There were better fighting games, but its odd design makes Clay Fighter stand out as a memorable game, like it or not.

User Rating: 5 | ClayFighter SNES
It's been fifteen years, and Clay Fighter is still one of the only fighting games that I know that purposely doesn't take itself seriously. A meteor made of clay crashes into a circus and possesses circus workers into clay mutants. These mutants then have no obvious choice but to pit against each other on a one-on-one fight to become the ultimate fighter. Simply put, this nonsense story is an excuse to have loony clay figures fight each other; a concept in a time where Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat ruled the fighting genre. And for good reason, too; those games inspired a generation of 16-bit fighting games, including Clay Fighter. As I said, though, Clay Fighter is a game based on a circus, not of martial arts or Godzilla-sized monsters, so that idea alone makes it stand out to most fighting games available, whether it's flawed or not. That said, Clay Fighter isn't honestly that original of a game as it appears to be, and will have stuff that you might love, and stuff you might hate.

Clay Fighter's moves are your typical fighting game's moves: generally, your kicks, punches, uppercuts, jumps, ducks, grabs, blocks, and special moves. It's pretty simple, and, like most other fighting games, the challenge is to remember certain controls for certain moves to be pulled off in order to knockout your opponent. The controls are similar to Street Fighter II, but that shouldn't be a bother since almost every fighting game is compared to that game and this game is pretty different from that anyways. The attitude-ridden snowman Bad Mister Frosty can extend his arm, whereas The Blob can turn into a disc-shaped saw and run across the screen. Probably the biggest problem with the fighting mechanic is that the choppy animations make some of the attacks seem sluggish and that sometimes, if you're too close, your attacks just don't seem to go through, where on the other hand, the attack might barely not hit you, but it depletes your health anyways. Though it can be better, the controls are overall pretty responsive; when you punch, you punch, and when you kick, you kick.

The best part of Clay Fighter is arguably the character's personalities. Personalities are something that you just don't see in very many fighting games at all. You've got Bad Mister Frosty, the shape-shifter "The Blob", a pumpkin-headed ghost, a stereotypical female opera singer, a cartoonish bodybuilder, a cruel yet well-built clown, a human taffy, and an Elvis impersonator. All are of course quite goofy. The characters all feel like they play the same with some minor tweaks (some seem to jump higher and duck lower than others) and special abilities, but you'll most likely play a certain character just based on their appearances and personalities in contrast to their abilities. The phrases the characters pull out (most notably the Elvis imposture Blue Suede Goo) are not only quite clear-sounding, but will give you a good chuckle when hearing it, and this time it's not because of bad writing or dumb voice work. Then again, it wouldn't be near as funny if the sprites weren't based on clay. The most similar-looking game is Donkey Kong Country, and this game is actually too toony to look a whole lot like that game. So, really it pretty much has its own style going, which makes it more entertaining as a game at that. Even though the charm will sometimes feel sloppy through the choppy animations, the goofy moves and expressions along with an original look bring some form of charm that makes playing through Clay Fighter some sort of memorable experience, whether the game's flaws are obvious or not.

Some of you might say that this can be a good gift to a child. Well, in a way, you're absolutely right. The blood is replaced by clay chunks and the goofy expressions are sure to make innocent kids that don't play online or mature games more interested in the game. But if you think the game is easy, well, it's not. Instead, it tends to get frustrating due to cheap AI and, again, choppy animations. You'll pit against Blue Suede Goo, for example, only when you're about to kill him, he does some move that takes half of your health, goes away from you, and throws musical notes at you, combined with lashes of his hair to keep you away. When you're against a wall, or if you pin your opponent against the wall, he'll evade and do some combo that takes half of your health away. However, this doesn't happen all the time, as some characters might end up not being too hard to take down. There are three difficulty settings from easy to medium to hard, where easy is easy, medium is medium, and hard is hard, so it can be playable for anyone. There are also game speeds if you feel that the game is a bit too sluggish. Also, there are unlimited continues, and because the game is less than an hour short, it must be done in one sitting. In this way, younger children might find this more enjoyable than someone older. But seriously, you rarely wanna play single player.

On that note, there is a simple multiplayer mode to this game. It can be played regularly with two people at anytime (even while your playing the one-player mode), and if you have the tournament edition, then there's also a tournament mode with up to eight people that can play. However, versus mode can be fun to fill in for the occasional boredom, much like a lot of other fighting games, and if you want to just start up something quick.

Graphically, the game looks unique yet a little on the choppy side. While the sprites are entertaining, the game doesn't move around as smoothly as other 16-bit games. In this way the game feels a little sluggish when it is not supposed to. But, it shouldn't bother the average gamer much at all.

There will be some die-hard fighting fans that may hate this game when really, it's not all that bad at all. If anything, It plays like an average fighting game: nothing terrible, but nothing great either. So, is it worth a purchase? Well, first, understand that this is not a classic in terms of Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. Don't compare it to those excellent arcade fighters, because it's simply not going to be as good as those. That, and this game is only worth it for the characters. However, that doesn't mean that this game isn't playable, because it is. The simple gameplay works well enough, and the bizarre style can make the game even more enjoyable. It has multiplayer, and despite a notably cheap AI and choppy animations, you still have a playable fighter. All in all, find this under five dollars, and you got a good deal.