Fight Crab delivers chaotic crustacean combat

If ever there were an animal that didn’t need to use weapons, it’d be the crab. They are walking battle tanks that wear built-in suits of armor and have giant weapons mounted on the front. And yet, here’s Fight Crab, a fighting game about crabs that stab each other with machetes and shoot each other with revolvers.

Fight Crab is the work of Calappa Games, a Japanese indie developer with a fixation on the aquatic. Prior work includes Neo Aquarium and Ace of Seafood, the latter of which is essentially underwater Ace Combat with laser-shooting fish. What brooding widowers are to Christopher Nolan, supernatural marine creatures are to Calappa.

The premise is obviously absurd, but this is a game with a pretty conventional design. It’s a one-on-one fighter with a Smash Bros.-style damage system. There are no health bars, but get someone to 100 percent damage or beyond, and you’ll be more likely to deliver a final blow. In this case, that involves flipping an enemy crab onto its back for three seconds.

Fight Crab reminds me of Nintendo’s Arms in that it gives you a rear view of your character and independent control of each of their punching limbs. Where Arms was simple to pick up, though, Fight Crab is deliberately overwrought to the point where it feels more like QWOP. Each analog stick controls a pincer in 3D space, you punch with the triggers, guard or grab with the bumpers, and move around with the D-pad. The environments vary in scale and are widely destructible, so you can pick up a chopstick on one stage and a telegraph pole on another and unleash roughly equivalent devastation on your unfortunate opponent.

Crabs tend to not be particularly agile creatures, so playing Fight Crab is an exercise in patience and despair. The game feels like it’s permanently underwater, even when you’re battling in the streets. You’ll often see strong attacks coming seconds in advance and still feel powerless to stop them, only managing to watch on in horror as your crab is propelled through the air in slow motion as the world collapses around it.

The campaign starts you off in a rock pool and takes you through bouts against increasingly intimidating crustaceans in increasingly weird settings. Honestly, it was more dramatic than it probably sounds when I tell you about the time that a boss-level mud crab descended from the ceiling of a medieval hall wielding a glowing purple sword straight out of Soulcalibur. Another stage lets you do battle with dim sum steamers and liquor bottles across a tabletop in a Chinese restaurant.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any other players online during the review period, and I largely embraced the chaos when mashing my way through Fight Crab’s campaign. But I would actually be interested in seeing high-level play in the perhaps unlikely event that the game’s multiplayer modes ever take off for real. The controls are so loose, the game is so slow, and the rules are so simple that there has to be the potential for skill and strategy.

Fight Crab is also surprisingly technically solid. The UI is less than sleek, and the graphics are pretty terrible beyond the character models — which were definitely rendered by someone who knows their crabs — but the game runs smoothly, and the all-important collision detection seems accurate enough, despite the extreme degree of mayhem. I think pro Fight Crab players could have faith in its systems.

What I’m saying is that Fight Crab gets my vote as the next big esport. It doesn’t have much content, it isn’t very polished, and it’s about crabs. But it’d certainly make a change from all the hero shooters.

Fight Crab is out tomorrow on Steam. A Nintendo Switch version will follow on August 20th in Japan and on September 15th elsewhere.

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