Review: ClayFighter 63 1/3 (N64)

I don't have Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but I do have ClayFighter 63 1/3 for the Nintendo 64, a game that feels like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Killer Instinct mixed with clay and Ren & Stimpy.

There's some interesting speculation behind why they used the suffix of 63 1/3 instead of the number 64. The obvious guess being that it is making fun of the clich├ęd 64 slapped on the end of many game titles. The other is a rumor that Interplay was running out of time and that Nintendo kept rushing them without giving any extra time, so the 63 1/3 would seem to be a message this game could have been much bigger and better if it had spent more time in development.Kung Pow vs Taffy

There is no story whatsoever. The player simply chooses a character and fights to the top. It's simple, straightforward and doesn't force anyone to remember any character backgrounds such as "this guy killed my father" or "I want to be the best of the best to prove that my family is the greatest!"

All the character sprites and animation were made using photographs of clay models. It went for that funny cartoony, surrealist style for the characters and made the characters look very unique. Even though the sprites are two-dimensional, the levels which the fights would take place were completely 3D. This is one of the many things that madeClayFighter stand out in the first place. Other games did not even dare to try this approach.

As the fighters move closer or further away from each other, the camera would rotate around to show that this isn't just a sidescrolling level. Both characters can move around in a circle if they keep moving left or right. This is only the point in the level where neither character can pass. It is at this point, an opponent can smash the opponent with a strong attack then end up at another section of the level that isn't normally seen. This would usually be the roof of the level, inside a castle, or inside a sewer. The player can even knock the opponent back to the previous part of the level if they get cornered again.

There are 12 playable characters, with 3 of them being unlockable. Interesting enough, there are 2 characters that people may be familiar with who aren't ClayFighter-exclusive characters: Boogerman and Earthworm Jim who both had their own games on the Sega Genesis, which the previous ClayFighter games were initially made for. Even though there are no character stats that show which ones are stonger, faster or jump higher, the character that is chosen is pretty much a matter of preference. I always let the game choose randomly for me by holding the L+R triggers together. The 3 hidden characters can be chosen after pressing the right key combination at the character selection screen. Each character has unique animations and sound effects for every attack and damage taken. You will hear things suck as "cluck you", "quit it", "I will destroy you", "I told you I'd win" and even "you suck". It never gets annoying.

In addition to the quirky characters, there is also a combo and fatality system reminiscent of serious games such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Killer Instinct. At the beginning of every match, the narrator would shout "Let's get ready to crumble", which is aspinoff of Michael Buffer's catchphrase "Let's get ready to rumble". When the blue power meter is full, the player can pull off a combo that will set off into crazy combos causing the announcer to shout things such as "itty bitty combo", "tripple brown betty combo", "insane combo" and even "little girly combo". These combos can consist of landing 3 to even 400 hits (that's right, 400) and up depending on how high the meter is and how close you are to the opponent. When either player loses their health completely, they kneel to the ground waiting to be taken down with one hit or with a fatality, whichClayFighter refers to as a claytality. These claytalaties can range from throwing them in the air flying up from the island they're on hitting the camera as if they were going to fly out of the TV, being blasted in a cannon and even being chopped in half! The word "CLAYTALITY" would appear in big bloody letters.

The controls were great. It utilized the obvious A and B buttons, and the C buttons were each used for attacking as well. The L+R triggers would be used to step sideways, which is useful to dodge projectiles, but I barely used it since I can jump over most attacks and I fought just fine without them. At low difficulties,ClayFighter 63 1/3 is a crazy button mashers, and at the "PSYCHO" difficulty, the computer will grab you and unleash 10-hit combos of their own. There are 5 difficulties altogether: Cookie, normal, whoa, dude and psycho.

It also allows two players to fight against each other. It is a simple one-on-one versus mode. It's been years since I've actually played against another person, so I can't say too much about this.

With all the jokes, funny characters, and slapstick sound effects, ClayFighter 63 1/3 still feels like an unfinished game. There is no save option anywhere, so any unlocked characters and victories will never be recorded. Once the N64 is turned off, the player is forced to start all over every time. The character movements are slower compared to other fighters such as Super Smash Bros. and Killer Instinct. A sequel was made as a blockbuster-exclusive rental,ClayFighter Sculptor's Cut and it suffered the same problems as 63 1/3. The fact that Sculptor's Cut could only be rented from blockbuster and not purchased made it appeal to an even smaller audience. To make matters worse, the developers of ClayFighter 63 1/3, Interplay shut down in 2004 due to financial problems, making it seem highly unlikely that a new ClayFighter will ever emerge. Since Interplay owns the rights to the game, it will may never appear on Nintendo's beloved Virtual Console or even as a Nintendo DS remake. When ClayFighter first came out for the Sega Genesis, it was a childish fighter that took place in a carnival after a radioactive comet crashed. On the N64, it evolved into a funny game that paid homage to the fighting giants Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Killer Instinct through parodies in gameplay mechanics. It appealed to an older audience and toned the violence down enough to make it youth-friendly at the same time. It is a real shame that it never skyrocketed into popularity with its visual style and the strangeness of the characters themselves.

The button-mashing style of play at the lowest difficulty was always my favorite and I loved pushing the opponent to different parts of the level and then finishing them off. The crazy clay characters and the parodies of other fighting games appealed to me and is a nice between a combo-crunching fistfight and being just plain weird. The lack of a story took nothing away from the game quality. The camera is always smooth and never obstructed my view. If Interplay ever gets back on their feet and starts making games again, I would beg them to work on ClayFighter somehow. It's been 11 years, and I can't think of anyone else who's made a decent fighter game that has a crazy style of humor that feels similar to other games mixed with clay and insanity. With the cartoon visuals of Team Fortress 2, Battlefield Heroes and Zack & Wiki, I can't see a reason why they can't make their own in-house visual rendering technology that can make 3D models look like clay. ClayFighter is one of those games that died too early in its infancy and needed more time to grow. It dared to go in the opposite direction while other fighting games became more complicated with higher-quality graphics and near-clunky controls.

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