That Killer Feeling
Everyone clings to something that, long past its limelight and hype, we ardently believe it will make a comeback one day. That faint glimmer of hope that it’s not truly dead or relegated to the past tense permanently. While my desire to see Crystal Pepsi is most certainly not going to happen, my wish to see a third installment of Killer Instinct has come true!
I was a big fan of it when it came out in arcades in 1994, on the SNES in 1995, back in arcades again in 1996 for the sequel, then for its Nintendo 64 version in 1998 (Known as KI: Gold). I own the sequel’s strategy guide, which I memorized intensely. I practised a lot on the N64 version, trying to get the fabled 60+ hit ultra combo. This involved maximizing four shadow linkers, auto-doubles, manual doubles, and the rarely used parry starter. Sadly, its arcade existence was minimal at best as either the fanbase wasn’t as big as for the first one or the rock-paper-scissor method of fighting opponents grew stale quickly (my bet is a bit of both). The fist game was a supreme jump in high end graphics for the time though it turned out to all be pre-rendered instead of realtime, but that didn’t matter to most of us back then. Interactive stages for finishers was a great touch, the soundtrack ranged from techno and dance to ambient and heavy metal. The ‘Killer Kuts’ soundtrack that came with the SNES version is a cherished item in my music collection. I listened to it incessantly back in college.
Dreams do come true, and it only took 15 years to happen! This third game is more of a reboot, with only six characters currently (eight come the Spring), one of them being new to the series. However, it is an Xbox One exclusive but now that everyone has their own streaming websites today I can watch matches played and enjoy it without having to buy a system I was not going to get in the first place. The sequel’s existence was around when the internet as we have it today didn’t exist yet, and as a result I never got the chance to play against others outside of my local friends. So this is a wonderful treat. I may ever actually play the new game but I will certainly pay attention to the details of each character like a fantasy football player.
The additions and upgrades all seem to be well-researched. This is not a simple update and rehash of the previous games. Combo breakers can be countered, essentially allowing you to continue your combo. Returning characters have been given an amazing spit polish. Gender and ethnic stereotypes are much more toned down; Chief Thunder (sans ‘Chief’ in the new installment, also my favorite character) looks a lot more realistic, compelete with body paint and no mohawk. Orchid does not the body of a stripper anymore and her choice of clothing is a lot more practical. Ultras can be interrupted so you can insert more combo strings to increase the final hit count. The most I’ve seen so far is 121, I think. Ultimate combos and stage deaths are eliminated but I think it’s good to whittle the game down to its basic mechanics.
Overall, it’s a welcome surprise and one I hope generates another sequel. Godlike combo, indeed.