I just played through Clayfighter 63 ⅓ and Clayfighter: Sculptor’s Cut for the N64, and I gotta say, these games are extremely dated in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. The SNES Clayfighter game is the one I grew up with, and thought while it isn’t a great game by most measures, it’s at least charming light satire on Street Fighter. The presentation is great and the silly variety of characters brought something special to the game. I think characters like Helga and Blue Suede Goo were in good taste. Clayfighter 2: Judgment Clay is where the series seems to have started to appeal to the more edgy 90s kid. They replaced those two characters with Hoppy, an action movie parody, and Googoo, a “ghetto baby”, and it got worse from there.
In the N64 games they continued replacing some of the more unique characters with lazy stereotypes. They added a Caribbean witch doctor who is obsessed with chicken and a Chinese guy who fights with a wok and chopsticks and yells about different chinese food dishes. It’s just lazy and uninteresting and sticks out like a sore thumb. There’s also Earthworm Jim, and knowing what we know about its creator being a racist misogynist transphobe, it reflects poorly on a game that is 24 years old. All of this just amounts to the game feeling like its made for a type of teenager who doesn’t exist any more (especially considering how often it references things like Nixon on Laugh-in going “sock it to me!”).
The actual gameplay has potential. I think the AI is pretty good especially on the harder difficulties. I love that they added mechanics present in other games, like the Fatalities or “Claytalities” from Mortal Kombat, the Combos from Killer Instinct (only they subvert it by pointing out how weak you are), and the 3-level bar for super combos from Street Fighter Alpha. But utltimately this game doesn’t hold up that much on its own as both a fighting game and as a satire. Its a shame, but I think this series ended exactly when it should have.
I would love a western company to make a game lampooning modern fighting games in the vein that Clayfighter originally set out to do. I think the key to it is to make it all come from a place of appreciation, otherwise I don’t think it works quite as well as it could have. Clayfighter isn’t a bad series, I think it just got caught up trying to appeal to its consumers in a way that stifled its own creativity.