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.
Unfortunately, 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).
Admittedly, 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.