Being a fighting game fan that owned a Super Nintendo during the 16 bit days meant that you had the cream of the crop. For violence and gore you had Mortal Kombat 2. For precision and refined gameplay, you had Super Street Fighter 2. For a mixture of both, you had Killer Instinct. As an arcade port, Killer Instinct blended together some mostly rock solid gameplay with a modest amount of violence.
The controls were mostly tuned in the proper way, aside from the often generous jumping distances. There’s a surprising amount of depth, involving the use of your special moves, as well as performing combos, in which can defeat an opponent who’s near death on the deciding round, and exceed 80 hits. The opposing fighter can deliver a Combo Breaker and half the combo dead in its tracks, if performed at the right time. The roster did not exceed eleven, counting the boss, but each character had their own play-styles, as well as some impressive character designs that hold up even today. You can perform a “finishing move” at the end of the battle too, or in a similar vein as Mortal Kombat 2, you can perform a Humiliation, which sees your opponent doing something with a light-hearted result, just as you would provide something for your opponent with a light-hearted tone in Mortal Kombat 2’s Friendship. There’s a surprising amount of depth to the fighting engine as a whole, which is vastly superior to Mortal Kombat’s fighting engine, and due to the amount of complexity and diversity of the combos, it can occasionally seem to be much stronger than the Street Fighter 2 engine.
Being that this was an arcade port of a vastly more powerful game, there were a lot of sacrifices made in order to make the game a reality on a 16 bit system. Thankfully though , the downgrades to the audio and video were not severe enough to destroy the port. There’s still an impressive amount of detail to the characters and stages, in a similar vein to Donkey Kong Country. Even the characters retain a healthy amount of frames of animation, give way to an often fluid gameplay from top to bottom, with only a hint of slowdown here and there. Each of the eleven fighters within the game have their own very distinct looks, though they do borrow some influences from other titles within the genre or from gaming and media as a whole. TJ Combo is an American boxer, which kind of gives a nod to Balrog of the Street Fighter 2 series, Riptor is a….raptor, Saberwulf feels like a wolf character straight from a Castlevania title, and Jago is the typical Ryu/Ken clone, with a more Ninja-like resemblance.
The title screen and character select music are two familiar tunes that you’ll remember for a long time to come. They are both memorable, with a feeling within their composition that fits in perfectly for those two portions. The in game music however, is thoroughly forgettable, leaving no impression in the player, while you’re playing or hours after you stopped. It’s not really anything mediocre, but it feels like its better suited for GoldenEye or Perfect Dark than Killer Instinct. High quality tunes, though not necessarily fitting. The vocal cues around a bit grainy, and occasionally cheesy, such as B. Orchid’s little “yeah!” cheer when you win your fight. While some sounds will become tiresome due to the repetition of certain moves being performed and the sounds they give off, they don’t act as an incentive to mute our television, though they don’t give you a reason to celebrate it’s redundancy.
As a single player experience, Killer Instinct is quite entertaining, though there’s almost no incentive to play the game after beating it even with two different fighters. Add a friend to the mix, and Killer Instinct suddenly becomes a true hot commodity. As with any fighting game, multiplayer will extend the life of the title considerably, especially if you both know what you’re doing. While it doesn’t have the same hook to it as Capcom’s famed brawler, you’ll find yourself sinking a good chunk of time into Rare’s grappler.
If you can find a second player to join with you, Killer Instinct becomes one of the more enjoyable games of its generation. If you’re winging it solo, while the depth is there and the characters are thoroughly likable, you really won’t find yourself returning to it as often as you would say, Super Street Fighter 2. Somewhat weaker single player experience notwithstanding, Killer Instinct is a title you should proudly tout as a video game in your collection.