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, 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

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