Killer Instinct

Which I clearly lac-uh, I mean, C-C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!

Source // Wikipedia

Ohhh... so this is where all those announcer phrases come from. The ones that aren't "Fatality", or "Killing Spree" or "We have lost objective Butter" or whatever. Killer Instinct. I know of Killer Instinct. I know its remake drew a lot of hype, at least. I basically know nothing of Killer Instinct.

What could possibly go wrong as we button mash our way into fluked combos as a skeleton fighting a werewolf? Let's find out!

Fun Times

I'm playing the SNES port of Killer Instinct which has a noticeable drop in quality from the arcade original but is still playable with buttons for weak, medium and heavy kicks and punches mapped to whatever buttons take your fancy.

Each of the many diverse characters is a pre-rendered sprite which, the 1001 entry points out, makes them look like the exaggerated action figures they ought to be. Instead of humans - though there are a few of them - we have the likes of velociraptors, crystal dudes, skeletons and more, all trying to prove their worth in melee combat.

The plot is something along the lines of an animal testing lab putting its creations up against any and all fighters looking for a challenge, in order to test their strength before... well, I don't know... selling them as bodyguards? No idea, not important.


What is important is that not once did I score any form of combo, even a crap one, which is almost the entire point of Killer Instinct. There are whole systems introduced to the fighting genre around combos, and how long a combo you risk trying before your opponent breaks out of it and unleashes one of their own.

In most cases, I would whittle an opponent down to half health easily enough, at which point there is a barely perceptible break before the fighting continues, at which point my foe would switch on - the difficulty only being set to 3 out of 6 stars - and would absolutely dominate me with an ultra combo from which I could barely recover.

On the SNES at least, any failures allow you to retry the fight using a different fighter. I had more luck with human fighters, but getting stuck against the second opponent, and then near immediately dying to the third wasn't my idea of fun.

Final Word

I've been enjoying the sounds of Killer Instinct while writing this up, though, seeing experts utterly thrash their competition out of the corner of my eye without a moment's pause. Playing it isn't enjoyable. It isn't satisfying to me. If I finally beat an opponent who defeated me a few times before, it feels like it's because of dumb luck, rather than progress.

Was I just not getting the hang of combos? Was I not doing anything right with my inputs? Most likely, yes, and so that's something to correct next time it's played. But will there be a next time?

The characters are pretty original, and that announcer could make anything awesome, so there's a chance I suppose, but then I would likely be playing the SNES port, which is the lesser of two evils when it comes to the available ports - though the Game Boy port might be interesting to see.

Now more than ever, it's clear to me that some fighting games you get and some you don't. By that I mean the feel of the game, regardless of its looks, characters, underlying technology, whatever. I get Tekken (by God I get Tekken. Might even look into buying the latest and seeing if I'm still incredibly average at it), I kinda get Street Fighter, I don't get Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct is there or there abouts too. I just haven't grasped what the fans have grasped for 20 years.

Do try it out for yourselves so that you can at least see these strange creatures in action, and hear the origins of those announcer quotes.

Fun Facts

The arcade hardware included a hard disk in order to store more detailed graphics data than its competition, and even bigged up that Killer Instinct was soon to be seen on the Nintendo Ultra 64, the then still in the works home console we know of as the N64.

Killer Instinct, developed by Rareware, first released in 1994.
Version played: SNES, 1995, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1994 (arcadegamesfreak)