KILLER INSTINCT [X1 Review]: Gl-gl-gl-glory Daze.

There’s no question the 1990s were the dawn of the Fighting game. It was an era of roundhouse kicks, Hadoukens, and the phrase, “GET OVER HERE!” Arcade companies would compete in launching the next uber badass tournament fighting game. Not only did we have Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, we also had Virtua Fighter, Fatal Fury, Tekken, Time Killers – basically what all of those great memories were.

For your Reverend, his intense passion for Fighters began in ’94 with the arrival of Killer Instinct. Up until then, Super Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II owned the hands and eyes of every virtuous gaming fighter (because seemingly everything — but relationships — comes great in two’s); yet, it wasn’t until that summer where gamers were introduced to the next level of fighting games, not to mention one with the Nintendo logo slapped on it.

Needed a new CD for the whip. I swear.

At 13, a young Rev pushed his way through the crowd to check this shit out. I was stunned, as K.I. was the first fighting arcade to use sleek Silicon Graphics, compliments of Rareware, which were pretty cutting edge graphics at the time. I was in awe, watching a hot chick in a skin-tight green outfit, wielding twin laser swords, duking it out with what looked like a skeleton pirate, executing these insanely linked-together 34-hit combos, and hearing this loud voice in the background yell “C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!!” or “ULTRA COMBOOOOOOO!!!!” I popped my quarters (pretty sure it took two), and just played the shit out it until those pockets were empty, forever having a tough time believing that Nintendo was the publisher for something so violently amazing. Come the following year, the Super Nintendo version was released. I remember rushing to the nearest electronics retailer, and spending $75 of my birthday money.

Yeah, I shit you not; games cost way more back then. Much like MK or SFII, limitless hours went by inflicting combo damage against friends. We were introduced to a sequel a couple of years later, which eventually made its way to the Nintendo 64 with a Gold edition, but after that, Killer Instinct became long forgotten…

Until now.

Jago: Unchained.

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that KI would be making a comeback as an exclusive launch title for the Xbox One, with Double Helix as developer. Imagine the shock! All of those old memories from my early scrawny teen years of pwning the most thuggish and ruggish-looking broheems at the arcade came back to life. My first taste of the soon-to-be X1 title was at this past San Diego Comic-Con, playing yet another brute: Monsignor Moody. We were able to rumble for a couple rounds at the event, using the two fighters they made available, Jago (KI‘s “Ryu,” if you will) and Sabrewulf.

Our first taste of the next-gen console was no less than a chaotic rush of high number combos — and “combo breakers” (escaping a string of combos via the Light Punch+Light Kick, Medium P+MK, or High P+HK buttons, pending your opponents’ strength of their combination). I owned him, of course.

Now that the new systems have launched, it was time to play for real. The game was advertised as a free download for X1, but this version of Killer Instinct appeared no more like a fucking demo. There’s only one character, which forces all interested parties to either buy the other characters a la carte (i.e. the dreaded “microtransaction”), or through a pair of package deals. Great. And, here’s where they get you: you have the option of either the “Combo Breaker Pack” for $19.99 or the “Ultra Edition” for $39.99. Of course I went for the the Ultra Edition, since it offers all the characters available, plus some extra add-ons including costumes and accessories (though you still have to unlock the majority of them through KP points you earn through #winning).

You mean she hasn’t fought/made out with Spider-Man yet? Shocking.

Thus, KI offers the six unique characters, including the originals, Jago, Orchid, Sabrewulf, Thunder, Glacius, and one new addition in web-based aerialist, Sadira. While my first reaction was “That’s it?!?,” it turns out that two more of the originals, Spinal and Fulgore, will be released in January and March, respectively. Still feeling let down? Tell me about it…

Thankfully, my fellow Instincters (beats calling you The Killers, or KI Jelly’s), the next-gen graphics and emphatic gameplay, especially, should be enough to keep most die hard fighters impressed, if not invested. The interlocking combo system is a lot easier to execute this time around (and you can train in the impressive and intensive training session mode named Dojo, if you’d like), as the moves are easy to pick, pretty quick. Hell, even the aforementioned Combo Breakers — which is all about right timing just as your opponent is laying combo hits on you — are easier to execute, even more so than in the classic arcade.

A nice addition to the new K.I. is the Counter Breaker. It’s a method where if your opponent breaks your combo streak, you are able to counter that Combo Breaker…and make that person look like a bitch. Or, you can lose half your own energy and look twice the bitch.

The only fighting game character to be named after a failed wrestling program.

The graphics, particularly for a launch title, are pretty sweet. Running at 60 fps, K.I.‘s character and background designs pack plenty of detail. Orchid and Sabrewulf are also given a nice updated design to their classic counterparts, while Jago, unfortunately, looks less of the ninja he was remembered and more of an ancient Sparton. And, is it just me, or does Thunder look like a roided-out version of Johnny Depp’s Tonto? What up wit dat?

The latest Xbox controller is definitely an improvement than the 360′s. It’s much lighter, smoother, and you don’t have that huge distracting battery pack in the center. A good change, especially for a fighting game. So, there was your Rev destroying Moody, countless times… Okay, fine. The boss beat me once, and it was quite the epic fight. I busted out the Flick Flack moves with Orchid, and he used his preferred choice Sabrewulf (probably because he looks like an “ultra” combo of the X-Men’s Beast and The Hobbit‘s Beorn, the transformation grizzly-man). Back and forth, we were landing insane combos and constant breakers. Even when both of our health bars were low, neither character would go down. Finally, Moody came back and beat me that one time.

He’s getting better.

Moody, at the sight of a depleted craft service table.

Look, as exhilarating of a game Killer Instinct is to play, it’s hard not to feel cheated when you don’t receive the complete game all at once. There are too few characters, and it’s not the kind of game you would want to play by yourself. With one player, you can battle other foes in Survival Mode, which is a sure-shot challenge, but that’s it. There’s no Arcade Mode, and the Campaign Story Mode won’t be released until March. I know, I know it’s a fighting game. Who cares about Story Mode? Back in the 90s, perhaps, this Rev wouldn’t. Yet, after getting used to excitingly well-scripted Story Modes in the recent Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us, it’s a near preference.

Buyers of the Ultra Edition will also receieve the Classic Version, which took us forever to actually play because it was damn near impossible to find. You can bet there were plenty of forums also having the same issue. No one should ever have to Google something apparently so cut and dry!

The bottom line is, the latest entry into the Killer Instinct lore has incredibly addictive gameplay with its robust mechancics system, intensely updated graphics, and a fantastic soundtrack. If you excuse the beta limitations (having to earn points to buy multiplayer stages and more character colors) and don’t mind busting up online opponents (lag free) or the CPU (even at only six initial characters), then let your combos never break and your memories to never shake…at least until after next spring.

3.5 (out of 5) Bibles.

Joe Rivera
Joe Rivera is a nerd culture enthusiast, whether its comics, video games, sci fi, and horror. When he is not writing for GHG, he is busy hustling people at video games. He is also an actor/writer/host, whose hosting credits include Maker Studio's "The Game Station"and Break Media "Spotter Gaming Show"......and always gets killed in horror films. Follow @WTFJoeR

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