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How combos work in the Nintendo 64's rarest and most expensive game

That's right, we're talking ClayFighter Sculptor's Cut again

Posted by Steven 'Dreamking23' Chavez • September 27, 2019 at 12:07 p.m. PDT • Comments: 13

My obsession with the ClayFighter series is well documented here on Eventhubs. From its early days as a comical competitive fighter to the unusual progression to becoming the Nintendo 64's rarest and most expensive game, there always seems to be something more to learn about this odd little franchise.

I recently got some time in with the ever-elusive ClayFighter Sculptor's Cut — the N64's aforementioned rarest and most expensive game — and after some deep digging and rigorous tests managed to solve a personal mystery that has plagued me since childhood: How do combos work in ClayFighter Sculptor's Cut?

In a previous story here on the website, I recalled how when I first played Sculptor's Cut as a child, I hated it. All of the combos and things I knew about the previous entry, ClayFighter 63 1/3rd, were gone, and I had no idea why.

Throughout my research, I kept coming across the fact that the combo system had been changed between versions, but I could not find specifics on what that meant. 63 1/3rd operated on a system that was essentially Killer Instinct's, using openers, auto doubles, and linkers to string together sequences, but Sculptor's Cut was completely different.

Eventually, I stumbled onto someone in a video (I honestly forget what video it was) noting that the combo system removed the auto function it once had and shifted things over to manual inputs. That was the exact key to the door I needed to actually begin understanding what the hell ClayFighter Sculptor's Cut's combo system even is.

To put it as simply as I can, ClayFighter Sculptor's Cut's combo system is broken. While that probably doesn't surprise people who are familiar with the franchise and its lack of quality, what we have is playing field that would make modern fighting game developers weep.

On the surface, things somewhat take from Killer Instinct again, instead targeting KI's manuals. Certain hits have large hitstun, which allows you to do things like link other attacks after or even dash up and continue a combo.

There are also basic strings into special moves and bread and butter combos, like multiple jabs, for quick damage. Ideally, you'll want to land a string into a super for a solid combo.

Things quickly take a turn for the worst, however, when you start to realize how littered with infinite combos this game is. They vary in difficulty but damn near everything you can do either sets up an infinite or is an infinite itself.

Playing as the voodoo shaman Houngan, I found that if I performed a basic jab string into his heavy Shield Bash special move, I could just keep doing that forever until the opponent's life bar was gone. While this wouldn't be so bad in 63 1/3rd where combo breakers exist, Sculptor's Cut's "no autos" motif does away with them, meaning once you're caught in the infinite... you're caught.

"To put it as simply as I can, ClayFighter Sculptor's Cut's combo system is broken. While that probably doesn't surprise people who are familiar with the franchise and its lack of quality, what we have is playing field that would make modern fighting game developers weep."

The extended hitstun on certain normals also means you can do things like hit a standing medium punch three times in a row, dash up, then rinse and repeat until the opponent is knocked out or even land special moves back to back. Imagine if Ken from Street Fighter landed his Hurricane Kick into Hurricane Kick, back into Hurricane Kick... and the next day... and the next day...

When it comes to consistency, ClayFighter's Nintendo 64 entries tend to struggle. Sculptor's Cut is no exception as things just seem to work differently in different situations.

I found that landing certain special moves on a cornered foe would send my character flying all the way to the other side of the screen instead of keeping me right in the action, and some attacks, when used in infinite combos, don't even trigger the KO and allow you to essentially perform the sequence forever. On the plus side, since this game isn't one that would ever even be remotely considered for competitive play — especially not in 2019 — the unintentional free reign you have at the expense of the combo system makes for a combo scientist's delight.

Once I got over the initial shock of how terribly busted and simple infinites are in this game, I started really putting my mind to work and tried to find ways to link all of the nonsense together in a coherent and challenging way. One combo that I put together utilizes the various principles I talked about here, and the dash up portions mid-combo were particularly tight in timing.

Click this image to view my clucking good combo!

Funny thing is, I barely even scratched the surface of what can be done in Sculptor's Cut. There is a whole other aspect of juggle combos that can be tapped into, but I was unable to do so due to the game not having any kind of training mode.

Thankfully, this combo exhibition from Zool the WingedYoshi shows the potential of extended juggles, and even covers an odd feature that sees you landing a portion of your super in between rounds — and it's unavoidable.

What started as a game that I thought was terribly limited, especially compared to its predecessor, has transformed into an enjoyably broken fighting game with more possibilities than I could have ever imagined. If I could go back and tell my childhood self what I know now, perhaps I wouldn't have returned ClayFighter Sculptor's Cut to Blockbuster so soon.

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