Most fighting games, understandably, involve humans fighting one another. Maybe there are some monsters, but generally speaking, there's an established idea of arms and legs resulting in punches and kicks. Fight Crab does not care for such ingrained orthodoxy, to the point that its own title is itself a descriptor. In Fight Crab, that's what happens: crabs fight.
But it's also more than a throwaway joke. There's been serious thought and balance put into Fight Crab, where players try to pilot a massive, tank-like crab around an arena while controlling both pinchers with analog sticks. It's purposely overwhelming, and while often it can feel like you're just mashing away, the result is a deeply funny and absurdist game.
I mean, what else can you say about a game where you play as crabs that can also wield a shotgun? (In my playthrough, I chose to slap a crowbar on my right pincer and dominated.)
That absurdism is the result of Fight Crab programmer Masafumi Onuki, who runs the studio Nussoft/Calappa Games. Onuki is also responsible for a number of other aquatic-based games— Age of Seafood, Neo Aquarium —which clearly reveals a person who loves making video games about the sea.
To try and figure out that reason, I reached out to Onuki recently.
VICE Games: You could have made anything fight against each other. Why these poor crabs?
Masafumi Onuki: I actually believe the issue with most fighting games is that exact thought, “you can make anything fight against each other.” This leads to the actual physical features of the fighters not being reflected in the control scheme. By choosing crabs, I was able to implement a unique control scheme where the skill in controlling each of the crabs’ arms and pincers dictates the outcome of the match. It also allows for fighting action that is not seen in other fighting games with humanoid characters and the flattened shape of crabs makes for a very unique three count knockout system.
Did you have a poor experience with a crab when you were younger? Alternatively, maybe you respect them?
Actually the opposite, I used to go Crayfish (Crawdaddy?) fishing when I was a kid. I guess that was when I started thinking crustaceans were cool, like their armor and pincers.
How does one balance a game like Fight Crab? Is it different than a traditional fighting game? What are you looking for when balancing your game?
Most fighting games have a command-based control scheme where you input certain commands to produce certain moves. In Fight Crab, apart from the special moves, there are mostly no commands. The arms and claws are controlled in an analog manner where you can freely change the angles and the timings of punches and grabs, you simply have to flip your opponent over to win. This means balancing mostly becomes an issue of each crab's stats, like weight and speed, as well as each weapon’s damage.
The Nussoft website shows three games: Fight Crab , Ace of Seafood , and Neo Aquarium . Clearly, you have an interest in the water and creatures inside it. Where'd that come from?
Mainly through my diet. Sushi, grilled fish, crab hotpot, ect. In Japan, seafood is a major part of our diet and the forms of these creatures are something that has been close to me throughout my life. Also, during my university years, I lived in Kyushu near the Genkai-nada coastline, which is famous for its huge variety of marine life. The beauty of that area and the sheer amount of marine creatures I was exposed to inspired me to use it as a subject for my games.
“I was taken aback by the crab’s ability to get so far by itself and also learned that even though I became attached to the crab, the crab thought nothing of me and likely didn’t even recognize my existence.”
Do you remember the first time you went to an aquarium as a kid? What was that like?
I don’t remember my first time, but the earliest memory from an aquarium was watching a horseshoe crab flipped upside down in its tank. It had difficulty flipping the right way up and I thought to myself that it would probably be better off in the sea with waves and currents it was adapted to.
I have to imagine you also took care of a fish, or some kind of aquatic creature when you were younger. What was their name? Tell me their story.
I tried to keep a freshwater crab as a pet when I was a kid but it escaped from its enclosure and somehow managed to end up in our kotatsu [Japanese heated table] which was downstairs in our living room. I was taken aback by the crab’s ability to get so far by itself and also learned that even though I became attached to the crab, the crab thought nothing of me and likely didn’t even recognize my existence.
Since then I have decided that human names mean nothing to them and have only admired them from afar or as part of my meals. “I am a big fan of crabs, but I realize to them we are nothing.”