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Clayfighter 63 1/3 (Nintendo 64) artwork

Clayfighter 63 1/3 (Nintendo 64) review

"So, just how funny are those lines? Well, they're worth a few laughs. For as much as an hour or two, you're likely to find them quite amusing. Then you'll realize you're playing a crappy game and that you can have almost as much fun watching a rerun of Seinfeld. It's hard to listen to Santa's idle threats for very long without tiring of them, and this is true of any character."

The fighting genre swept the nation by storm with Capcom's introduction of-- blah, blah, blah. Sometimes, I get sick of the number of ways people find to present these same facts. The head-to-head fighting genre takes itself too seriously, and so do its fans. Developers do, too. Well, except Interplay. The company most known for its ancient role-playing titles and for shoddy PC ports decided one day that it was time to kick games like Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat squarely in the nuts.

The first blow was Clayfighter for the Super Nintendo, followed by its sequel, C2: Judgment Clay. When those titles did well, Interplay decided to take the craze to the Nintendo 64 with the introduction of the humorously-titled Clayfighter 63 1/3. And did they succeed? Is the game the sort of milestone that deserves a place in the history books? In a word, no.

''Let's get ready to cruuuuuuuuuumble!''

As the title of Clayfighter 63 1/3 suggests, this game involves clay. More specifically, it involves a medium-sized roster of fighters (at least, in the pre-Tekken days) fashioned from the substance. There's not a single fighter in the lot who looks even remotely normal, and that extends beyond the gooey substance from which they are all composed.

Though it ends up looking rather ugly, the graphical approach here should probably be praised for at least a moment. You won't doubt for a minute that the characters are 'clay fighters.' Their limbs kind of ooze together and allow them to melt from one move to another with the same effortless grace one would expect from real clay monsters fashioned by third graders on an elementary school playground. Eyes are blobs of clay, colors are drab, and that's just the fighters themselves.

Each of the characters is quite different from the next. You'll appreciate the sinister look to Bad Mr. Frosty, a twisted snowman who was plotting world domination when Sweet Tooth was just a gleam in the eye of some developer over at Insomniac. He's a character from the previous games, and so is 'The Blob,' my personal franchise favorite. Other characters are more original, including a chef with blades as weapons, and a character that looks like a sickening mix between a sumo wrestler and Santa Claus.

There's no arguing that the cast of characters is rendered in a satisfactory manner.

Unfortunately, that leaves us with the environments. If kids at a schoolyard were playing with clay dolls, I suppose they would use twigs to represent trees, and perhaps a milk carton to serve as a haunted house. Or something. I have to think that's what the people at Interplay figured, in any event, because that's exactly what you get here. Regardless of the arena, they all share one thing in common: overwhelming blandness. Textures blur together crazily, and reek of 'rush job.' I'd like to say that they at least sacrifice detail in the name of clay, but they don't. Though everything is suitably dark and dreary, none of it looks very good.

On a more positive note, at least the environments are expansive. Not only that, but they have hidden areas. Fight outside a haunted house, for example, and you might find yourself transported inside. You'll have to figure out how to break apart key pieces of the limited architecture to accomplish this, but it's one of the games most noteworthy touches, just the same. Most arenas seem to have three separate areas, and you might venture into any of those over the course of a three-round fight.

''My elves hit harder than you!''

Yes, most fights last about three rounds. Less, if one player sucks and the other kicks all sort of butt. This is typical stuff here, and to top it off, it's not even executed that well.

A match begins with the two opponents facing one another, as you have grown to expect if you've played head-to-head fighting games. Players must hit each other for all they're worth as life meters quake at each blow. The round ends when time expires, or a life meter is satisfactorily depleted. These are the rules, and Interplay knew better than to mess with them.

Another rule around the time this game released was the combo. Killer Instinct was making the rounds at about that time, and had met with considerable success in the arcades and, to a lesser degree, on home consoles. So, it was only natural that Interplay decided to implement this passing craze in Clayfighter 63 1/3. Unfortunately, the inclusion of this little innovation severely crippled gameplay.

While a round in Clayfighter on the Super Nintendo was the fairly average matter of kicking the clay out of your opponent with well-timed blows, things are quite different on the Nintendo 64. Instead of fighting a slow-moving but satisfying round, you'll instead find yourself circling your opponent as you both watch for an opening. Then someone will move in, let loose with a terrible combo, and the other will try and dodge. It's really quite disappointing. Though the ability to use combos does require a certain amount of skill, it seems like the ones that do the most damage come most easily to the hands of those players who just randomly mash buttons (you know who you are).

Practice, therefore, will simply cause you to grow proficient at dealing out combos. Once you know how to use combos, any fight is just a matter of being the first to spot an opening, then going for it. The minute you realize this, you'll know you're left with only one other reason to play: the game's sense of humor.

''Santa's gonna sit on your lap!''

Most of the humor in the game comes from the characters. I know I already mentioned them, but they are cool enough to bear repeating. After all, what other game lets you pit a short-order cook against a diabolical snowman?

Bafflingly, Interplay decided to hide two of the fighters. You'll have to enter special controller combinations at the character selection screen each time you wish to unlock them. Most irritating. Once you have everyone freed up for a friendly round, though, the experience improves. There's not a single character without a few amusing lines to utter, and the only way these come out is if you execute special moves.

For this reason, the game is at its best when you're fighting common sense. Special moves leave you open to counter-combos from your opponent, yet it can sometimes be difficult to resist using some of the more amusing moves just as a means of humiliating a human opponent. These moves are entered in a manner reminiscent of Street Fighter II, except half the moves aren't nearly so intuitive. When you do succeed in entering one, though, the result is always the same: your character will speak in a corny digitized voice and slowly dish out the desired punishment.

So, just how funny are those lines? Well, they're worth a few laughs. For as much as an hour or two, you're likely to find them quite amusing. Then you'll realize you're playing a crappy game and that you can have almost as much fun watching a rerun of Seinfeld. It's hard to listen to Santa's idle threats for very long without tiring of them, and this is true of any character.

Luckily, the announcer adds a little spice to the mix. His voice when he announces what type of combo you've executed is particularly amusing, even when you discover that your move would best be classified as a 'little girly combo.' Even when none of it makes sense, you'll likely find yourself smiling.

Game Over

Unfortunately, smiles soon fade when it comes to Clayfighter 63 1/3. What started out as a fresh idea on the Super Nintendo has devolved into a lame rehash that provides entertainment for only the briefest of periods.

I really wanted to like this game. I spent a lot of money on it and talked a few friends into enduring the torture by my side. Without fail, we'd have fun for an hour or so, then head for the superior games in my collection. It's not that Clayfighter 63 1/3 is horrifically bad. Rather, it's just really, really, really not-good. Don't spend more money than it costs to rent.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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