The original Clay Fighter was a pretty landmark title for me. My family and I rented it multiple times and I recall enthusiastically discussing it with friends. Strangely, though, while I was aware of the existence of a sequel, I never actually saw it in childhood. It never showed up at my usual rental haunts, and none of my friends had it.
This changed when I grew up and was able to buy my own games with my own money, but it still holds this mystique for me. Like it’s some kind of lost game; something that was never released; something that shouldn’t exist; something I only glimpsed in ads. But it does exist: Clay Fighter 2: Judgment Clay. This means I have the opportunity to get it on my autopsy table and pull it apart with my bare hands. Like Dr. Bob. Do you get that reference? It was, like, internet circa 2003. Wow, I’m old.
A METEOR CRASHED ON FATEFUL DAY…
Once again, I feel it’s important to disclaim that, while I’m no stranger to the genre, I am far removed from a fighting game enthusiast. I know my quarter-circles, charges, and dial-a-combos, but I couldn’t tell you anything about hitboxes and frames unless there was something really seriously, tangibly wrong with them.
There’s nothing seriously wrong with Clay Fighter 2: Judgment Clay. It borrows heavily from Street Fighter II to the point where if you get the basics of that game, you’ll be comfortable here. You have light, medium, and heavy attacks in the punch and kick categories, with special moves generally being pulled off using the rotational method, rather than dial-a-combo, which is a plus, as far as I’m concerned.
One notable omission is the lack of grab moves. It was actually incredibly jarring for me and I had to change a lot of my strategies to make up for it.
As for what separates it from the first game; there’s actually quite a bit. The cast has been shaken up, the graphics have been redone, and the levels are all new. It’s not just a “turbo” edition, it’s a completely new experience.
FROM THE SAME MOLD
Well, sort of. Similar to the first game, C2: Judgment Clay is more about the humour and spectacle rather than providing a satisfying fighting experience. You’re not going to find it at any fighting game tournaments is what I’m saying. There’s a certain stiffness to it that is hard to describe, but, once again, I’m sure someone that religiously follows the genre could pin down exactly what’s wrong with it.
However, in terms of a fun time, it certainly is more successful in that regard. There’s a rift in personality between the original Clay Fighter and this game that I find appealing. There’s a creepiness to it lurking beneath. The fighters are less goofy and more cartoony and the backgrounds have an unsettling quality to them. A neighbourhood dominated by delinquent babies and a bizarrely proportioned boxing crowd are surreal environments to fight it out in, but my favourite is the penultimate stage that features grotesque images of fighters who didn’t make it over from the first game.
Speaking of which, from the eight fighters in the original, only three are carried over to create a cast of… eight fighters. Technically. The final battle for each fighter is an evil version of themselves, and it goes a little bit further than just palette swapping the existing sprite; they’re actually completely new fighters. Maybe a bit of a cop-out, but I feel it’s an exciting and creative way to extend the cast. And yes, you can play as them if you input a code. Every time. Because there’s no saving.
BLOB WINS THE BOUT
Now that I’m removed from the game, let’s see if I can name all eight fighters: Bad Mr. Frosty, Tiny, Blob, Kangoo, Nanaman, Octohead, Googoo, and Hoppy. This little test was to prove to myself that the cast of Clay Fighter 2 is relatively memorable. I played as Blob. I always play as Blob.
The new fighters are pretty fun. Nanaman is, well, a banana. Googoo is some street tough baby. The most disappointing part of the cast is that we have the same number as before. While the playable character count continued to grow in the various Street Fighter II ports for the SNES, this one just replaced characters. And, frankly, I liked Taffy and Bonker. Why is Tiny back? he creeps me out!
Actually, there’s something of an interesting story behind Tiny’s inclusion. Apparently, the developers weren’t happy with the clay models created by the new studio compared to the ones in the first game. To prove a point, or something, they put the original game’s Tiny sprite back into the game for comparison. Petty, if true, but I actually like the new sprite work.
I mean, instead of just computer generated backgrounds, like in the first game, the backgrounds in C2 are actually created with clay. It’s unsettlingly malproportioned in some areas, but they seem more interesting. Moreover, I found the new character designs to be cleaner and more colourful. Sure, maybe the first game’s models had more detail, but that doesn’t necessarily come across on a 16-bit system.
The early ‘90s saw a glut of fighting games vying for a fraction of Street Fighter II’s success, and a lot of them were bad. I own a lot of these bad fighting games, actually, so I feel like I’m able to at least identify what drags and what pops. Clay Fighter 2 does neither. It’s not as offensive as its later kin, Clay Fighter 63⅓, but it certainly doesn’t refine and improve the high points of Clay Fighter. Honestly, I think that’s perhaps its greatest sin. If anything, it’s something of a step back in a few regards.
No. Clay Fighter 2 is fine. Just fine. Like I said in my lede, it has a mystique to me, but that’s done now. I’m done. It’s finished. I honestly can’t tell which game in the series I’m most likely to pull off the shelf next, but I can tell you that none really excite me that much.
This review was conducted on an SNES using a cartridge version of the game. It was paid for by the author.