Review by LastStand

Reviewed: 03/09/04

How did I like this back in fifth grade?

Killer Instinct. Yes, the mere mention of the name brings an extraordinary feeling of nostalgia. I remember the countless hours my friend and I spent playing this game back in fifth grade. I never owned the game; my friend was the owner and I borrowed it innumerable times. I never was a real fan of the tournament fighter genre, but somehow I loved this game to death. The combo system was enthralling, in my little fifth-grader-mind’s opinion. This game certainly saw a lot of action back in 1996.

Fast forward. It is March 8, 2004. I am significantly older now, in 12th grade, actually. I am over at that friend’s house. I had just gotten back from taking him out to buy some kingpin bolts for his skateboard. When we return, he realizes that the kingpins are too small. Therefore, he asks his dad to take him out to return the kingpins and get the right size. He wanted me to come, but I really wasn’t in the mood to go back out to the hardware store to watch him buy a few bolts. So, I go back up into his room and rummage through his old SNES games. There I see the black Killer Instinct cart and immediately I take it out and pop it into his SNES. I remembered how back in 5th grade I could pull off 13-hit combos with Sabrewulf at will, so naturally I entered the game and chose Sabrewulf. Well, to make a long story short, I didn’t even play the game for the whole 25 minutes he was gone. I was actually done in 15 minutes, disappointed, asking myself how I ever liked this game.

Graphics: 6/10
Well, I was satisfied in 1996. The units have some texture to them, and a seemingly 3D look to them. The backgrounds are very nice, but lack detail at times. However, all these do not come without flaws. The fighters are actually very pixelized and move around like zombies. The animation is IN NO WAY fluid at all. I would have expected better from Rare, who came out with Donkey Kong Country and many more graphically impressive games in the future.

Story: 5/10
Well, it’s a tournament fighter, so there isn’t too much of a story. However, each character has their own story behind them, so when you complete the game with them you will get an ending made for them. However, most of these stories have little or no connection to the tournament, so the story is very confusing.

Sound/Music: 8/10
I actually enjoyed some of the music. The opening theme is actually pretty cool, and some of the arena music is also good.
The sound is alright as well. Although some of the voices sound kind of static-filled, it is quite impressive, especially for an SNES game. What else can I say about sound? It’s a tournament fighter. You can’t get too descriptive about grunts.

Gameplay: 3/10
Oh, please. This is what I used to like.
Basically, Killer Instinct is based almost completely around its unique combo system. Every combo has a name assigned to it (a Triple Combo is 3 hits, Super is 4 hits, Hyper is 5, etc.), all the way up to the big mother combo of them all, the Ultra Combo, which is something like 18+ hits, but can only be done after the character is defeated (like a fatality time in Mortal Kombat). Each round ends once a player has its energy bar depleted twice, and at the end of the second depletion, the winner has a chance for a finishing move. This finishing move can be a regular attack, a combo up to Ultra, a fatality move, or knock the player off a roof. The game progresses up a ladder like most tournament fighters, where a player must fight every fighter and win until they reach the final enemy, Eyedol. This is all well and good, in essence, but somewhere along the line, something went terribly, terribly wrong.
For one, in my humble opinion, tournament fighters absolutely suck without some sort of a joystick. It is soooooo difficult to pull of a down+down-left diagonal+left+B move without a joystick. On top of that, the controls are very unresponsive and often you think you have hit the right combination, but you really haven’t, so you’re just flailing around while your opponent pulls off 10-hit combos. Also, the game has one very, very fatal flaw: no character move guide. That is, when you pause the game, there is no menu that shows all the character’s attacks. Therefore, you are left to figure out the moves by yourself. This really gave me trouble as I was sitting there, trying every possible combination to find out that one spin move that begins most of Sabrewulf’s combos. This is even harder when the controls don’t respond correctly, so you may have the right combination, but the game doesn’t register it correctly and you just end up doing some weak kick. The game becomes fun, that is, if you figure out all the moves and can pull of tons of combos. Otherwise, you will be in practice mode for a long, long time. On top of that, the characters move mind-numbingly slowly, so you will have to find a way to execute a ranged attack (which very few characters have).
Oh, and by the way, the characters are incredibly unbalanced. For one, I could NEVER find a way to execute an effective combo with Jago, while the computer could pull of millions of them. On the other hand, I was able to repetitively pull off the same 8-hit combo with Cinder just by pressing combinations of forward and Y, and I never lost once. However, this becomes a huge problem on higher difficulty levels, where the computers constantly use combo breakers.
The game has a good idea in mind, but there are just so many flaws.

Replay Value: 6/10
Almost no options. There is a difficulty-level option, but there is still only one one-player mode: the ladder tournament mode, and the two-player mode is only fun if you both know how to play.

Challenge: Average
It’s hard to judge this. It all depends on which character you choose. Pick Cinder, this is incredibly easy. Pick Jago, you’re screwed.

Good Points:
-Intriguing combo system
-2 player mode is pretty fun if you all know the combos
-Music and sound is decent

Bad Points:
-No move guides
-Unresponsive controls
-Graphics are unimpressive
-Too hard to execute combos
-Unbalanced fighters
-Not enough play variety

The Bottom Line:
I realize why I loved this game back then: I was a fifth grader. My standards are higher now. The combo system is nice, but way too hard to pull off. If you want a good tournament fighter, play Super Street Fighter II. If you want a really good non-tournament fighter, play Super Smash Bros. Melee. This game won’t be worth a rental; you won’t get the hang of it fast enough. Buy or rent at your own risk, or only if you’re in fifth grade.

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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