In our Final Round series, we take a look an in-depth look at as many fighting games as we possibly can. This week, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1993’s Clay Fighter…
In the early 90s, Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat kickstarted a massive fighting game craze, both in the arcades and at home on consoles. While many of these games tried to emulate the 2D fighter formula as accurately as possible in the hopes of seeing the same levels of success as the aforementioned heavy hitters, there were also a handful of titles that were intent on poking fun at them.
None were more blatantly obvious with their parodies than Interplay & Visual Concepts’ Clay Fighter. Released on the Super Nintendo in November 1993, Clay Fighter made use of claymation-style characters that were photographed and digitised into the game in much the same way as games such as Primal Rage were.
Before becoming a small franchise that garnered a cult following, Clay Fighter was conceived as a new, more “fun” alternative to Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, as Greg Thomas (head of Visual Concepts) felt that those games were way too serious.
Teaming up with Danger Productions (creators of Saturday morning kid’s show, Bump in the Night), development lasted for almost a year. It was a long and arduous process too, as programmer Jason Anderson put in a year’s worth of 18-hour days to turn the raw clay animations into what players actually control in the game, while Interplay added their own special move animations, music and sound effects to emphasise the game’s wacky, cartoonish atmosphere.
Promotional material/box art
Clay Fighter‘s advertising campaign is one of the best I’ve seen in years, directly lampooning the two biggest games in the genre and doing a great job of pushing itself as a sillier, more family friendly alternative to many games of the era. Bad Mr. Frosty squashing Street Fighter II‘s Blanka & Chun-Li, the other world warriors being dumped in the trash while Tiny steals a certain M. Bison’s hat and the parody of the iconic Mortal Kombat logo is undeniably a work of art.
As for the artwork, there were only 2 two ports of the original version of the game, while an updated version, Clay Fighter: Tournament Edition, was released in 1994. The new edition was originally an exclusive release for Blockbuster Video in North America, and, in true Street Fighter II-like style, fixes some glitches, adds some new stages and provides a plethora of options for game speed, difficulty and versus modes. No matter which version you bought, the game’s main character – Bad Mr. Frosty – adorned the cover.
The game’s story is just as daft as you’d expect it to be; a Clayterian meteor (made from 100% pure clay) crash-lands in the grounds of an American circus. The goo from the meteor then contaminates the entirety of the circus attractions, transforming them into strange, bizarre caricatures of their former selves, each with their own unique super powers. Each of these fighters decide to battle it out in an effort to crown the new king of the circus.
The game has eight selectable fighters;
Bad Mr. Frosty
The main character of Clay Fighter, and the one that was used most heavily in the game’s marketing. Bad Mr. Frosty is a living snowman with a mean streak a mile long. Stripped of the usual mild mannerisms of regular snowmen, Bad Mr. Frosty now only cares about the beauty of Winter, his keen sense of the weather, and little else.
His special attacks include throwing snowballs, spitting sharp balls of ice, sliding along the floor to kick his opponents, or turning himself into a huge snow boulder and hurling himself at foes.
A living glob of saltwater taffy as a result of the meteor’s goo reaching the candy stand, Taffy vows to win the tournament, and that all the other Clay Fighters would need new fillings when he got there. A malleable, stretchy, fighting confection machine.
His attacks are primarily based on him stretching and twisting his body while utilising the longest reach in the entire game. One of his most useful attacks is a tornado of flailing limbs that can be used to stop an opponent dead in their tracks. Ideal for players who are good with Street Fighter II‘s Dhalsim, just sweeter.
The first opponent players face in single player mode, Helga (originally named Val) is an obese opera singer who has earned the title of Valkyrie. She is blessed with incredible super powers from the Viking gods Odin and Thor, but these are mainly used to offset her one true vice: eating. She often has a hard time breaking away from a clay salad sandwich to enter the big top.
Her attacks center around her using her horned helmet, or using her voice as an offensive weapon. This is Helga’s only appearance in the Clay Fighter series, but there are plenty of references to spot in the sequels that followed.
Bonker’s history is surprisingly mysterious. Though it’s said that he was once an ordinary clown who was caught sleeping under the big top, this seems sketchy at best and a lie at worst, considering the Playland circus was only home to “dust and cobwebs”. Nevertheless, the clown, now “hard as clay” thanks to the meteor goo enters the tournament with the goal of being crowned as king of the circus!
Bonker’s attacks are pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a clown character in a fighting game; deadly pies as projectiles, a dreaded squirty flower and a huge squeaky hammer that doubles as the origin of his name.
The headless poltergeist from the circus haunted house who has vowed to scare everyone he meets. A clear play on the name of headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane, Ickybod Clay boasts ethereal powers that he draws from another plane of existence. His ultimate goal in the Clay Fighter tournament? To rule the circus for those who are, as specified, “halfway between our world and the next”.
Ickybod’s moveset is just as spooky and eerie as you think, with his ability to fire balls of ectoplasm at foes and the ability to teleport (which is great for player who favour a more defense-heavy approach to their fighting style).
Blue Suede Goo
Originally named “Elvis Impersonator” in the game’s beta version, Blue Suede Goo is just as his former namesake describes, but now with added delusions of grandeur as a result of the radioactive goo from the meteor crash. He was once a respected member of the circus, but his great arrogance ended up turning the rest of the world against him. When he’s not fighting, he focuses all of his attention on his hairdo.
Blue Suede Goo can use his hair to attack opponents (a move appropriately named “Hair Blade”), and utilises his crooning voice offensively too. Surprisingly, Blue Suede Goo didn’t return for the sequels.
The Blob differs from every other character in the game in the sense that he is not an element of the circus that has been contaminated with the goo, rather he is the goo itself. After the goo ran out of things to transform, it gained sentience. Blob is a master in the art of “Goo-jitsu” (see what they did there?) and can morph into various objects to attack opponents with.
Blob’s “claymorphosis” abilities make him quite a tricky opponent to face, due to the unexpected nature of his attacks. It’s also the same reason why he is so much fun to play as, making the most of the claymation visual style.
The game’s resident bruiser character, Tiny works out whenever he isn’t pounding the clay out of the other players. A member of the WCWA (that’s the World Clay Wrestling Association, if you were wondering), he truly loves to wrestle and fight. He is not very smart, so he relies solely on his brute strength to win. He is proud of his physique and will smash anyone who laughs at him to pieces.
Based on Tiny’s look, you’d initially expect him to use a moveset that is full of wrestling moves, but you would definitely be mistaken. Tiny’s moveset is more “Blanka” than “Zangief“, which means that he has more dash punches and roll moves than he does of 360 degree throws
The final boss of Clay Fighter, and the only unselectable character in the game, is N. Boss. Comprised of a ring of glowing beads with eyes, N. Boss doesn’t actually have any of his own special moves, but rather borrows extensively from each of the other regular fighters from the roster.
His name is a play on M. Bison (Street Fighter II‘s big baddie) and “End Boss”, and due to the nature of his non-clay design (and the fact that the announcer doesn’t say his name), many people believe that he was rushed into the game very late into its development.
Each character has their own specific stage that suits their background and abilities. Bad Mr. Frosty’s ice block castle, Helga’s open-air auditorium, Ickybod Clay’s haunted mansion, Bonker’s funhouse, Taffy’s saltwater taffy factory, Blob’s pool of green slime and Tiny’s coliseum/wrestling ring all pale in comparison to Blue Suede Goo’s stage; a giant keyboard with an enormously grotesque image of the Elvis impersonator himself towering above it, complete with the phrase “Big Hunk O’ Burnin’ Clay” written in bright lights at either side.
The game saw a release on Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but the differences between them are only small. The only real issues with the Sega version is the slight decline in graphics quality, but is more than made up for by the fact that the controls are definitely more suited to the console’s 6-button gamepad.
As is customary with arcade-style fighting games of this era, each character has their own unique ending in Clay Fighter;
- Bad Mr. Frosty – Upon winning the tournament, Bad Mr. Frosty moves the circus to the North Pole, where he forces Santa Claus and his reindeer out a job. Kids now look forward to presents from the snowman with a bad attitude.
- Blob – After learning that he is not of this planet, Blob hitches a ride on the nearest meteor and introduces the concept of the circus to other planets.
- Blue Suede Goo – He immediately moves the circus to Las Vegas. Giving three performances every evening, he keeps himself happy raising hound dogs (oh Elvis references!). One day, he mysteriously vanishes, but there have been several reported sightings of him in random grocery stores across the nation.
- Bonker – After becoming king of the circus, Bonker carelessly spends all of the prize money on squirting flowers and cream pies. He still works at the same circus to this day.
- Helga – After winning the tournament, Helga recieves tons of marriage proposals. Finally reaching a decision, she turns down Olaf the stout for Tiny. Their eight hyperactive kids become “the best wrestlers in the history of opera”.
- Ickybod Clay – After winning the tournament, ghosts now perform in the center ring, and haunt audiences of all ages. To this day, Ickybod still rules the circus with a sheeted fist.
- Taffy – After being crowned king of the circus, Taffy protects his candy brothers and sisters by closing down the food stands. They all train hard, and the cotton candy circus became the most loved in the world (except by dentists, of course).
- Tiny – The canonical ending to Clay Fighter, Tiny turns the circus into a giant wrestling gym. While everyone admired Tiny, not everyone liked the new diet of broccoli and water.
The endings are all suitably silly and wacky, while offering somewhat of a fun reward for players who manage to beat the game.
Overall, Clay Fighter is a great idea that was executed pretty disappointingly. The visual style and characters are all immensely fun, but the seriously reduced animation framerates and often crappy controls make it a chore to actually play through. I’d be hard pressed to say that this is a “good” game, but I appreciate what it was attempting to do in ts quest to be the alternative to everything else at the time.
You’ll probably get a good half an hour’s worth of entertainment from it at the most.
Have you played Clay Fighter? What’s your favourite claymation-based game? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!