TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘ClayFighter’ broke the fighting game mold in fun and silly ways
Video games are very similar to other forms of entertainment in that no one really knows what will stick, live on through the years, or simply fall flat, never to be heard of again. There are no certainties in video games. What may seem like a surefire hit is quickly overlooked, while the most ridiculous of ideas becomes a cult classic. The latter pretty much sums up today’s subject, the last in the “Why Isn’t Nick Outside?” series for this month’s Turn to Channel 3.
Today, we will be looking at “ClayFighter” on the Super Nintendo and why it is still one of those games that faithfully sells at my store whenever we have it in stock. The question, though, is why? Well, that’s what we’re here to try to figure out!
Without a doubt, “ClayFighter” got its following from the fact it is pretty silly, and it doesn’t just show up in the obvious aspects of the game, but also in the music. There’s a really odd, yet charming soundtrack going on here, with circus music, eerie ghostly stuff, and what sounds like the perfect tune to accompany a good sea shanty, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Even the actual battles sound silly, with whirly sounding punches and kicks and characters making goofy noises as they attack, with the prime examples being the Elvis-impersonating Blue Suede Goo (“Uh-huh!”) and Helga the Viking and her shrieking opera voice. I also really liked how each character did something after they won a match, because it once again shows the sense of humor and quirky demeanor of the game.
You really can’t knock a game like “ClayFighter” for trying a different approach, particularly using a distinctive style in graphics. If you’re someone who grew up watching shows like “Gumby,” “ClayFighter” feels right at home to you with these cartoony and highly animated characters that look like something a very artistic grade school kid came up with – and that’s a good thing.
In an era where graphics were something gamers were really big on, “ClayFighter” kind of bucks that trend by offering the gamer something entirely different and totally unique which, in doing so, makes each character, along with their corresponding levels, full of personality and charm. Did anyone ever expect there to be a taffy-flavored fighter or just a random glob of goo called The Blob in a fighting game? No, but “ClayFighter” made sure that, if you ever thought of it, there was someone else out there who thought it was a damn fine idea.
“ClayFighter” is your pretty standard fighter for the time, with some great attacks, combos, and an announcer who is just as quirky as the competitors by saying things like “Wins the battle!” instead of just “You win!” like in “Street Fighter II,” which really gives the game its own distinct style within the realm of fighting games. That being said, sadly, there just weren’t enough fighters in this game to keep most gamers interested for long, and that includes your scribe. I hated having to face some characters more than once because of this, even hoping as a kid that they had mini bosses, as Vega, Balrog, and Sagat were looked at in the original “Street Fighter II.”
Lastly, the final boss was a major letdown in comparison to the rest of the roster. Any game standing next to franchises like “Street Fighter” and “Mortal Kombat” were going to look cheesy in comparison, with perhaps “Killer Instinct” being one of the few exceptions, but you really did hope “ClayFighter” would go all out, and they just didn’t, which may have led to the steady decline of the franchise in later years. It is still a blast to play, but you are often left wondering what might have been.
“ClayFighter” is one of those games that’s fun, rather inexpensive, and readily available out there in the market. It definitely changed the way we look at fighting games, but for better or worse is still up for debate. Original ideas in gaming are always looked at in one of two ways – as a ballsy move that paid off, paving the way for future generations, or a complete flop that never should have happened at all. I’d put “ClayFighter” somewhere in the middle of those two ends of the spectrum, patiently hoping for a more definitive version of the game.
Still, during the era of its debut, game developers were still throwing things against the wall and seeing if they would stick, and if there’s one thing gamers can’t argue, it’s that this clay most definitely stuck, leaving a lasting impression for years to come.
Well, that does it for me in the month of July. I hope you enjoyed the review, and be sure to join me here next week as we take a look at four games that I did all I could to play through before school started. Let’s call it the “Oh, Poop, School is Coming” month here on Turn to Channel 3, when we begin with one of the very first NES games I ever played that didn’t have a certain famous plumber in it.
Until then, keep cranking that AC, grab a snow cone in honor of Bad Mr. Frosty (and because, seriously, snow cones are awesome), and enjoy some retro gaming fun! Game on!
Note: All ratings for Turn to Channel 3 are based on a scale of 1-10.