Review by KasketDarkfyre
"The Good, The Bad & The Wicked"
Fighting games that span across a large area without constant set boundaries have been in the process for a long time. With games such as the Tekken series, Evil Zone, Dead or Alive and countless others, you’ll find that Barbarian has some pretty impressive fighting game capabilities coupled with the lack of a bounds allowing for large scale battles. Featuring some interesting characters, an easy to use move set and plenty of story that would make even a fantasy book reader stop and take notice, Barbarian has got just about everything you might need for a good game. Or does it?
The story takes place in the land of Barbaria in which you have warriors and magic as well as brutal fighting and plenty of fantasy. As the story goes, an age of darkness has fallen on the land of Barbaria and no one knows its origins until now. A single wizard has taken control of a mystical stone that grants him the power of a God and it is up to you to stop him and complete your destiny. Through the use of several different characters, the story is interwoven through many stages and characters, which is more a reminder of Weaponlord. However, the end result is constantly changing stories depending on which path you choose to take!
The Game Play
Barbarian has plenty of fighting to thrown into the mix that involves both physical and magical capabilities. You’ll find that the characters all have their strengths and weaknesses as well as a couple of characters that have a several cheap factor that will either prevent or further your quest. Many of the places that you fight in are expansive, with breaking walls and otherwise that you’ll be able to crash through to open up more area to fight in. While fighting, you’ll also be able to use objects along the ground and even other enemies in order to bash on your opponent and make them submit.
The key feature of the game has to be the experience factor in which you gain experience points in the Quest mode in order to upgrade your fighter. You’ll be able to add different aspects such as extra life and attacking power, magic abilities and defensive maneuvers. However, you might find that the key to getting these points is simply trying to outsmart your opponents on the various stages. The further you get into the game, the harder they become, sometimes using cheap tactics in order to defeat you. This can be something of an annoyance and you might find yourself wanting to chuck the controller at the screen!
The selection of your path in the game makes for an interesting way to change the story each time you play. Where you might get one result, another will be closed off and you’ll have to go back through again in order to see just what it is that you missed. You will find that depending your choices, you’ll have some serious fighting problems with your opponents in the later stages. Fighting maneuvers are easy enough to learn, and require little more than timing and button presses. Fans of the Evil Zone and Battle Arena Toshinden games will have no trouble figuring out how to use this interface.
Wide open spaces and fantasy settings will keep your interest in the game surroundings as much as the actual fighting that happens onscreen. Dark themes and plenty of mood lighting will keep you in the game and keep the overall barbaric theme to the maximum. Most of the character designs are interesting, though you might find that the lack of size in some areas and the panning of the characters is a little distracting. One of the biggest downfalls to the game that I can see is the lack of an aiming feature, in which you will attack but you cannot hit your opponent though it does seem as you’re facing them. Aside from that, the visual presentation of Barbarian is as solid as it gets.
With enough Conan themes to choke an elephant, you’ll find that the game has enough mood inducing music to keep you going through the numerous stages. Highs and lows keep the dark tone and feel of the game while the voice of the narrator puts some seriousness into each of the story lines. However, the lack of in game sounds aside from the swish of the weapons and crashing of items really does tend to make the game rely on the soundtrack. Although this isn’t entirely bad, I personally would have liked to have seen just a little bit more from the effects department than this.
Power Stone fans will probably fall in love with this game from the starting screen. Though this game doesn’t have nearly as much depth as Virtua Fighter 4 and the Tekken series, you’ll find that the simplicity of the controls and the theme is just right. A few nagging issues fall in line with the visuals and the overall scaling difficulty of the game depending on your choices. However, if you can get past those minor complaints, then you’ll see that there is enough here for anyone who enjoys a good fighting game. For Atlus, this is a great stepping stone in the Play Station 2 library with the possibility of a sequel!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/10/02, Updated 09/10/02
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