By Andrew Liszewski
Long before Mortal Kombat hit the scene and got everyone riled up about video game violence, there was a game called Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior which I played on the C64. (Though I only ever knew it as Barbarian.) It was your standard 2D fighting game, but instead of fancy martial arts or magical fireballs you had to rely on your sword and basic fighting moves like kicks, rolls and even head butts. Come to think of it the game was probably pretty accurate in that regard, since it supposedly took place during the dark ages. Two opponents of slightly varying color schemes would square off in a handful of medieval venues, and eventually you’d get to challenge a wizard who was the game’s final boss. For some reason though, my copy of the game was stuck in an endless loop, so no matter how many opponents I defeated (sometimes close to 50 before I gave up) I never actually made it to the final wizard stage.
But I still thoroughly enjoyed the game, mostly because of one special move where your character would do an impressive 360 degree spin with his sword, taking your opponent’s head clean off in the process. In fact I found this move worked right from the start of the match, but only with every other opponent. The ones in-between apparently had some level of improved AI that allowed them to block the attack. But for those who weren’t so lucky, once beheaded they would slump to the ground and a bizarre green troll-like creature would stroll across the screen, kick the head out of frame and then drag the body away. (After stopping to make some weird sound effect.) And again, by today’s standards the game looks pretty lame, but in 1987 that pixelated blood was more than enough to send the squeamish running from the room. But if you have any doubt about the awesomeness of Barbarian, I’ve included a YouTube video showing the game in action, after the jump. (Note: The squeamish still might want to look away.)