I remember enjoying this game, at around the same time I was playing the various SNES Street Fighter games. Going and back and playing this one, I really don’t understand why, especially compared to its notable contemporary.
The game sucks. It’s not as bad as Ballz 3d, but it’s pretty terrible. Doesn’t control smoothly, special moves are not differentiated from normal moves, hitboxes are bizarre, movement is bizarre, pacing is strange, since damage varies wildly from move to move, priority as well, etc etc. Nostalgia paints too pretty a picture.
I guess fighting games are actually really hard. They’re not easy to make. No fighting game I know of has been really balanced, in terms of character selection; there’s always one character, or a few, who are head and shoulders above everyone else.
Even besides that, the basic engine is so intricate and so full of nuance that one little thing can screw your entire game over. And people didn’t really have very good ideas about what to concentrate on in a fighting game. Look at all these other franchises – Killer Instinct, Primal Rage, Clayfighters, etc. Try them now, and they’re just unplayable. They are some of the most hideous games to behold, as well. The animation is wretched, especially.
Two dimensional fighting games in general are a weird genre, so absorbed in their own tropes that their whole aim is to refine them. Some of the decisions that were made about the genre back in the mists of time have persisted because of both tradition and ease of gameplay (or a combination), even though they’re quite weird when you think about them. Crouching and jumping are there to add extra attack vectors that are easily visually recognizable, and somewhat analogous to real world actions, but you’d pretty much never do either of those things during a one-on-one fight like that. Even if you had super martial arts powers.
I’m sort of rambling because I don’t know what to say about Clayfighters. I thought I would have some funny shit to say, but there’s not really much there. One of the characters is a snow man. Another is a blob of goo. More creative than “karate master in a white outfit,” but still not enough to make it a game worth playing. Definitely a dead-end in terms of attempts to capitalize on the 2d fighter thing. The best I can say is that the AI is pretty vicious without being really irritatingly cheap.