In 1994, there was a glut of fighters on the market — something for everyone, if you will. You couldn’t stand in a circle and turn your head without bumping into a fighting game. To stand out, you had to have something special, a gimmick to grab attention from the heavyweights. Enter ClayFighter: Tournament Edition.
The game runs just like you’d expect a ’90s fighting game to play: One-on-one button mashing with a large amount of movesets ripped off from Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat. What sets the game apart from the pack are the graphics. ClayFighter utilizes stop-motion graphics with clay models on hand-drawn backgrounds. This look means it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the cartoonish outer layer does hide a surprisingly deep fighting engine.
There’s a quality group of fighters to be had here, and any number of them are serviceable. Each has but one goal: Become of king (or queen) of Clayland, and that’s about the extent of the story. If you’re familiar with Street Fighter, this is where that knowledge comes in: Each character corresponds to a character in SFII. So, the Blob would be Blanka/E. Honda, Helga is Chun-Li, Tiny is Balrog (boxer), Ickybod Clay is Ken and Bad Mr. Frosty is Ryu, to name a few examples. Using that comparison makes playing the game easier in that the controls are already familiar.
Also, much like Street Fighter, ClayFighter: TE’s soundtrack is phenomenal. The songs are catchy and memorable and are appropriate for the different characters they represent. Throw in an over-the-top hilarious announcer and you have a great soundtrack for the SNES and a great 16-bit era addition to the music library of video game tunes.
If you can ignore the tendency to ape Street Fighter, ClayFighter: TE’s goofy charm can and will grow on you. It’s a surprisingly fun and deep fighter that makes its mark through interesting and fun characters and a decent fighting system. Don’t sleep on this well-molded fighter based on appearances alone.