More Conan than Conan itself...
Barbarian (aka Death Sword) is one of the best fighting games for Commodore 64.
In modern days, we have the Street Fighter generation who just can't live without six action buttons and whatnot. The weird thing is, in my opinion, Barbarian's control scheme is even simpler than International Karate's or Exploding Fist's, yet it works wonderfully! In latter eras, C64 fighters tended to get rather simplistic because people forgot the wonderful examples set by these games. Barbarian is simple without being simplistic; normal joystick movement moves the character and button+movement attacks somehow, and there's still plenty of variety in attacks and strategy. The gameplay doesn't devolve into "push the button and the other guy dies" like in many of the latter games.
Barbarian has really a complete arcade feel in it, even when (to my knowledge) no arcade game was actually made. Graphics are top notch (some "visibility" issues though due to limited palette of C64), but that doesn't really hinder the game.
Barbarian's soundtrack is one of my favorite C64 soundtracks of time. The idea was to rip off Conan the Barbarian soundtrack and I think Richard Joseph did, at times, do better work than Basil Poledouris. This is just great stuff. The sound effects are fairly basic, but sound good nevertheless.
Mostly, there are some small glitches in graphics (can't always see things perfectly, but, as noted, this isn't much of a problem and is mostly due to C64 limitations). One thing that bugs me is that while the graphics are great, most of the screen is wasted to the logo! Yes, arcade-like, and it's not like it'd been possible to construct bigger sprites anyway, but what's the point?
The Bottom Line
"Between the time when the Ocean drank the market, and the rise of the sons of Aybee-em, there was an age undreamed of. And onto this, Conan®, destined to bear the jeweled crown of A Cloned One upon a troubled brow. It is I, his game librarian, who alone can tell thee of the copycats. Let me tell you of the days of *high* pixelation!"
Picture this: You have two muscled guys, two really sharp swords, two short pants and only one shirt.
The idea of the game is to use the aforementioned sword to punctuate the other guy.
Two guys hack each other with swords, kick each other, tackle each other, and do other nasty things. Both can take certain amount of damage before dying. Alternatively, it's possible to hack the opponent's head off - quite bloody effect, considering the graphical limitations of the platform. And once the other guy is dead, a goblin comes and carries the body away (and kicks around the head if you ended the battle that way).
There are variety of locales to swordfight in; natural vistas are present in the "practice" mode (where one or two players can play), and medieval/high-fantasy castle scenes are found in the actual game (where there's actually an end boss, but who cares about the plot?).
Barbarian is definitely a to-the-point game. A fighting game can't get much more to-the-point than this.
To me, this is the definitive Conan the Barbarian game - just like Lylat Wars (Starfox 64) remains my definitive Star Wars game.