Clay Fighter 63 1/3 (N64)
First planned for 3DO and Matsushita's now-defunct M2, Clay Fighter 63 1/3, after numerous delays, has finally hit the N64 along with its PlayStation cousin, Clay Fighter Extreme. Following in the footsteps of the previous games in the series -- Clay Fighter, Clay Fighter: Tournament Edition, and C2: Judgment Clay -- Clay Fighter 63 1/3 tries to continue the tradition of blending fighting and humor. Unfortunately, a lot of the game got lost in the process.
Like before, the strength of Clay Fighter 63 1/3 is the cast of characters. The nine initially available characters are Earthworm Jim, Ickybod Clay, Kung-Pow, Bad Mr. Frosty, Blob, T-Hoppy, Bonker, Houngan, and Taffy. There are three hidden fighters in the game, too: Dr. Kiln, Sumo Santa, and Boogerman. For those who are wondering, Hobocop was removed from the final version because Nintendo would not allow the character in the game. The other characters -- Zappa Yow Yow, Lady Liberty, High Five, and Lockjaw -- were apparently removed from the game for space/balance issues.
Previous Clay Fighter games were based more on the Street Fighter II series. With Clay Fighter 63 1/3, the game's engine has become a conglomerate of Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II, along with some other fighting games. But now the game is structured much like Killer Instinct Gold, almost to the point in which it becomes a clone.
For example, all of the arenas are 3D, just like KI Gold. However, they are more three-dimensional in nature and are modeled more elaborately. Second, the actual fighting engine is based directly on KI Gold, with a sprinkling of Mortal Kombat-like "alities," because of the game's numerous multi-hit combos. You have everything from "Little Girlie" (4-hit) combos to "Triple Brown Betty" (15-hit) combos. Finally, the control scheme is based on the classic SF/KI setup.
It should be noted that Clay Fighter 63 1/3 does actually bring some innovation to the fighting table. In all of the levels of the game, there is at least one "breakthrough," if not more. A breakthrough occurs when one person hits the other with a particularly strong attack. If the receiving opponent is near the breakthrough point, then both fighters break into a different fighting section. Breakthroughs typically occur to the side of a level, but they can also be above or below. While breakthroughs are not necessarily new, they have never been done like this. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing future fighting games adopting this large-scale breakthrough system.
Aesthetically, Clay Fighter 63 1/3 is not only mixed in style but in the actual effect. Since the word "clay" is in the game's title, it's obvious that the fighters are made of clay. The backgrounds, however, are not made of clay this time around. Rather, they are made of polygons, which enables the 3D rotation. Now we come to the problem. While the numerous 3D backgrounds are all actually pretty good, though maybe a little dark, the animation of the fighters is terrible. I'm probably one of the worst in the world at judging frame rates and amount of animation, but even I couldn't help but notice the lack of a smooth transition between moves.
Somewhat surprisingly, the sound in Clay Fighter 63 1/3 is pretty impressive. First, it's nice to hear background music that isn't techno-based. It ends up sounding much like a movie score, albeit in MIDI, and fits the game pretty well. Second, there is a ton of voice in the game, including some from famous actors such as Michael Buffer ("Let's get ready to rumble!"), Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons), and Jim Cummings (Emmy-winning actor who lent his voice to animated Disney movies and more). However, the cheesy one-liners become tiresome only after hearing them several times.
As a fighting game, Clay Fighter 63 1/3 will probably only appeal to kids or Killer Instinct fans. It's certainly neither the worst game nor the worst fighting game for the system, but it's certainly not anything more than average. Die-hard fans of Capcom or 3D fighting games wouldn't even want to waste their time with this one.
Graphics: 6.2 out of 10
Sound: 7.4 out of 10
Control: 6.8 out of 10
Gameplay: 5.4 out of 10
Replay Value: 4.6 out of 10
Overall: 5.6 out of 10