I rented this game with my brother back in the 90’s and remember having a blast playing it! The characters were hilarious, the moves were funny, and the fighting was fun and seemed so different and more accessible compared to the ultra competitive Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. I decided to revisit this game with my brother over the past weekend – with mixed results.
While stories in fighting games were minimal in the 90’s, the story contained in the actual game cartridge brings new meaning to the word. The story thus far…the ClayFighters had one goal in all the universe – to be the King of the Circus!?!? What? That’s it??! I thought this was uninspired. My disappointment lead me to do research and I found that there was more in the manual (which I did not have)! The story continues…a clay meteor crashed into a city where a circus was taking place, and transforms all the people in the circus into clay caricatures of themselves…and so they battle to be King of the Circus.
This addition is fun and explains why everyone and everything is made out of clay, but still leaves a bit to be desired – why do I want to be King of the Circus? I would have liked if the developers answered this question and further included a few slides in the games intro showing the city getting smacked by a clay meteor – could have been cool and helped with the world building!
In terms of gameplay, the game is a 2D fighter. Players start by selecting their character and then battle it out in the ring! It plays similar to Street Fighter 2 in that characters have weak, medium, and strong punches and kicks and a variety special moves that can be activated with button combinations. Despite these similarities, the gameplay feels simple and dubbed down. Combos don’t really feel present which makes it less fun to play, and the characters themselves feel too similar in how they handle despite their unique special attacks. I played this game with my brother and within 20 or 30 minutes we had reached our limit with the game – it just wasn’t fun anymore.
Outside of the gameplay, the graphics are where this game really shines! The game is full of colour and the characters are really cool to look at because they all look like they are made out of clay! Their designs are excellent with each one having a hilarious (and sometimes scary) caricatures. Icky the Jack-O-Lantern is my favourites because they just look so damn cool! The special moves also fit the characters nicely as they incorporate the character designs into the moves (i.e., the Blob turns into a saw, Helga the opera singer bellows sound waves, et cetera). Each character has a themed stage that appropriately fits their story and looks the part as well!
In terms of the graphical presentation, I had a bit of an issue with the character select screen. Most 2D fighting games use a graphical approach to showcase which fighters are available to select, but in this game there is just a list of the characters (see below). While it’s cool to see the stats of how many wins, ties, and losses each player has, the screen nevertheless felt incomplete.
In terms of sound, the game has an impressive-sounding announcer that introduces each fighter by their name! The sound effects are also okay and suits to comedic nature of the characters. The music on the other hand is pretty awful but luckily is not played very loudly during fights.
In summary, this is a graphically unique fighting game that just falls short in terms of its gameplay. The characters looks great and the announcer is hilarious, but everything else just feels shallow and unfinished (especially in terms of the menu screen). This game was fun for all of 30 minutes and not even nostalgia could extend it further. Overall, I give this game a 5/10. It’s functional, but it’s not nearly as fun as I remember.
Final Score: 5/10