SNES Classic Edition Announced for September 2017

Nintendo created quite a stir yesterday when the company announced the SNES Classic Edition, the long rumored follow-up to last year’s NES Classic. The SNES Classic will launch on September 29 of this year with 21 games and two SNES pads. The unit will retail for $79.99. It should go without saying this will be a rare holiday gift this year. If you plan to get one (or several), you should bump it up on your priority list. While Nintendo says they’re ramping up production to meet anticipated demand, they don’t plan to continue making them after this year. So if you don’t manage to get one on the 29th, it’s likely you’ll have to deal with scalpers on the River and the Bay.

Enough of that. Here’s the breakdown of the games:

SNES Classic Games (First Party)

  • Super Mario World
  • Super Mario Kart
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • F-Zero
  • Super Metroid
  • Super Punch-Out!!
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby’s Dream Course
  • StarFox
  • Yoshi’s Island
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Earthbound

And, of course, StarFox 2 – the finished-but-unreleased sequel to StarFox – will be included on the roster.

If you were to take a survey of all the Nintendo games that anybody owned in the SNES era, you would probably see all of those listed. This is a sampling of the golden age of the Big N’s game development prowess. Two Kirby games seem excessive; I would have rather have seen Pilotwings (yes really), but that’s a small quibble. There’s only one glaring omission to my eyes: SimCity.

SNES Classic Games (Third Party)

  • Street Fighter II Turbo (Capcom)
  • Super Castlevania IV (Konami)
  • Donkey Kong Country (Rare)
  • Mega Man X (Capcom)
  • Contra III The Alien Wars (Konami)
  • Secret of Mana (Squaresoft)
  • Final Fantasy III (Squaresoft)
  • Super Ghouls & Ghosts (Capcom)
  • The Third party list happens to include three of my favorite games ever. In fact, astute readers of this blog will remember my posts about SFII Turbo from earlier this year. Again, I challenge you to find somebody who lived through the SNES years and didn’t play, own or hear of any of these games. I’m a little disappointed that Chrono Trigger wasn’t included, but if I’m being honest, I’d take Secret of Mana over that title any day. I had my fingers crossed that Mortal Kombat II would make the list, important as it was to the history of the console, but I’m not surprised it’s not here. That game doesn’t fit in with the tenor of the library anyway.

    There are some other third party titles that would have been nice to have: Turtles in Time and Final Fight come to mind immediately. But these are minor, entitled complaints. There’s hundreds of hours of gameplay here. Many of these games appear high on everybody’s “Best of all Time/Greatest of all Time” lists, year after year.

    StarFox 2

    Game Informer was nice enough to repost a video that breaks down StarFox and StarFox 2. I’ve embedded this video below (about 11 minutes long).

    Super Shortage

    We’ll close this with a few words about the SNES Classic’s life cycle. Several outlets have noted that the Nintendo will produce “significantly more” than the 2.3 million units that ultimately got shipped for the NES Classic. According to the company, it will only ship the system from September 29 until the end of the year. So again, if you’re keen on owning this novelty item, you better plan ahead and set aside significantly more cash than 80 bucks plus tax. I was able to get an NES Classic thanks to my wife, and she admitted she paid “a few times” more than its list price. Frankly it sucks, but this is par for course for the console maker and the aftermarket guys.

    From Nintendo’s mouth:

    “Our long-term efforts are focused on delivering great games for the Nintendo Switch system and continuing to build momentum for that platform, as well as serving the more than 63 million owners of Nintendo 3DS family systems,” reads the statement. “We are offering Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super NES Classic Edition in special recognition of the fans who show tremendous interest our classic content.”

    Consider that your fair warning. This is truly a limited edition thing. Of course, if all you care about the games, most of them are already available on the Virtual Console…and other ways. And if you really want to own the authentic article, you can shell out cash for the originals and any of the Retro consoles out there, or even an original SNES.

    I wonder if they’re planning to do this for the Nintendo64.

Sega Forever revealed as free mobile games

Sega Forever, on your phone.

SEGA!

I saw a Sega fan site was abuzz when the company revealed a brand redesign to the other. Now, I don’t know if Sega Forever is a part of that push. But it may well be. As you can see from the tweet above, this morning Sega revealed the series of games that will be going “live in the next 24 hours”:

  • Sonic The Hedgehog
  • Altered Beast
  • Phantasy Star II
  • Kid Chameleon
  • Comix Zone

From Sega’s website:

FREE CLASSIC GAMES ON MOBILE
SEGA® Forever™ is a free and growing classic games collection of nearly every SEGA game ever released from every console era – Master System, Genesis/MegaDrive, Dreamcast, and more. Available on iOS and Android mobile devices.

When I have a chance I’ll give these games a whirl and see how the ports handle. For me, this is coming on the heels of the equally mysterious “Atari Box” announcement last week. Sure, Sega hasn’t returned to the hardware business – they would be insane to in my opinion, but stranger things have happened – but this is a good start. I don’t know why more companies don’t leverage their back catalogs in this fashion. I know there’s an incredible amount of conversion work involved to modernize a lot of these titles. It would seem to me that the costs would be outweighed by the nostalgia buyers, though.

Of course, I don’t think Sega (or anybody else) would be willing to port the weird games I like to play and watch. A man can dream though. A man can dream.

Contra NES Longplay

Contra for the NES, as played by RavenLord. Satisfy your nostalgia cravings below. The video is about 23 minutes long. You can consider yourself a hero if you watch the whole thing.

Contra Analysis

I’m sure there are other run-and-gun games I’m forgetting about, but I’d be hard-pressed to name a more memorable series than Contra. Like a lot of early third party NES games, Konami ported this one from the arcades. A perennial rental for me in the 80s, I remember this game frustrating the hell out of me. If only I had known about the Konami Code back then. Anyway, to list Contra’s particulars: it’s an action platformer, two players simultaneous, ten levels, a power ups system, lots of projectile shooting (and dodging) and many graphical nods to a certain movie franchise.

The perspective changes are an interesting aspect. I had forgotten about the pseudo-3D levels that are sprinkled here and there. Usually, these culminate with a boss fight. It’s a nice break in the action without radically altering the structure of the game. The graphics and sound are still surprisingly good for a 1988 NES game. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the ample sampling of HR Giger. The last boss is essentially the giant head of a Xenomorph. Even face huggers get a cameo.

Contra's final boss
Contra’s final boss, a Xenomorph knock off

Apparently, there’s a whole tortured history behind the console ports and regionalization of the game. Germany got a censored version, while the development team dumbed down the sprites for player characters Bill and Lance on the NES. If you’re interested in this, I recommend checking out Contra Encyclopedia. The site has a huge amount of information and trivia about all the games in the franchise, and some cool concept artwork too.

And yes, for the trivia buffs, the Iran-Contra affair may have inspired the name.

Development

A quick Google search reveals surprisingly little about Contra’s development history. There’s not even any sort of post-mortem on Gamasutra. I figured there would be something around, considering it’s the 30 year anniversary of the arcade game. So, perhaps Konami is letting the franchise lay fallow for a while. On Mobygames none of the team members listed in the credits have any bios or trivia sections. No linked media for interviews or things of that nature. The only thing of note is that the majority of these guys worked on basically every game I played in my youth, from the Ninja Turtle games to Castlevania, and even oddball titles like Blades of Steel. I wasn’t surprised to see one programmer also worked on Snakes’ Revenge. You know, the unofficial-official US sequel to Metal Gear. The games feel similar.

I suppose it’s not uncommon, especially for these 80s arcade games, that the developers had little to say about their work. We can rely on others to give us some insight though. A recent article on Gamasutra talks briefly about the power-up system and clever strategizing it forces on the player. And of course, there’s the Konami code. Technically Gradius was the first game to include it on the NES, but Contra is the more famous example. I also didn’t know that the game gets harder with each playthrough, a tidbit I gleaned from one of the fan sites.

Critical Reaction

Folks liked Contra quite a bit, as indicated by the number of sequels that it spawned. Here’s what Retro Game Reviews has to say about it, circa 2014:

The smooth controls, impressive level design and variety are key to what makes Contra such an amazing game. The addition of co-op play is a huge plus for an NES title and Konami should be applauded for making a game that is practically flawless in all areas.

Ok, maybe “practically flawless in all areas” is a tad too fawning, but we get the point. For what it is, Contra is a great game. But here’s a more critical review, from Mean Machines, circa 1991:

The problem with this is that it’s not particularly challenging. It takes a few goes to get used to the slightly ropey control method, and after that it’s simply a case of blasting your way through the pretty weak alien defences. It’s fun at first, due to the fact that you can get pretty far into the game, but once you’ve completed it, it all gets rather predictable. Gryzor fans might enjoy the action, but really you’d get far more out of something like Snake, Rattle ‘n’ Roll or Megaman 2.

This reviewer must have been a much more skilled gamer than I was in my elementary school years. Just from watching the longplay, I think what he’s getting at here is that gameplay is repetitive. That’s a fair criticism. Repetitive doesn’t necessarily equal easy, but it can.

Legacy

How about 11 sequels and a Vampire Weekend album as a legacy? Infogalactic notes that:

Contra was followed by Super Contra a year later. It was the only Contra sequel for the arcades developed in-house by Konami. Following the success of the NES adaptations of both, the original and its sequel (which was retitled Super C in its American release), subsequent sequels would be produced specifically for the home console market such as Contra III: The Alien Wars for the Super NES and Contra: Hard Corps for the Genesis, becoming one of Konami’s landmark series.

Indeed, Contra remains one of Konami’s landmark series, even if they’re just making PES and casino games these days. Where would you rank Contra among powerhouse franchises like Castlevania, Silent Hill, and Metal Gear? Perhaps it doesn’t quite hit those levels in gamer culture today. But I recall that Hard Corps was considered a coup for Sega in the midst of the Console Wars. So, Contra was quite significant in the 90s. And I challenge you to find somebody who’s familiar with the Konami Code and doesn’t think of Contra.

Up Next

Next week I’ll take a different tack and venture to the PC world for an extended longplay look. Not to give too much away now, but it’s a Sierra game. Thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me.

T2 Judgment Day (Game Boy) Longplay

As played by SCHLAUCHI, T2 Judgment Day for the Game Boy. The longplay is about 16 minutes long:

I owned this game back in the early 90s. I remember it taking me a long while to beat it (that damn reprogramming stage!), but I enjoyed it. It’s one of the few Game Boy games that I finished. If you didn’t watch the longplay, it’s your standard action side scroller with some light platforming elements. I posted a Sega Genesis longplay of Terminator before, and as you can see, these Terminator brand games came in two varieties: action side scrollers and light gun arcade games. The latter was far more popular of the two if I remember right. I certainly spent several carts worth of quarters on T2 Arcade Game, back when there were arcades around these parts.

Anyway, this game isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but I remember it because of its uniqueness. Yeah I know, I just said there were only two classes of Terminator games, implying they were all generic. And to a large extent, they were generic. To a point they all had the same plot, they all featured the same characters, and they all had the same mechanics. But this version put forward some distinctive gameplay which I give points for. In the future missions with John Connor, you have to complete different objectives on each stage. I already mentioned the programming stage. The Terminator half of the game was so-so. That final level against the T1000 was pretty meh in particular. But overall I appreciate the developers at least making an attempt to challenge the player. As an LJN show, they easily could have ported an even more watered down version the console games.

Speaking of the developers, I’m going to take a closer look at a few of the alumni here in a future post. You may be surprised to see who some of them were and what they worked on.

Nintendo PlayStation Prototype Restored

Via Gamasutra, one of the Nintendo PlayStation prototypes is now working. Recall that the retro community was abuzz at the discovery of the prototype, which is no small way changed the direction of the console gaming world back in the early 90s. See the full video below from Element 14 (about 13.5 minutes long).

I had no idea that there was any sort of homebrew community for the SNES CD. I’m with Heck in hoping that the community takes the mapping of the hardware he’s done and makes some impressive games for emulators.

Story Behind the Nintendo PlayStation

The Nintendo Playstation, such as it was, was Nintendo’s attempt to get into the “multimedia” craze of the late 80s and early 90s. NEC and Sega had both released systems that were more impressive than the NES, and the Super Nintendo was late to market in the 16-Bit era. If I remember right, Ken Kutaragi’s kids sparked his interest in the consoles. He realized Sony could do better sound chips and his designs became sort of a skunkworks project on his own time.

As for the Nintendo PlayStation, a lot of its history appears in Game Over. I highly recommend you read it to learn about Nintendo’s run during the seventies to the mid 90s. But to repeat what’s commonly known, Nintendo of Japan pulled the plug on the project – and the partnership with Sony – at the very last minute. I’m talking like, an hour before Sony was to unveil the machine at CES. Sony wanted a good share of the licensing rights which Nintendo was unwilling to give them, and Phillips offered a better deal for the hardware. Like I said, read all about it in Game Over. .

But the rest is history as they say. Sony decided to give Nintendo  big middle finger over the incident and make the Playstation a standalone system. Imagine how things would have been if the Nintendo PlayStation had actually hit the the market in 1994.

The AI of Street Fighter II

Gamasutra discovered a blog post on SF2Platinum that discussed the AI scripts of the venerable fighting game. From the post:

“By today’s standards, the Artificial Intelligence in Street Fighter 2 World Warrior isn’t very sophisticated. These days, when most people talk about AI they’re talking about machine learning. There’s not any of that in SF2. Anyone looking for some insight into how to write an AI engine for a game today will be disappointed.

Moves made by computer opponents are not made independently but are instead grouped into small scripts, written in a bytecode similar to machine language. A computer avatar has a repertoire of different scripts for each opponent they could face in the game, and set of circumstances, such as a nearby fireball.”

The rest of the post details the bytecode instruction sets ad confirms what most of us already suspected: the AI is capable of cheating in the game, and probably does so regularly. One of my pals was always incensed that the CPU player “had your moves” and could react faster than you. I doubted him then but it looks like he had a higher sophistication than I did when it came to single player modes.

Recall that a few months ago I was playing SFII Turbo fairly regularly. Now, from the early days of getting an edge on the computer (Trickman Terry, et al) the standard advice to everyone was to learn the patterns of the game. I always found that unhelpful and a little bewildering, especially in fighting game. Besides the obvious move sets I could never discern a pattern of the AI. It always seemed random to me. Well, better late than never I suppose, as you can now study the patterns right there in the code.

It may be hopelessly simple and outdated by today’s standards, but it’s instructive to anybody with an interest in the older arcade games. I’ve been working in Unity for about 5 months now and can tell you that I recognize a few of the patterns here, as well as some that wouldn’t have occurred to me.

Read From Memory: FFVII part 5

Last week’s entry was short but fear not: this week I put more time into FFVII. We last left off at Aeris’ house in Sector 5 slums. Sector 7 was destroyed in a dramatic scene, and Shinra finally captured Aeris.

Back at Aeris’ House

You barge in on Aeris’ mom Elmyra once again and she rewards you with long exposition about Aeris. I forgot that Aeris was a member of the Ancient Master Race. I knew she had Strong World Magic (TM) but blanked on this plot bit. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First Barret wants to know about his daughter, Marlene, who had been in Aeris’ care. Elmyra chastises him for leaving his little girl alone. We get a bit of unexpected character development for Barret. He laments the tough work life balance of single dad and an eco-terrorist. Elmyra explains that Marlene slowed Aeris down, resulting in her capture. captured because Marlene slowed her down which makes him feel even worse.

Aeris the Ancient

Now for Aeris’ backstory. Elmyra is only her foster mother. She met Aeris and her real mom at the train station 15 years before the event of the game. Elmyra was waiting for her husband to return from the war with Wutai. With the trainman looking on sadly, the dying woman begs Elmyra to take Aeris in. She agrees, reflecting that it was simple boredom on her part. See, she had no kids of her own and her husband wasn’t coming back anytime soon. Apparently, adopting war orphans on the spot like this was common in those days.

We see Aeris growing up via flashback. She’s in tune with the world in a way normal people aren’t. The Turk Tseng enters into the exposition. He confirms to Elmyra (and us) that Aeris is indeed Different and Special. She’s also vital to the future. What’s not explained is why he didn’t take her in then. Cloud is also skeptical, but Elmyra says she was too valuable to risk harming. Right.

Cloud resolves to go and rescue her so we can continue the main quest. Barret volunteers to help as does Tifa. Elmyra agrees to watch Marlene while he’s away “doing his thing.” Marlene clues Cloud onto Aeris’ burgeoning crush on him. You get a dialog choice where you can either play dumb or hopeful. I chose the dumb branch, and the seven year old calls you Stupid.

Backtracking Sector 5

The destruction of Sector 7 preoccupies everyone in the area. Imagine that! If you go all the way back to the church, you’ll find two kids there tending to Aeris’ flowers. You’re given the option of telling them to scram or encouraging them to continue. I chose the latter branch. If you go even further, you can run around a cordoned off area and see the wasteland surrounding Midgar.

Wall Market Redux

Next you return to the Sector 6 wall market. Things haven’t changed since your last visit. If you go back to the brothel, the patrons will block your entry. They mention they know about your cross dressing and your violent tendencies. So you’re no longer welcome at the Honeybee Brothel. Oh well.

The locals will tell you that the scrap hoarder picked up some interesting items from the fall. What are the city ordinances about salvaging from recent disasters? Anyhow at the weapon shop, you can buy three batteries from the guy. Batteries? Cloud is as incredulous as you are but the man assures you that you’ll need them. Since you’re made out of gil, why not?

Interesting side note: I never knew you could go back into Don Corneo’s mansion. The Don is gone, but down in Sex Dungeon/Human Sacrifice chamber, you’ll find one of his henchmen tied up on the table. You’re given the option of freeing the minion, and I chose to do so. I recall an encounter with the Don much later in the game. Will this have an effect on that?

The Impossible Climb

Once you reach the wall with the cool artwork, several Sector 6 urchins are hanging around a loose cable. They don’t have PSAs about live wires in Midgar? The kids climb the cable to see “something cool.”

Cloud declares the climb impossible. For once I agree with the protagonist’s good sense. But Barret encourages him with a pep talk about a golden wire symbolizing all their hope. This mollifies Cloud but he does say it was a dumb metaphor. So there’s that.

As you climb you pass the kids who are perched on top of the wall, gawking at the devastation in Sector 7. You know, that “cool” thing.

You end up having to use two of the batteries to activate machinery so you can continue upwards. The last one will open a treasure chest and is optional. I do have a special memory reserved for this part: the stupid swinging pipe you have to time a jump onto. I must have spent 30+ minutes of frustration on it back in 1997. It only took me about 5 minutes this time on the Vita.

Breaking into Shinra Inc

At last you reach the front of the Shinra building. Barret observes that Cloud must be familiar with the place. Cloud replies that actually he was never at Headquarters. I find that a little difficult to believe but OK. You can choose either to go in the front door or sneak in the back, as Tifa advises. Regardless of what dialog choice you make, you can go any way you want. For the first time I decided to assault through the front doors.

This is a cool sequence. The receptionist tells you to bug off causing Barret to do the tough guy routine. Then the mass in the lobby realizes who you are and panic and flee in the other direction. Some guards attempt to intervene, but they’re chumps compared to my level 15 party. You have the option of taking an express elevator up or going up the stairs. I took the elevator.

To Floor 60 and Beyond

In the elevator, you stop at different floors and have to fight various bizarre enemies. Once you make it to the 60th floor, you take out some guards who drop a Key card, giving you access to the next area. There’s relative quiet here considering a terrorist group is attacking the building. A floor manager mistakes you for new employees of the “Shinra Repair Division.” He gives you a key card and explains that you need key cards to advance to levels beyond this point. You can then speak with some of the other NPCs if you want. It’s a Shinra recreation area with a nice cafeteria. I would hate having to go up 60 flights for lunch though.

Puzzling Floors

The next floors feature some gameplay puzzles. These include the classic sneak-past-the-sentries; a puzzle maze; and assemble-object-to-proceed. If you try your luck at figuring out the maze floor (or look it up in an FAQ) you can get some cool items. The Star Pendant protects against poison. An odd little accessory that hints at a coming boss.

You also get to meet the Mayor who’s a glorified librarian of company records. He’ll give you a keycard and a special gift if you manage to guess the password on the first try. Misplaced books throughout the library are the clues. Exciting right? You can ask the Deputy Mayor for help, but he’ll charge you 500 gil. FFVII is like one big Ancap experience. It’s worth it to cheat and look it up in an FAQ since he’ll give you an Elemental materia.

I find these puzzle floors to be jarring and weird but charming in a way. They make no logical sense in the game world. But at least the designers tried to preserve a game-like experience.

Another weird area is the employee gym. You can find some treasure and waste time on a treadmill and money on a broken vending machine. But there’s nothing else of note. For now.

Spying the Brass

Finally you reach a floor with a huge conference room. Some employees complain of a nasty smell coming from the room. Another will mention whispers from the bathroom. Your clue where to go next. Once in the stall, you can enter the vents and head over to a shaft above the conference room. You’ll see President Shinra with Heidegger, Reeve, and two you haven’t seen yet. These are Palmer and Scarlett. Reeve is recounting the numbers from the Sector 7 destruction: it will take 10 billion gil to rebuild. But the President has different plans: Sector 7 is not to be rebuilt. Instead, Mako energy bills will go up 15% across the broad, and the revenue will go to Reeve and Scarlett. Reeve cautions them about citizen discontent, but the President dismisses it. The people will be happy, he reasons, since he’s restarting the Neo Midgar project. Whatever that is. Heiddegar laughs at Reeve, gloating that they “saved” Sector 7 from Avalanche. That makes no sense to me but ok.

Now Hojo, lead Shinra scientist, appears, shuffling into the room. He reports on Aeris’ status: she’s not up to snuff. The President asks how that will impact his plan. Hojo suggests breeding Aeris to speed up the testing, since it will take 120 years otherwise. then leaves by shuffling out of the room. With that, The President adjourns the meeting.

Everyone leaves, but Scarlett looks at the vent and mentions the reek.

Huh.

JENOVA

The heroes realize (sort of) that the Shinra executives were talking about Aeris. They manage to puzzle that out among themselves. You retreat to the bathroom and then follow the shuffling Hojo to the next floor. It’s laboratory storage area. There are some holding cells and things in here. A strange red lion is in the tank, which Hojo in loving and creepy fashion calls his “Specimen.” Next to this area is a large chamber with a window. Cloud peers in and you go into cutscene mode. For a split second you see a headless torso with an eye for a nipple. Cloud faints again and Tifa exhorts him to pull himself together. When he comes to he mentions a connection between Sephiroth and the thing, which he calls his mother. Cloud’s amazed Shinra brought it here. He tells Barret to look to see how it’s moving. In my favorite line of the game so far, Barret declares “this is all stupid!”

Hard to argue with that.

Anyhow, you move up the elevator and finally see Aeris again.

The Erudite Specimen

Aeris is in a holding tank, which Hojo is monitoring. The platform raises and in comes the red lion. It starts to intimidate Aeris, who begs for help. Cloud manhandles Hojo while Barret shoots the array, much to Hojo’s dismay. The screen goes white, and Aeris breaks free while the creature tackles Hojo, grabbing him by the neck in its maw. Serves the nazi scientist right.

Cloud notices that the platform is moving again, and the creature speaks to them, to the amazement of all. He says he has no given name and doesn’t care for any, but Hojo named him Red XIII. Not seeing the need for a revision here, I go with the default name. He also apologizes to Aeris for scaring her. He speaks very well for a lion.

You get a choice here to have Tifa or Barret escort Aeris to safety. I had rearranged my materia between them both so it was a bad choice for me: either lose my healer or my offense. Red XIII’s offer of help for this boss battle is not optional. I sent Tifa with Aeris, so it was Cloud, Red XIII, and Barret for the fight.

Boss Fight

Cue the Final Fantasy VII boss music, and we get a freakish hulk and his three even weirder little pals. Right off the bat he casts a poison-all spell. Remember the foreshadowing? Now everybody is losing 17 HP per round. Brutal. I managed to defeat the resilient bastard but I almost lost. I wasn’t prepared for this battle.

Since I’ve played a long time, and knowing what’s coming next, I decided to call it a day at the save point.

ClayFighter Tournament Edition Longplay

ClayFighter: Tournament Edition as played by SCHLAUCHI.

I’ve lamented in past posts that developers today don’t take as many risks as they used to 20+ years ago. Admittedly there’s probably a good reason for that. But how can we ever hope to push the envelope if we keep playing it safe, right? ClayFigther is a bizarre title that started life as a parody of then ultra popular Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat series. Because of the controversy surrounding Ed Boon’s and John Tobias’ opus, Interplay thought it would be a good idea to create a child friendly fighting game. The characters and the world would be fashioned entirely out of clay.

Yes in the early 90s Brian Fargo’s outfit gave us a Gumby fighter. How’s that for pushing the envelope?

Developing ClayFighter

If you look at the entry for this game there’s a surprising amount of information. I’m interested in the process behind the development; I’ve always assumed that the claymation was very time consuming to set up. Hard to imagine converting that work to a video game afterward. Yet that’s what Jason G. Anderson did. From a 1994 article in Wired:

The painstaking, shape-and-shoot process of creating and animating the claysters took nearly a year…At Visual Concepts, programmer Jason Anderson put in a year’s worth of 18-hour days to turn the raw clay animations into a smooth-flowing, ass-kicking-fun fighting game, which cheerfully boasts flying chunks of colorful clay instead of virtual viscera.

Visual Concepts, of course, was the company that developed ClayFigther, and the name ought to be familiar to people who are steeped in DreamCast lore. But more on that in a future post.

Was ClayFighter Any Good?

I only played the rental Tournament Edition when it came out. I remember enjoying it but not nearly as much as Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. Really if you had access to one or both of those games there was no need to buy ClayFighter beyond the curiosity factor. As you can see for yourself from the Longplay, there’s slow down and no unifying system of fighting mechanics. Still the game must have been successful enough to warrant two sequels. I never played either of them.