Review by Lord Blade
"An exellent multiplayer brawler..."
Okay, lets set some ground rules first.
1) This game is not meant for those who want to unlock tons of secrets.
2) This game is not for those who don't like action. If you want a game that lets you sit there and strategize your every move... look elsewhere.
3) This game IS for people who want not stop action, great multiplayer fun, and a chance to release some built up frustration.
The graphics quality of this game is extremely good. The characters are well done, and very detailed. Each character has a great design and their outfits really fit with the style of the game.
The backgrounds are extremely well designed and really add to the mood of this game. From the dark swamps to the lofty castle towers, the levels are simply beautiful. Few fighting games have put so much effort into making the levels themselves seems so real. Especially when these levels can be smashed to bits.
The game did a good job with shading effects as well. The lighting which comes off of special moves actually casts shadow off of other players.
The the special moves themselves look somewhat simple, yet very effective. Unlike most games which use big flashy effects which waste time (and disc space), Barbarian has functional flashes and explosions which don't take away from the gameplay.
The sound is very good. Honestly, I was expecting some faint repetitive background music that would simply be drowned out by the action. But that's not the case. Each level has it's own unique music, which fits in perfectly with the level itself, and the overall feel of the game. It's sometimes dark, sometimes heroic, sometimes comical.
The sound effects are quite nice as well. From the painful slash of a sword, to the satisfying crunch of a tree connecting with someone's head... It helps give you the feel of being in the fray.
The game has a Volume Control setting, which allows you to chose the levels of Music and Sound Effects you wish to hear. I personally always played with both on full.
I found this game to be very responsive. Using the analog stick to move your character around, you could actually get a full 360 degrees of movement, instead of being limited to the 8 which the directional pad would give. And by using the stick, you could either slowly advance, of move into a full sprint.
Combos are pulled off by hitting the attack buttons (Weak and Strong) in certain combinations. Each character has his or her own speed when attacking, and you need to get used to this when attempting combos. Though it doesn't take long at all.
The game is also quite quick at recognizing when you go from blocking to attacking, which allows you to counter enemy attacks quite easily.
The overall controls are fairly straightforward. The main 4 buttons (Square, Triangle, Circle, X) default to your Weak and Strong attack, Jump, and Throw. While the shoulder buttons (L1, L2, R1, R2) cover your Block, Magic and Rune Attack. I found the controller setup to work quite well for such a fast paced game. All the buttons are easily used when needed, without any akward holding of the controller.
This is where the game truly shines. Simply put, this game is about fighting. You attack your opponent with the weapon(s) of choice for your character. In some incredibly fast paced action. You have free roam of the levels, some of which are HUGE! And not only that, but each level has ''hidden'' areas which you can access. Most of these are reached by smashing through walls (or throwing your opponent through it). And these extra areas are just as large as the starting ones. There seems to basically be 3 different areas for each level, which leads to some interesting battles, as different characters are better suited for certain fighting conditions.
Each character has access to a decent list of combos. Ranging from stunning hits, to juggling opponents in the air, to moves which cause damage even if your opponent blocks them. All characters generally have the same combos, though how they're pulled off is different for each. And the style of attack varies as well (from quick jabs, to slow, deadly swings).
Characters also have magic. This takes the form of a projectile which is hurled at opponents. It can also be charged up to fire multiple shots off (in a straight line or spread out depending on the character). Your magic bar empties as you fire off spells. But not to worry, it's easily refilled... by mauling your opponents.
Another feature are Runes. As you accomplish combos, or throwing opponents, you earn Runes. These can be used (at the cost of magic) to pull off special abilities for each character. Some include a damage bonus, or an area effect spell and various others.
Something missing from most fighting games are smaller enemies which can be beat up on. Well, Barbarian has Thugs. Thugs are weak enemies who in battle, attack EVERYBODY. They can be dreadfully irritating at times, and extremely entertaining. They really add challenge to fights with strong/skilled opponents.
So can I just hit people with the weapons my character uses? Oh heavens no. One of the great things about this game is that practically everything in a level is usable as a weapon. Pick up a rock from the ground. Grab a barrel from the corner and whip it at someone. You can even grab huge trees and swing them around! And those Thugs you beat up on. Why not grab one of those and swing him around? Handy weapons truly add a lot of fun to action of this game.
Another aspect of this game is story mode. You basically pick a character, and go through their story, and earn experience. This is used to build them up, buying new stats and abilities.
The really cool thing about story mode, is the fact that you chose where to go. Unlike most games of this type where you have to simply fight people in a specific order, Barbarian lets you choose from multiple paths what you want to do. The story is different every time. Though you will always end up in the same final battle.
Another neat aspect of story mode, is that battles aren't always straightforward. Instead of just trying to beat your opponent in one on one battle, you may have other goals. Things such as a tag match. Where you have to hit your opponent 50 times, before he can hit you 50 times. Or fights where your opponent regenerates health. There are several others, some of which can prove to be truly challenging.
The game has a difficulty setting which you can change from 1 to 10.
Younger children could have fun on level 1.
On level 10... you may run the risk of throwing your system out a window. Which is what really got me into this game. Unlike most fighters where you can usually find a basic pattern to abuse... this game is smart. You might find your opponent in your face one minute, then throwing stuff at you from a distance another. It will truly give you your money's worth trying to master this game on harder levels.
This game's main goal is to stick you in a fight with 1 to 7 opponents (1-4 players and 1-4 Thugs) and see who can survive. Alone, this proves to be a challenge and a great stress reliever. With friends... you'll probably end up trying to kill each other... which means you must be having fun. :)
This is a game you can sit down and play for hours and still be having a great time. Definitely for those who want something they can keep coming back to.
Truly the BEST fighting game I have ever played. It's fun, it's easy to get the hang of, and it can give you a great challenge on harder difficulties. Definitely a game to have if you like action.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/29/02, Updated 08/29/02
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