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Clayfighter 63 & 1/3




Interplay 1997

Nintendo 64


Follow up to the 16 bit games of the same name. The main thing with Clayfighter is that it parodies other fighting games but at times it's funny enough in it's own right.

Returning from The OG Clayfighter are The Blob, Bad Mr. Frosty the Evil snowman, Taffy the guy made out of, um, taffy, Ickybod Clay the pumpkin-headed ghost person, and Bonker the sadistic clown. New to the ranks is Hougan the witch doctor, Kung-Pow chinese kung-fu cook, T-Hoppy the bionic rabbit, and Earthworm Jim. Hidden characters include Sumo Santa, the boss Dr. Klin, and Boogerman (also from his own 16 bit game.) The character design is probably the best aspect of the game, however some of them are pretty racist actually. Kung-Pow is a walking Chinese stereotype who has a move called "Egg Fu Young," attacks with chopsticks, has a bowl cut and buck teeth, and holds up a box of take out food and says "Fo' hera o' to go?" Houdun the witchdoctor has a thick Indian accent, his head spins around like in the exorcist, and has a charge move called where he says "Fly the Indian skies." So totally, blatantly racist. I still laughed at them though.

Onward to the game, well.. first thing you notice is the graphics are really good. The environments are flawless, with clear textures and stages that actually look interesting. The characters themselves look a little odd though. Thing is they're digitized photos of figures made out of clay, but when superimposed upon 3D environments made up of polygons the effect is they end up looking like paper cut outs. Kind of defeats the purpose of the whole clay-thing when everybody looks all flat. This doesn't really detract from gameplay any, it's just weird.

As for gameplay, it's Clayfigter, so you'll probably hate it. To be fair it plays a lot better than the 16 bit Clayfighters. There are the usual Street-fighteresqe half circle and charge moves along with what seems like dial-a-combos ala MK 3. All of the combos were given funny names to Parody Killer Instinct ("Weak combo," "Baby Combo," "Grandma Combo," "Cheesy Combo," etc.) In addition to the usual charge, projectile, and throw moves you can also dodge with the L and R buttons, which just reinforces the illusion that the characters are flat. There are also Super-combo type moves and "Clayalities."

For the most part all of the characters are pretty effective, some a little too effective. Kung-Pow and Ickybod Clay far outrank the other characters to the point where it's not even funny while Earthworm Jim is pretty useless. Most characters can link one or two specials at the same time and dish out 18-36 hit combos which is pretty cheap the first time the computer does it to you. Seems as if the A. I. has gotten a lot smarter from the earlier versions because you can no longer just corner a guy and weak kick him to death. The game's difficulty is as uneven as the characters. On normal level you can beat the game blindfolded (I know this because I did it, tied to a chair with one hand behind my back and a meat grinder on my wee wee) while on the hardest level ("Psycho") good luck even getting past the first guy.

Sadly even the higher memory and processing power of the N64 doesn't give us any better animation for the characters. The backgrounds look great, the detail in the characters is awesome, but they still animate like incomplete choppy piles of crapola. Which is really too bad actually because it's the one thing that kills it for the rest of the game. The animation is on par with sixteen bit versions of Street Fighter II, which may look fine for sprite animation, just doesn't cut it for large, highly detailed, digitized characters. It would come off so much better if the animation were on par with say, Primal Rage, which I know the N64 could probably handle with no problem.

Such an ambitious title that ultimately falls flat in execution. It would have come off so much better if the clay characters were fleshed out with some polygons or something or if they had more decent animation.

Graphics: Good character design, really good looking backgrounds, large and detailed sprites. Crappy animation and flat cardboard cut-out fighters ruins the illusion.

Sound: Lots of very clear (and funny) voice samples. Low fluety circus music somewhat blends into the background.

Gameplay: "Egg-Fu Young! Egg-Fu Young!" over and over until the other guy dies.