ClayFighter 63 1/3 Review

ClayFighter 63 1/3

Though the ClayFighter series’ first two installments were released on 16-bit consoles, its third and final iteration was released on the Nintendo 64, under the title of ClayFighter 63 1/3 (a not-so clever parody of the system’s tendency to drop the number 64 in the titles of its games). While 63 1/3 does make small improvements to the ClayFighter formula, it still suffers from being an incredibly uneventful fighter that has only become more dated with age.

First, let’s look at the positives. The clay-inspired visuals look better than ever, thanks to the jump to the Nintendo 64. More so than ever before, the characters of ClayFighter look like clay animated characters were thrown into a video game (though the environments look less clay-like than ever, ironically enough).

Another bonus is that this ClayFighter actually features proper combos, which can either be done by chaining together normal attacks, or by unleashing special combos by hitting certain button combinations after building up a special meter. Additionally, players can unleash “Claytalities” on their opponents to finish them off in a direct parody of Mortal Kombat’s fatalities, which can provide some funny animations. So this ClayFighter actually has a little bit of depth to the mechanics (although the emphasis of that statement goes to the words “a little bit”).

On the downside, the game features no in-game menus that detail how to perform the characters’ special combos, nor is their any practice mode for players to discover such details. In this day and age you can always look to the internet to find such things out, but no game should require the player the look outside of the game to find out all of its finer controls. How hard could it have been to have included a short list of any given character’s moves in the pause menu?

As for the character selection, the ever-present Bad Mr. Frosty and Blob make a return, as do some characters from the original title, like Taffy and Bonker (the latter receiving a complete overhaul in design) and my personal favorite, Ickybod Clay. T-Hoppy, a cyborg version of the Schwarzenegger-inspired rabbit from ClayFighter 2, is the only recurring character from the second game.

ClayFighter 63 1/3Unfortunately, the characters introduced here are probably the most unappealing batch the series produced. The newcomers include Kung Pow, a kung fu master who can basically be summed up as every Asian stereotype in the book. There’s also Happy Harry Houngan, an evil witch doctor. Sumo Santa is a malevolent, morbidly obese Santa Clause. And the mad scientist Dr. Kilnklein serves as the main antagonist of the game. Additionally, two guest characters arrive in the forms of the probably-better-remembered-than-he-deserves Earthworm Jim and the why-was-he-ever-a-thing Boogerman.

It’s not exactly a winning cast of newcomers, to put it lightly. They’re either too gross or too uninspired to make you care much about them. And the guest characters aren’t exactly gaming icons. Even worse is that many of the characters have pretty annoying voices (despite the presence of a few prominent voice actors), leaving a lot to be desired in the audio department. I even like Ickybod Clay a little less after re-discovering he sounds like a combination of Steve Urkel and Gurgi from The Black Cauldron.

In a little bit of a plus, the game does feature some relatively dynamic stages for the series, with players being able to move in 360-degree battlefields, and can knock their opponents to additional sections of the levels (though the transitioning leaves a lot to be desired).

ClayFighter 63 1/3Admittedly, ClayFighter 63 1/3 may provide some decent fun when playing with a friend, though perhaps for not exactly the right reasons. It’s still a goofy fighting game that cares more about its “humor” than its substance, so you may be able to get a few laughs out of the intentionally stupid nature of the game, if you can ignore its balancing issues and slow-paced fighting. But it’s definitely going to be a short-lived sense of fun, since there are no additional game modes to speak of outside of the single player story mode and two-player vs.  mode. And many other basic fighting game mechanics (like the aforementioned moves lists) are annoyingly MIA. So if you take the improved visuals and working combos out of the equation, it’s still the same old ClayFighter.

An additional version of the game was released under the title ClayFighter: Sculptor’s Cut, with more characters and new features, but was released exclusively as a Blockbuster rental, and now ranks as one of the more expensive Nintendo 64 titles online. Though only the most diehard game collectors would probably want to fork over the dough for the special edition, since the gist of the experience can be found here. Though it may be a small improvement over its predecessors, ClayFighter 63 1/3 is still a pretty bland fighter.

 

3

ClayFighter Review

ClayFighter

ClayFighter was something of a novelty back in the day. In the times when Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat had popularized the fighting game, ClayFighter was a parody of the genre. It has something of a nostalgic quality to those who experienced it back then, and while its clay-inspired aesthetics have made the game’s visuals not only stand-out, but hold up surprisingly well, much of the nostalgia that ClayFighter elicits is more than a little misplaced, as it is not a very good fighter.

The big appeals of ClayFighter were the visuals, which tried to emulate the look of clay animation, and its sense of humor. While I already mentioned that the unique visuals still stand out, the humor is a bit juvenile and charmless, and gets way too much priority over gameplay.

Players can select eight different characters: Bad Mr. Frosty is a snowman with an attitude, Bonker is a crazed clown, Helga is an opera singer, Tiny is a musclebound strongman, Ickybod Clay is a pumpkin-headed ghost, Blue Suede Goo is an overweight Elvis impersonator, Taffy is a living piece of taffy, and the self-explanatory Blob is a simple blob of clay.

The characters are all simple enough in designs, and work well with the clay-like visuals. They may not be a particularly memorable cast, but they are, at the very least, more inspired than the additional characters that would show up in the sequels.

The gameplay is the game’s great flaw, with the combat being little more than mindless button-mashing. There was clearly a heavier focus on trying to bring out comedy in the characters than there was on any deeper mechanics (Bonker throws pies! Blob morphs into a giant fist when he punches!). Not only is the comedy not that funny, but there are no detailed combos or strategies to speak of. You really do just hit some buttons to do basic attacks and try to avoid those of your opponent.

There is also a clear lack of balance within the characters. Blob is more or less the go-to character to play if you want to win, while the game gives little justification for selecting Tiny or Blue Suede Goo.

To make it all worse, the game’s AI when playing single player is just bad. You can quite literally win a match by spamming the same attack, either by vanquishing an AI who keeps running into said attack, or by your opponent doing nothing but blocking as you repeat the same move over and over again. I actually won a match by hitting my opponent twice, and then just standing in place and spammed a single attack, and the computer just blocked until the time ran out, allowing me to win by having just slightly more health.

ClayFighter’s gameplay simply feels unpolished, and despite the clever visual idea, the game has no creativity to speak of in other areas. Aside from the empty gameplay, many of the stages are just palette swaps of others, and the final boss of the single player mode has to be the worst in the genre’s history.

ClayFighterThe un-cleverly named N. Boss basically epitomizes the game’s lack of caring. Not only does he not share the clay-like visual of the other characters, but his character design is simply a ring of white balls with two eyeballs on top. He only uses the projectile moves of other characters, and the announcer doesn’t even say his name. Has there even been such an obviously rushed-in-the-last-minute character in a game? There’s nothing to N. Boss, and he basically speaks for the whole game.

ClayFighter may have a soft spot for some gamers of the era, but it is a fighter best left to memory. The world of gaming didn’t suffer any great loss for not having the ClayFighter series continue very far.

3

ClayFighter 2: Judgement Clay Review

ClayFighter 2: Judgement Clay

If you’re looking for forgotten fighting game franchises that probably should remain forgotten, it’s hard to top ClayFighter. The series holds some nostalgic value for some due to its unique art direction, which attempted to replicate the look of clay animation. But take away that one attribute and one thing becomes clear: ClayFighter is pretty bad.

ClayFighter 2: Judgement Clay – an annoyingly obvious parody of Terminator 2: Judgement Day – might not be the worst game in the series, but it does a good job at summing up its many shortcomings.

The most obvious of these shortcomings being the gameplay. This was a series that spawned in the wake of Street Fighter 2’s success, so there was a standard for the genre to live up to. But ClayFighter evidently missed the memo, and borrows none of the intricacies or depth of Street Fighter’s gameplay. Even the monotonous fighting of the original Mortal Kombat feels fleshed out by comparison.

ClayFighter simply took a popular genre, and added its own schtick to the equation (clay characters) and called it a day. It’s one of those poorly conceived fighters that seems to cater to button mashing as opposed to requiring any kind of strategies, combos, or anything that requires being thought-out. There are also some terrible balance issues, with some characters – namely the self-explanatory Blob – making the game much easier due to the outrageous advantages they have over others.

The characters are an odd assortment of cartoon characters: Bad Mr. Frosty is a snowman with an attitude, Googoo is a big, ugly baby, and Hoppy is a musclebound bunny who parodies Arnold Schwarzenegger, which puts him in that most played out of cliches of a cute thing being turned violent. These are just a few of the characters, who also have “evil” counterparts who can be unlocked. The game is clearly going for a kind of tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, but the characters are so charmless that the humor never really comes through.

I must admit that the clay-inspired character models still hold up pretty well. The character designs themselves aren’t too pretty to look at, but the game was pretty successful at mimicking the clay look through its limitations. Though Hoppy’s character model looks suspiciously less clay-like, which might be a sign of either a lack of caring or time with his creation.

ClayFighter 2: Judgement Clay is a hard game to recommend except for those who have the utmost nostalgia for it. Even then I’m sure those people probably have nostalgia for other games that are far more worth a revisit. “C2” just feels like a basic, rushed fighter that lacks any real creativity or depth. The graphics are fun to look at for a short time, but they can’t hide the shallow gameplay, unfunny sense of humor, poor balance, and general lack of fun.

 

3