Clay Fighter 63 1/3 Review

Last week I talked about one of the best parody games around. Clay Fighter eventually found its way onto the Sega Genesis after a run on the Super NES. Then it was beefed up for an upgrade release on the Super NES. The game I covered the last week. After that game came Clay Fighter 2: Judgment Clay, which not only lampooned fighting games, but the Terminator sequel. Unfortunately I won’t be talking about it any time soon as I don’t have a copy. But I do have one of the final versions of Clay Fighter. (Until the recently announced reboot sees daylight.) Which is what we’ll cover today.

PROS: Increased goofiness. Claytalities. A host of top name voice talent.

CONS: Poor graphics. New fighting system.

REALLY?: One character is a very bad stereotype. Oh yeah. Really.

Clay Fighter 63 1/3 makes some big changes to the Clay Fighter formula. Some are alright. Others not so much. One of the most noteworthy changes is the move from a Street Fighter inspired fighting system to a Killer Instinct fighting system. Oh sure, you still have your weak, medium, fierce button layouts, but the organic play is changed. As in Killer Instinct, later Mortal Kombat games, and a host of other fighters you’ll have a host of Dial-a-Combos. But where Killer Instinct merged these predetermined combos with some level of self-reliance, this game doesn’t. At least it doesn’t succeed in its attempt. The problem is that the movement speed of the characters doesn’t entirely meld with the timing needed. So while there is a little bit more depth here than in something like War Gods, you still have many moments where things feel clunky. Chaining moves with these Dial-a-Combos doesn’t feel as smooth as it does in Killer Instinct.

The game also implements the Street Fighter Combo meter. You can fill up to three bars, choose to either use them one at a time, or use all three when filled. Be that as it may, this Clay Fighter entry still does a few things right. This is one of the earliest fighting games to give us transitioning backgrounds. All of the stages are tied together in some way. Every stage has a secret entrance to another stage. As you fight, if you pull off a hard enough attack near one of these segments you can knock your opponent into another stage. Things continue to borrow from Killer Instinct as you play. Backgrounds rotate during your battles. Each player has two life bars. There are even Fatalities in this entry. They’re called Claytalities, and most of them are pretty funny the first few times you see them. The game even introduces a couple of secret characters. This brings the total number of characters to 12. Many of the characters from earlier games return here. Bad Mr. Frosty, Bonker, Taffy, and Ickybod Clay are here. Earthworm Jim is also here as a cameo along with Boogerman, a character from one of Interplay’s platformers.

A lot of the best voice actors around are here. Dan Castanella known for his role as Homer Simpson is here. Jim Cummings of Darkwing Duck fame is here. Even Rob Paulsen of Pinky, and The Brain had a hand in the game’s voice over. All of whom put in some great work here. It would have been easy to phone in a few lines of dialogue, but they treated it like any of their other projects. But there is one character in particular who was, and is very divisive. Kung Pow. Kung Pow is every bad Chinese stereotype rolled into one character. Many will be upset, a few might laugh, but no one will argue it is in poor taste. He speaks in broken English, all of his moves are named after Chinese restaurant meals, and have animations to match.They even designed him with the stereotypical over bite, and bowl hair cut. Even during release people were asking “Really?”.

On top of the blight that is a character made for pure shock value, the game doesn’t have the memorable look of the original game. While characters are, once again sprites made from stop motion animation, backgrounds are another story. Everything has a dim, muddy look to it. Geometry. Textures. Everything looks bland, dull, and lifeless. Gone are the hilarious, and fun backgrounds from the Super NES. Even though there are a number of stage transitions they all suffer the same boring feel. Boring  is not the vibe you want from your parody game. Sadly, that’s what the game becomes. The comedy that is here does wane pretty quickly. The change in the fighting system does little to keep you playing. Clay Fighter 63 1/3 doesn’t have much in the way of multiplayer either. You have the standard 2 player Vs. mode, and that’s… about it.

Aside from the secret characters, the game does have a handful of hidden things in it. There is a secret menu you can pull up, that will let you turn off the Claytality timer, scale the size of the characters, and other minor changes. There is also an option for someone to control the game’s camera with a controller in port 4. Beyond that, there’s a cheat code to enable well.. cheats. Ultimately, Clay Fighter 63 1/3 isn’t as fun, funny or as memorable as the original Clay Fighter. In spite of having a lot of great voice talent, and improved models, it still falls short on all of those fronts. The most interesting thing about the game is that like Clay Fighter Tournament Edition, it does have an upgrade.

One many will probably never see. And in the unlikely event that you do see it in person, it will be fairly expensive to take home. Clay Fighter Sculptor’s Cut came out a short time after 63 1/3 failed to make an impact. It fixes some (not all) of the sluggish problems in the fighting engine. It adds one of the characters who was cut from 63 1/3, and a couple of new characters. Presumably because of the lower than expected sales of the base game, Sculptor’s Cut became an exclusive rental. Blockbuster Video was the only vendor to get copies, and it was rarely sold until they began to scuttle their retail locations. The few copies in the wild fetch a high price due to their rarity. If you’re especially lucky enough to find a copy with a manual, and box hang onto it very tightly.

As for the game itself, it is only slightly better than the base game. If you’re a fan of the general concept, and characters Clay Fighter introduced to fighting games Clay Fighter 63 1/3 might be worth owning. If only because of the historical aspect behind it. It isn’t a horrible game, but it isn’t particularly great either. The controversial Kung Pow character also doesn’t help its case. It is an interesting game in the sense of analyzing a misfire. But it isn’t something that will keep you busy for years. It never hits the un-functional levels of Dark Rift, but it isn’t going to give you the replay value the original did either. It’s average. Boring, and painfully at times. It’s been revealed there are plans for a new entry in the long dormant series. Hopefully that game will take its cues from the Super NES cult favorite. Not this swing, and a miss sequel.

Final Score: 5 out of 10

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