I love bizarre fighting games. I’ve played Evil Zone (Eretzvaju), a game where every character stars in their own anime including bumpers and next episode (match) previews, I’ve played Arm Joe, a game that decided what Victor Hugo’s novel-turned-stage-musical Les Miserables needed was level three super moves and a robot Jean ValJean among other things. I’ve even played BCV: Battle Construction Vehicles, a game where you use construction equipment like bulldozers and wrecking balls to slug it out and save your father’s construction company. If the premise or mechanics are silly or unusual, I have to have a look.
Enter Fight Crab. I’ve been aware of this game for awhile now, and was delighted to learn it was getting a full release. I downloaded my preview copy and tore into it almost immediately after making sure my controller was hooked up properly. The title screen opens with scenes of ridiculous crab battles and a song that would not at all be out of place playing before an episode of Dragon Ball or any other shounen action show. Fight Crab knows it is very silly and adores that it is. In addition to the story mode, the main screen has options for a versus mode, options to adjust language, resolution, game controls, and other settings, and the game’s very short credits. Fight Crab‘s versus modes include one-on-one and 2v2 battles, in offline and online configurations, so you can play couch competitive or online. You can also choose to play free or ranked online matches, or just to spectate if you’re not yet ready to rumble.
In the Story Mode, you begin as a humble snow crab, eager to prove yourself, so you set out from your home on the Celestial Beach to flip as many crabs as possible. Why? Because that’s what you do. Fight Crab isn’t concerned with the how or why. Even the bare bones plot from the game’s web page that explains crabs are immortal never explains why, just that all crabs have an oath to submit should they suffer the ignominy of being laid out on their back. As such, instead of a regular health bar, you have a rising damage percentage, and occasionally a red danger indicator that grows larger the closer you are to being flipped. The higher the damage, the faster that bar appears and the harder it is to recover. When you’re flipped, you have until a count of three to flip yourself back over, or else you lose. The same applies to your opponent, though you can also win by ring out in a few of the game’s locations.
Fight Crab‘s Story Mode is laid out in a series of challenges that you can complete on normal, hard, and “Crabby” difficulties. Completing each challenge gets you money of an unexplained type (The symbol for it is a stylized crab, that’s all I know) and a check mark by that challenge, with additional checks for completing the challenge on higher difficulties. In the current version of the game, there are six sets of challenges in the story, plus an extra one that unlocks with the final battle. Each set of challenges is tied together with a theme, like being a giant monster in a tropical setting, fighting with cars and palm trees, or a medieval banquet hall, fighting crabs armed with axes, swords, shields, etc. Later challenges also include elements like being able to be pushed off the arena (a table at a Chinese restaurant) for an instant loss, or fighting in a very narrow corridor against Ninja Crabs. Each set of challenges is topped with a boss crab, usually a larger specimen, and often equipped with a powerful weapon you’ll have to deal with.
These challenges can get very difficult, with bigger crabs holding very strong weapons or even riding vehicles, so what do you do if the challenges get too tough? Well, firstly, you can call in for air support after failing a battle enough times. I had to do this myself against the spider crab, boss of the Ninja Crab challenges, and the Metal Crab, the jetpack-equipped boss of the crab market challenges. Doing this will get you an outlined check mark for the challenge until you can complete the challenge without support, but doesn’t affect your monetary reward. The other option is to use some of your crab bucks and buy upgrades for yourself. Not only can you buy stat upgrades like increased damage or flip resistance for your crab, you can also buy new weapons to give your crab at the start of battle, and you can buy entirely new crabs, once you’ve defeated those crabs in combat at least once. I personally ditched snow crab for a Coconut Crab as soon as I could, and finally left that crab behind for a King Crab when Coconut proved just a little slow. It’s worth pointing out here that when you buy a crab, you are not just buying it for the roster, you are buying an extra copy of the crab, that you can set as your co-op partner for several challenges, or sell back to the crab store if you no longer need, and that each crab in your roster can be leveled up and sold.
The game currently has 23 playable characters, most of them crabs, and 48 purchasable weapons and vehicles. There is no end of the variety of nonsense you can pull, up to and including throwing what is essentially Mjolnir at enemies while you ride a Vespa. Because you can do that. I did.
All these words and I still haven’t fully explained the how of crab fighting, so now seems a good time to change that. In Fight Crab, you are in direct control of your crab’s pincers, using your joysticks to tell them where to move and to turn the crab, and then using your shoulder buttons (in the default configuration, you can change it if you need) to punch, grab, and block. Moving the crab around is done by hitting a direction on your D-pad and letting the crab handle movement in that direction automatically, tapping once to walk and twice to dash. The goal as stated above is to flip your opponent over. The more damage you rack up, the easier your opponent is to flip and the same is true of you, so you’ll be using your joysticks to maneuver your crab’s arms to punch, guard, swing weapons, operate vehicles, and activate hyper mode and hyper powers.
Yes, you have a Hyper Mode. Once you unlock it fairly early on, you and every crab you fight will gain a glowing ring around your damage percentage. Once that ring is complete, you can activate Hyper Mode for a Super Saiyan-like glow and stat boosts, as well as several moves that end Hyper Mode early but do significant knockback and damage. Special moves include the Kanihameha, an energy beam activated by holding your claws to one side and punching, the Crab Ball, charged by holding your hands above your head for a long time, and the Kanioken, which improves your stats even further and gives you a reddish glow. If you’re noticing a theme, you’re not the only one. The punny references are emblematic of the absurdist tone the game is striving for, a tone it maintains by equipping enemy combatants with giant drills, lightsabers, jet engines, Vespa scooters and in one case a flying seal. The action in the game starts simple, just you and an enemy crab, but it gets more intense with each new level and challenge as they add new crabs, new weapons, and new insanity. But even when the game is at its most frenetic and difficult, it’s still fun. Even when you’re retrying the same boss fight for the 20th time because you got flipped moments before they did, it still remains fun.
My one major complaint about Fight Crab is that some of its mechanics are obscure, even with the game’s handy tutorial and many hints. I literally completed Story Mode before I fully comprehended how secondary fire on several weapons worked. It also dumps you into several modes without much or any warning. Remember how I told you above that you have a co-op partner in several fights? I didn’t realize that I had an ally for several until I realized there was a spare crab in combat that wasn’t fighting against me.
All that said, I love Fight Crab. I blazed through the Story Mode in little more than a day, and I have so many more crabs and weapons to try out. I can’t wait to go online and fight random people and see what their crabs are outfitted with. If you are at all a fan of non-standard fighting games, give Fight Crab a try.