The impact that Street Fighter II had on the industry can’t be understated. It jump started a genre, and soon, the pretenders started crowding in. The market was swamped with 1v1 fighting games, and it became difficult to stand apart from the rest. Some used licensed characters, others went the more violent route, and then there was Clay Fighter
To its credit, back in the days of Blockbuster Nights, Clay Fighter certainly stood out with its claymation graphics, wacky cover, and all the 90’s ‘
CLAY FIGHTER! CLAY-CLAY FIGHTER!
I should disclose that I’m far from a fighting game enthusiast. I’ve played more than my fair share, including some more obscure titles, but while I know my quarter-circles from my charges, I’m not in the same class of hobbyists who play competitively. So, what I’m trying to say is: this review is from someone who’s a dilettante in the genre. I’m not going to be able to comment on things like hitboxes and balance because I don’t have that background.
What I can tell you is that Clay Fighter sticks pretty close the Street Fighter II formula. It’s a six-button setup, with light, medium, and heavy attacks. Backing away from your opponent automatically blocks, as is common in the genre. Special moves are pulled off by hitting directions on the D-pad before pressing an attack button, and it thankfully sticks to the rotation method set out by Street Fighter II, rather than the dial-a-move method elsewhere.
I’M BAD, I’M COOL, I’M NO ONE’S FOOL
The whole background to this mayhem is that a clay-infused meteor lands in the middle of a circus, and now its mutated inhabitants are fighting for dominance.
The single-player mode has you battling your way across the fairgrounds, and I love the little map that tracks your progress. Like other fighting games, it initially starts off really simple but starts ramping up after a few fights until it gets into unfair territory. Worse yet, it forces you to fight some of the same characters twice, which is a little lame.
This builds up to the cleverly named N. Boss, a final battle that a lot of commentators have stated seems to have been created at the last minute. I haven’t found any information from Interplay that confirms this, but it does certainly give that impression. Sorry for the minor spoilers, but N. Boss is literally just a ring of balls that have nothing to do with clay. He fights by hurling every fighter’s projectiles at you. He’s about as cheap as you’d expect from a fighting game’s last encounter, but he’s not impossible.
HERE ARE YOUR COMBATANTS FOR THIS EXTRAVAGANZA
There are eight selectable characters, putting Clay Fighter in line with, yep, Street Fighter II. That also makes for an easy list, so let’s take a look at all of them:
Bad Mr. Frosty: Here’s your Clay Fighter version of Ryu, as he’s the poster boy. He’s a menacing snow man who wants endless winter. His moves include a projectile and the ability to launch yourself across the screen.
Taffy: The Clay Fighter version of… Dhalsim? True to his name, Taffy is a stretchy candy guy who attacks using hyperactive fist tornadoes and other sugar-driven attacks.
Tiny: Tiny is a muscle-bound wrestler dude who disturbs me. It’s something about how his palette affects the details on his face. Despite being a wrestler, he’s actually not a grapple character, which kind of detracts from his unique features.
Blue Suede Goo: My parents had to explain the reference when I was a child. This Elvis impersonator is freakishly ugly, making good use of the grotesque clay modeling. He attacks using musical notes and his razor-sharp pompadour.
Ickybod Clay: My fallback character. Ickybod Clay is a pumpkin-headed ghost with good mobility. I mostly just like him for his spooky attitude.
Helga: I always forget about Helga. She’s an opera singer, and in the single-player mode, she’s the first character you compete against. Easily beaten and quickly forgotten, despite being the token female. She fights using her significant mass and singing ability.
Bonker: A completely ripped clown. Bonker’s kind of cool. He’s got an intimidating edge to him without going with the whole creepy clown look, and his personality is somewhat enjoyable. He attacks using your typical clown equipment, but unfortunately, there’s no clown car attack.
TAFFY VS. TAFFY
Aside from that, Clay Fighter has to fall back on its charm and to be fair, there’s a decent supply here. The characters were all modeled out in clay, as the name of the game implies, and animated using stop motion. It works reasonably well, and it gives the game a unique appearance. The backgrounds are all done in the traditional manner, but they still manage to fit well with the fighters.
The characters themselves and their movesets are humourous, and the sound samples are typically enjoyable without getting overly repetitive. The announcer who calls out the beginning and end of the match is a particularly nice touch. The animations are, likewise, fun to observe, though the animation is a bit choppy, being on the SNES and all.
The game also opens with a theme song complete with lyrics, and it’s pretty fun. The rest of the soundtrack is pretty forgettable, but while there are no standouts, it at least fits the theme well enough.
BIG HUNK O’ BURNIN’ CLAY
You’re certainly not going to find Clay Fighter at any fighting game tournaments, but it’s far from the worst offender in the genre. If anything, Clay Fighter deserves to be remembered for its novel graphical style and personality it so prominently displays. It’s worth seeing, if only once, so if you’ve got a free afternoon or a lazy weekend, it might be worth getting some clay under your fingernails.
This review was performed on a SNES using an original cartridge version of the game. It was paid for by the author.