Ah, 1991. Capcom had given us the glorious Street Fighter II. A sequel to a ho-hum, tournament fighting game. It created a host of clones, while reinvigorating both fighting games, and arcades. Nearly every fighting game that has followed owes at least something to Street Fighter II. But with every popular idea, there is usually a parody waiting.
PROS: Nice graphics. Decent animation. Good play control. Funny!
CONS: Some of the humor dates itself. Not as fun as Street Fighter II Turbo.
THEME SONG: As iconic as Street Fighter II’s introduction music.
Clay Fighter Tournament Edition isn’t the first Clay Fighter. It’s technically an upgrade of the first game. It works in the vein of a Street Fighter II Turbo. Expanding the content, along with some tweaks. But just like the original vanilla version, it’s a parody of Street Fighter II. It also has a few jabs at Mortal Kombat, although there aren’t any fatalities to speak of. Actually, as you’ll see it mocks the entire fighting game genre.
Clay Fighter TE has its own storyline. It’s silly, and preposterous but gives you a reason as to why these characters exist. As well as why they’re beating up each other. One day a meteor falls from the sky, and completely levels a carnival. When this happens, all of the various performers are mutated into stop motion behemoths. Each of them are stand ins for the archetypes you see in other fighting games.
Bad Mr. Frosty is Clay Fighter’s Ryu. He is a snow man who spreads pain rather than joy. He is the flagship character of the series, appearing in every iteration. There are a host of other favorites like Helga, the opera singer. Taffy, who is made of, well, taffy. Bonker is a psychotic clown character. Because you can’t have a carnival or circus theme without one. But he’s honestly a pretty fun character here. There’s Ickybod Clay, a reference to Sleepy Hollow. There’s Elvis Presley impersonator Blue Suede Goo. There’s Tiny, who of course is not tiny at all. He’s the game’s Zangief. Rounding it out you have The Blob. Who is quite literally a blob of clay.
The art, and general look of Clay Fighter is awesome. Each character has gone through a painstaking creation process. They were modeled in clay, then animated in stop motion, and then the animated frames were scanned into the game. The finished product looks somewhere between Street Fighter’s airbrushed look, and Mortal Kombat’s digitized actors. It would have been easy for Visual Concepts (Yes. That Visual Concepts) to have slapped some clones together or digitize their own actors. But the extra effort goes a long way here.
Stage backgrounds are also really cool. As with the characters themselves, the stages are mostly clay models that were photographed, and placed in the game. You can tell which parts were drawn in to go along with the photos, which can be a little jarring. But for all intents, and purposes these are some well crafted backgrounds. Moreover, the fighting system in Clay Fighter TE is pretty good. It’s clear the designers knew eventually the jokes would stop being funny. So they had to keep you playing. Rather than do it with more gimmicks, they built a solid game underneath it all. There is definitely enough here to make you fire it up every now, and again.
The fighting system does borrow a lot from Street Fighter II. Most of the characters moves are performed with similar quarter circle movements, or back, and forward charges. As for the regular moves it also borrows Capcom’s 6 button layout. There are weak, medium, and strong attacks for both kicks, and punches. Tournament Edition also takes a page from SFII Turbo by implementing a speed feature. So if you’re used to zany speeds in your fighters there’s something here for you. With that said, the game’s mechanics aren’t quite up to the level of Street Fighter II. The hit boxes around characters are a little bit more forgiving, and some characters have special moves with very similar inputs. Sometimes you might want to have Bad Mr. Frosty throw a snowball fist, only to perform his ice breath instead.
While that is certainly bad news, it isn’t so bad that it takes away from the fun. The moves do work, but you’ll have to learn the specific differences in their commands. This way you’re consistently doing the special moves you want, instead of accidentally doing the ones you don’t. The game also does let you get in a number of combos, and two in one attacks. While you wouldn’t think a parody game could be competitive, Clay Fighter Tournament Edition actually can be. Even if it isn’t likely to be in a high-profile tournament these days. Those who simply love the fighting game genre should still find some fun in it.
Clay Fighter Tournament Edition has your basic modes. There is the standard arcade mode where you have to beat the roster, then a boss. Strangely, the game will have you re match three characters once you beat the roster. Once you’ve done that, then you can go up against the final boss. The game’s boss is a little bit underwhelming though. It is just a bunch of clay balls animated to make out a face. It can use all of the characters’ various projectile moves. On higher difficulties the boss, and the game in general is a challenge. Often times things veer into cheap territory. But if you want the game’s best endings you’ll want to play the game through on its harder settings.
Beyond the arcade ladder is the standard 1 on 1 Vs. mode. Each player picks a character, the number of rounds needed to win, and their handicap. Aside from that there is also the Tournament ladder. Here you can have up to 8 people play through a bracket to get to the top spot. Handy for the odd time you have a number of people over.
Overall, Clay Fighter TE holds up pretty well. It has a goofy charm to its silliness. The fighting system is pretty good, and it is still fun to play. It might not be able to captivate you very long in today’s crowded crop of excellent fighters. But it is a fun diversion. Plus its still miles ahead of the mediocre fighters we’ve seen over the last 20 years. If you find a copy in your area pick it up. If you have a Wii, the original is also on the Shop Channel.
Final Score: 7 out of 10