character choices, Revenge of Death Adder isn't a bad game.  In fact, it's actualy pretty good.  I still wouldn't say it's preferrable over Golden Axe II.

Golden Axe Warrior

When it came to 16-bit systems, the Super Nintendo had better graphics and sound than the Sega Genesis.  However, for 8-bit systems, the reverse was true.  The Sega Master System had games with much better graphics and sound than the NES.  Unfortunately for Sega, that didn't stop the NES from outselling the Master System outright.  Since that is the case, most people never got to play a Master System game during their childhood.

Fortunately, the Virtual Console for the Wii and, again, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection have given some Master System games a new lease on life.  Besides the port of the original Golden Axe, Sega made Golden Axe Warrior for the Master System, which is available as an unlockable game on Sonic's... yeah, you get it.

Basically, this is an unabashed Legend of Zelda clone.  It does have better graphics than the game it rips off of and it does feature new things, like a town, where you can rest and save your game.  If you liked the first Zelda game, you might like this one.  Despite being a Zelda clone, it's actually a pretty good game, even to be considered one of the best Master System titles ever made.  About the only sword & sorcery element I've found so far is that the main character (who may or may not be Ax Battler) has a horned helmet.

Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe

Ax Battler was released for Sega's portable Game Gear and a lot of people say that this is a rip off of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.  While I can see some good similarities, I don't see this as a direct rip-off.  I've played games that were more of a Zelda II clone than this one.  Most notably, this game is actually tolerable to me, which is saying something because I hate Zelda II... a lot.

For the most part, Ax Battler displays in the typical overhead view of most RPGs.  When you enter battle, the view changes to a side-scrolling mode where you fight one-on-one with an enemy.  If you deplete the enemy's life, you win.  If the enemy hits you, even once, the battle ends (I guess they run away or something).  It's the dungeons you enter that are the most telltale sign of a Zelda II rip-off.  Despite this, I must say I enjoyed this better than the game that it took from.  Zelda II sucks.

Golden Axe: The Duel

It's about this time that the franchise seems a little too desperate.   Golden Axe: The Duel is a one-on-one fighting game that came out in arcades in 1994 and on Sega's floundering Saturn system in 1995.  Basically, Sega wanted to cash in on the burgeoning fighting game craze that had come to a head at that time.  What they did was take elements of the world of Golden Axe and implement them into a fighting game.  Both fans of the series and fighting games were disappointed with the result.  I played a little bit of this game and responded with a resounding, "meh."  It's another tiny footnote in the franchise; nothing more.

Golden Axe: Beast Rider

Which brings us to the most recent addition, Beast Rider.  This time, all three of the original characters return in this re-imagining of the franchise, but you can only play as Tyris, who, while easy on the eyes, dresses like a barely legal slut.  If this world had stores like The Gap, I would imagine that's where she got her clothes.  The barbarian chic outfit disillusions me almost as much as the fact that this game is pretty much your typical modern action game with no real meat on it. Reviews of this game have ranged from mediocre to just plain terrible.  There are some interesting things to look at in this game, but gameplay seems to go back and forth between boring and frustrating with most people.  If there were a demo available for it on XBOX Live, I'd try it.  Needless to say, I don't want to waste money on renting this game, so I'll go with the consensus on this one.


Anyway, that about covers all the games in the Golden Axe franchise.  It's really obvious that Golden Axe II is my pick for the best game of the series, but this is merely my opinion (which happens to be correct, as always).  If you find yourself disagreeing, well, there's something seriously wrong with you and you need to take care of that, now.
Tomorrow, I'll take a look at another classic arcade franchise, the Rastan Saga.

Kaiser out

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Search for the Ultimate Barbarian Game (Part 2)

I spent my childhood playing side-scrolling beat 'em ups.  They run in my blood.  I own, at least, three different versions of Final Fight.  I've played some good ones and some really crappy ones, but none of them get as much enthusiasm from me as the Golden Axe games.

I was one of those kids lucky enough to play both sides of the Nintendo/Sega console wars.  Mom got me the NES one Christm... I mean Kaisernacht.  Dad got me the Sega Genesis on another Kaisernacht.  And my younger brother and I both saved up to get a Super Nintendo.  To be honest, before I got the Genesis, I didn't even know I wanted one.  The Genesis opened up new gaming opportunities in the video game section of the rental store.

One of my most indellible moments of Genesis gaming was when I first played Golden Axe II (I actually played the first two Golden Axe games in reverse order, so the sequel was my first experience of the franchise).  I thought the "Conanesque" style of the game was great and the gameplay was fantastic.  I was in beat 'em up heaven.  Of course, I had to play the first one and I enjoyed it too.  I even remember, a couple of years ago, my friends and I stayed in a hotel in Oklahoma that had the Golden Axe arcade cabinet by their large pool (which, in my opinion, is a huge mistake - don't ever put arcade games in a room with a lot of moisture).  I left my friends for thirty minutes to drop a few quarters in.

Needless to say, I love the Golden Axe series, but is it the ultimate barbarian game?  I decided not just to scrutinize the franchise as a whole, but each game to see which Golden Axe game would best represent the series when sized up with other barbarian games.  First off, let's take a look at the original trilogy.


Golden Axe

The original Golden Axe was created by Makoto Uchida (who co-created Altered Beast) in 1989 for the arcades and, later, for Sega's Genesis and Master System.  The premise centered around three warriors: barbarian Ax Battler, amazon Tyris Flare, and dwarf Gilius Thunderhead.  Their quest was to fight through the hordes of chaotic barbarians, skeletons, and thieves to reach the powerful Death Adder and defeat him to rescue the king and princess of the realm.  Unlike other beat 'em ups, which focused on martial arts, this game took a focus of swordplay as the major attack, which defines it as more of a hack 'n' slash game.  The game was definitely inspired by the movie Conan the Barbarian (the arcade version even used some sound bytes from that movie as well as the Rambo film First Blood, for death screams) and had a sword & sorcery feel to it.

Along with the swordfighting, each character could use magic by storing up magic potions obtained by beating up these gnome looking thieves.  Tyris Flare (who I still think is one of the sexier video game characters) had the most powerful magic, but required more magic potions to unleash it, while Ax Battler and Gilius Thunderhead had somewhat weaker magic, but focused more on sword attacks.

The initial success of the arcade game made sure that it was ported to almost every video game system (except, of course, for the NES).  The Genesis version does suffer from the conversion from the arcade.  The graphics and sound are a big downgrade (remember, this was a time when console games could not surpass arcade games, unlike today).  The hit detection against your enemies was really hit or miss (damn, crappy puns!).  You had to be on the exact same level as your opponent to hit them; a fact that the enemies frustratingly exploited by constantly moving up or down to avoid you.  Even the arcade version had better hit detection.  In fact, I find the arcade version slightly more forgiving than its Genesis counterpart.

This isn't to say that the Genesis version sucks, just that the arcade version is better in every way.  Compare these two videos.  The top one is arcade, while the bottom one is Genesis.  If anything, you can tell the graphics and sound are much better in the arcade version.



Despite this, Golden Axe for the Genesis is still a standout title for the system.  One thing the Genesis version did add was "The Duel" mode, which allowed one player to fight in this gladiatorial style "survival mode" as they encountered numerous waves, each one stronger than the last.  The Duel also featured two-player action as each player tried to beat the crap out of the other, which is not as fun as the one player version.

You can actually still play both versions of this game.  If you're a Wii owner, both the arcade and Genesis versions are available on the Wii Shop Channel.  For the XBOX 360 owner, I recommend Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, as it actually has all three Golden Axe games for the Genesis as well as other must have games for the Genesis lover in your family.


Golden Axe II

There are some whiny little bitches out there who were disappointed with Golden Axe II.  They thought the game was too similar to the original and didn't add anything new to it.  These people are either blind, deaf, and/or stupid, because Golden Axe II took the formula from the first Golden Axe and made it ten times better.

While it was not completely superior to the arcade version of the original, it took all the problems with the Genesis version and fixed them.  Hit detection was not a problem anymore.  The graphics, though similar enough to the original, were improved with new and cleaner sprites.  The music is probably one of the biggest improvements in this game.  The music in the original Golden Axe didn't necesarily suck, but the music in this sequel was completely kick ass.  "The Duel" mode made a return, as did all the main characters from the first game, as this would be the last time you saw Ax Battler or Tyris Flare in a Golden Axe game for a long time.  Everything in this game has been polished to near perfection.

Of course playing the sequel before playing the original may have biased me a little toward preferring this game, but who gives a shit?  It may be a bit premature to say this, but Golden Axe II has got to be my choice for the best game in the series.


Golden Axe III

So what does that say about the third game in the series?  Well, before I go into that, let me tell you a little about the history of Golden Axe III.  First off, this game had a very limited presence Stateside.  You couldn't buy the game in America.  The only way an American gamer could play Golden Axe III, short of moving to Japan, was on the Sega Channel, which was a premium cable service that allowed you to download and play from a changing selection of 50 games transferred from your cable connection to the Genesis.  It was, of course, ahead of its time, which is why most parents didn't grasp the idea and refused to see the point in paying for such a service - stupid-ass parents.  Anyway, most of us would not get a chance to play it until Sega put it in Genesis compilations, such as the Sega Genesis Collection for PS2 and, obviously, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection.  These collections were the first time most American gamers got to play the third Golden Axe game.  The question is was it worth waiting all this time to play it?

Well... Golden Axe III isn't bad, but it isn't as great as Golden Axe II.  This time, there are four new characters to play from: Kain, the sword-wielding barbarian, Sarah (what kind of name is that for an amazon?), who wields a very short scimitar and wears the requisite "amazon bikini," Proud, who looks like an escaped neanderthal slave and can kill some enemies in two or three hits, and Chronos, a panther-man who some claim is the most powerful character.  To be honest, I prefer Kain with his excellent attack reach or Proud with his immense power.  Gilius Thunderhead appears in the game, but only to tell the player of their quest at the beginning of the game.  (Addendum: I found out that in each American release of this game, both on the Sega Channel and the recent Sega Genesis collections, they refer to Kain and Sarah as the original Ax Battler and Tyris Flare, insisting that they are not new characters.  I guess they were kind of embarrassed about having an amazon named Sarah.)

Graphically, the game looks significantly different, closer to games like Streets of Rage 3, and features bigger sprites.  The overall thematic look is different, as well, as it seems to go for more desert and jungle themed locales and enemies, thus seeking to expand the world of Golden Axe.  The music is okay sometimes.  Other times, it sounds like it belongs in a Streets of Rage game, not Golden Axe.

Gameplay is decent, but problems arise.  First off, the hit detection is not as good as Golden Axe II.  On inclines, you have to be on a slightly lower plane (if you're below the enemy) or on a slightly higher plane (if you're above them) to hit.  Unless you're using Kain and his amazing reach with his sword, most enemies are going to have an advantage with reach, meaning when you miss them, they'll be able to counter back with a hit.  They're not exactly game breaking flaws, but it really stands out, considering this is the sequel to a far superior game.

While this is a decent Golden Axe game (the look and feel is still sword & sorcery), something is definitely missing from it.  Maybe it's the original characters or the graphical look of the first two games or the fact that the riding beasts are giant snails on legs (who the hell thought that was a good idea?).  I think Sega took the complaints of those fucking pussies who didn't like the previous one to heart and tried to make the third one on their suggestions.  If that's the case, there's only one piece of advice I can give to those who whined about Golden Axe II - when I come to kill you, pray it will be quick.

So, there you have the core trilogy to one of Sega's more successful franchises, but we're far from done.  There's still plenty of  Golden Axe games to look at.  Check back tomorrow for the rest.

Kaiser out

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Search for the Ultimate Barbarian Game (Part 1)

Know, O Gamer, that between the years when the oceans drank Odyssey and the gleaming arcades, and the years of the rise of the sons of Atari, there was an age undreamed of, when shining consoles lay spread across the world like electronic mantles beneath the stars – NES, Commodore 64, Amiga, Super Nintendo with its 16-bit graphics and towers of spider haunted mystery (?), Playstation with its crude polygons, Turbografx-CD that bordered on the pastoral lands of the Tubrografx-16, Sega Genesis with its shadow-haunted “Blast Processing,” Wii whose players wore wiimotes and nunchucks and crappy light gun attachments. But the proudest console in the world was XBOX 360, reigning supreme in the dreaming west.

Hither came... some video game, though I don't know which one. You see, for the past few months, I've been searching throughout gaming history for the greatest barbarian video game in the world. My search has uncovered much, but do any of these games deserve to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under its sandaled feet?

For now, I'm still searching, but here's a look at what I've found so far.

Barbarian

Barbarian, also known as Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior or Death Sword (in the US), was released for the Commodore 64 in 1987 by UK company Palace Software and later ported to other computer gaming systems, such as the Amiga. Gameplay pretty much boils down to fighting other barbarians in sword duels until you face off against the evil wizard, Drax, to rescue Princess Mariana. It's a standard arcade style fighting game that's pretty fun. Even two players can square off against each other.

To be honest, this game has already been covered pretty well by my friends at the Conan blog, CROM! So instead of focusing on the game, I'm going to mention the two people who were on the cover of the game.
The big man with the big sword is Michael Van Wijk, whose claim to fame was in the sports game show Gladiators (yes, it's the british version of American Gladiators). His persona, Wolf, was the most popular on the show and remained a fan favorite for many years. Of course, my living in the United States pretty much makes this information kind of pointless, but he seemed like a cool guy.

More interesting is the eye candy clutching his leg. Her name is Maria Whittaker. She's famous for having big titties, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Before this gig, she was a popular "Page Three Girl" in british tabloid, The Sun, which was famous for having women proudly unleashing their funbags. Guess which page you could find that on.
"...and lo, the mighty warrior did rescue Princess
Topless Model
and there was many Snu-snu."

This, of course, caused some controversy. People protested that a scantily clad, large breasted model was innapropriate for a product "aimed at a younger audience." Oddly enough, the nay-sayers were so busy arguing about Maria's "baps" (I think that's what they call them in Britain) that no one noticed the amount of bloodshed and decapitations in the game itself. Even better, all the controversy actually enticed gamers further to play the game. It became a commercial success for Palace Software. That's some cunning marketing.
I guess skinny, pasty game programmers are
sexual wizards. Sorry, Wolf.


Like I said, this game is a fun diversion with some nice Sword & Sorcery touches to it. I've played a couple of versions of it, including a flash version of the game (go to CROM! for the links to try the game yourself). It is a bit simplistic, though, so I don't think it dominates over all as the best.


Barbarian II: The Dungeon of Drax




After the success of the first Barbarian game, Palace Software decided to strike again while the coals were hot. In 1989, they released Barbarian II: The Dungeon of Drax, which improved on the original game. Instead of fighting one-on-one with other barbarians, the player roamed around this savage landscape fraught with strange creatures, such as ogres, stunted apes, and giant, featherless, man-eating chickens (?), to kill Drax once and for all. This time, Princess Mariana Melons (that's her porn name) picks up a sword and becomes a playable character.

I was going to try the game out, using an Amiga emulator (which I was going to delete after a couple minutes with the game, so get off my case), but getting the damn emulator to run was about as complicated (and not as awesome) as installing a flux capacitor. Needless to say, I gave up on it. However, I did watch some gameplay on YouTube, which is kind of like playing the game, vicariously, except it isn't. I'm looking at you, people who obsessively watch "Let's Play (Insert Game Here)."  From what I've seen, the attacks seem very similar to the first game. You fight monsters, collect items, and jump over rivers of lava. It's a little more complex than the original, but not by much. I watched both the Commodore 64 and Amiga versions and, while the Amiga version had better graphics, the Commodore 64 version had music that doesn't suck. For visual purposes, I'll show you the Amiga version.

Check back tomorrow when I delve into one of my favorites from the Sega Genesis era: the Golden Axe series.

Kaiser out