Review by SNESBOSS
Reviewed: 06/12/17 | Updated: 05/15/18
Turns Out 'Rare' isn't Always on Point.
I thought Rare could never create a merely above-average game during the mid-to-late 90s... well, I was wrong! Killer Instinct was quite a big deal when it came out on the arcades in 1994, but it could not surpass the Mortal Kombat fever. Then, 1995 came and the SNES was honored to receive this addition to its library; unfortunately, it wasn't all that it could have been.
Some players might disagree with me, saying that it's obvious that when a game is downgraded from Arcade quality to SNES quality, the simpler tones of the latter will be crystal clear. But one of my biggest issues with Killer Instinct is that it does NOT look as good as it could, while the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter series on the SNES (also ports) looked miles better, and were even more realistic than this Rare title. Nevertheless, since graphics by themselves don't automatically give good/bad reputation to a game, allow me to elaborate more on this review.
GAMEPLAY: Killer Instinct gives you 10 characters to choose from (11 if you count enabling the boss Eyedol) so you can fight the computer or a buddy. While playing the single mode, you go through a "tower" of opponents (EXACTLY like in Mortal Kombat, with the "creepy" announcer's voice and all, but quite more cheesy) and fight each single character in the game. The fighting style of each character varies, but the game is mainly known by its system of combos, which can go from 3 to over 22 hits. Some of the easier combos can be easily performed by pressing a couple buttons repeatedly, but most of them will require more complex moves with the action buttons and the D-pad. A cool fact: each combo has different names depending on how many hits you perform.
Delving deeper in the controls, if one is acquainted with the MK series on SNES, he/she will be disappointed by the slower feel of Killer Instinct, and even more disappointed by the fact that you can't crank up that speed. The dial-up system of combos scream for a faster flow on the gameplay department, and unfortunately it just feels clunky and weird. A good example of a game that did this right is Super Street Fighter II, which gives playes the option of adjusting the speed up to 3X faster. Nevertheless, considering the comparisons between this title and the Mortal Kombat series, since Rare explicitly ripped off one of the most successfull fighting franchises of all time, it should've emulated MK3's speed and running system.
Also, just like in MK, you got your finishing moves, stage fatalities, and humiliation moves... but most of these moves are extremely lame, which basically means this game can be considered a PG-13 version of MK. At the end of the day, learning the different combos for all the characters might be fun, but the game lacks the very fast action and extreme gore of the MK series, and its story is not as entertaining as the Street Fighter series, and the game can get boring quick.
STORY: As the least important part in a fighting game in my opinion, the story in this game is kinda innovative for its time, but nothing groundbreaking. Basically, this mega corporation called Ultratech is behind the Killer Instinct Tournament and plans to test its robot creations during battles before starting mass production. As far as the other characters, each fight for their own reasons. Without any spoilers, all I can tell you is the characters' endings SUCK! It's as bad as the endings in MK, where you just see a picture or two and the description on what happened to the character after the tournament, but even worse in the sense that the text provided isn't even as descriptive.
GRAPHICS: I might get shot by some Killer Instinct fans, but the graphics in this game are merely "good". For my eyes, they DO NOT have the same pre-rendered quality of the Donkey Kong Country series, and it certainly loses when compared to Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and even the later Street Fighter titles on SNES. With the exception of Cinder's, Thunder's, and Sabrewulf's stages, the arenas look low-quality when compared to other Rare games of the time. The characters look blurry and quite pixilated, as opposed to the realistic and more detailed character models in the other two franchises mentioned. Obviously, the creators of Mortal Kombat 3 used more advanced methods when creating its realistic graphics, but even the SNES versions of Super Street Fighter 2 and Street Fighter Alpha 2 looked clearer and overall better than Killer Instinct! Another thing I dislike are the special effects; nearly every effect looks too cartoony for the vibe the game was trying to give, contributing even more for my perception of this game as a satire of Mortal Kombat. At the end of the day, the SNES was certainly capable of delivering much clearer and better graphics by 1995, and the masterminds at Rare had NO EXCUSES!
SOUNDTRACK: For me, this is easily the best part of the game. The soundtrack, although inferior compared to the Arcade version and to the Killer Cuts CD, is still awesome for the most part. The character themes fit their personalities and stages perfectly and give the game a quite modern atmosphere. Sure, there are a couple of poor tracks here and there, but the music department still deserves lots of recognition. As far as the sound effects, some are very good, others are just play annoying. The voice samples for some of the characters can be very laughable at times, which sucks a lot when compared to many other voice samples in SNES games.
LENGTH and REPLAY: It will take quite a long time to master all the characters' moves and combos, but that is not necessary if you wanna beat the game in the default difficulty setting. Back in the day I managed to beat the game in less than an hour during my first try. Once you master all the characters and see all their endings, the replay value vanishes, like in most fighting games. The only thing that makes me go back to specific fighting games is how fun it is to play them (both in single and multi-player mode), and unfortunately that isn't so much the case with Killer Instinct.
LEGACY and FINAL THOUGHTS: The game sold very well considering its flaws and the competition from other fighting titles. An estimate of 3.2 million copies were sold back then, and over 150,000 were sold during its release day just in the U.S. The series, although not as influential as other fighting series, surely has its devout clan of fans, and the game got a sequel released in 1996 for the Nintendo 64, and a 2013 revamp for the Xbox One. But honestly, my final thoughts are: LONG LIVE THE "MORTAL KOMBAT" SERIES ON SNES!
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Killer Instinct (US, 08/31/95)
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