Killer Instinct was released in the arcades in 1994, when most of the arcade goers were tied up with Street Fighter 2 Championship Edition and Mortal Kombat 2. The graphics seemed light-years ahead of other games, as the characters were rendered as texture mapped polygons set against scaling 3 dimensional backgrounds. The only popular fighting game to use polygons at this point was Virtua Fighter, and that made use of shaded polygons. While the textures were not very detailed by today's standards, at time it was a graphical experience not previously seen in any fighting game.

Instead of rounds as in previous fighting games, each player has two life bars. When a player loses his first bar, he starts over again with the second, and the other player keeps his current life. This made for shorter fights than most traditional 3-round fighting games.

The game play hinged on KI's combo system. Each character had 4-7 special attacks, much like previous games (the standard hurl a fireball, do a flip kick, throw yourself as a human projectile). Pressing (a) certain button(s) after using an attack could allow the move to be chained with another move, thus creating multiple hit combos. While combos could be done in other fighting games to date, they were done manually, i.e. you had to have good timing, and had to be quick. Killer Instinct simplified this process greatly, and among some fighting game purists, was shunned for doing so.

While Mortal Kombat revolutionized the during-combat announcer with cries of "Excellent!" and "Outstanding!", Killer Instinct took it a step further. Each combo, when finished, would cause the announcer to yell out the combo type, with more fervor in the voice as the amount of hits increased. Characters could juggle characters after executing a combo, and combos could be broken, causing the player to 'power up', and capable of doing a few more hits per combo. While it was possible to do 10,11,12, to 24-27 and even infinite(!)* combos, each successive hit did much less damage than the hit before. Here's a list of combo types:

  • 3 hits - Triple combo
  • 4 hits - Super combo
  • 5 hits - Hyper combo
  • 6 hits - Brutal combo
  • 7 hits - Master combo
  • 8 hits - Awesome combo
  • 9 hits - Blaster combo
  • 10 hits - Monster combo
  • 11 hits - King combo
  • 12+ hits - Killer combo

When a character was near defeat, it was possible to do an Ultra combo, different for each character, but for each, was certain a move executed at the end of a combo that under normal conditions would just execute that special attack. If you knew all the character's normal moves, you could do a Ultra by guessing). Characters also had No Mercy moves (named so because early versions of the arcade game would yell "No Mercy!" after a character lost the rest of his energy). These were just like Fatalities from Mortal Kombat, and served little purpose other than to stroke one's ego. Humiliations were performed in a similar way, taking a direct cue from Mortal Kombat 2; however, each character merely made the defeated opponent dance. Finally, and most impressively, No Mercies could be combined with a combo, creating an Ultimate combo. These were hard to pull off, and in early versions, were possible to do when the opponent was low on health on their first life bar! Needless to say, when matches were ending in half the time (and players were losing $0.50 per game), this was fixed quickly.

Killer Instinct was the first arcade game released by Nintendo in nearly a decade, and it contained an advertisement for the upcoming "Ultra 64 Gaming System", now known as the N64. I don't remember much from the ad, but I do remember it announcing the release date for the Ultra 64 as being at least a year before the date the N64 was released. It was successful in making me anxious to get my hands on one!

*The infinite combo could be done in the arcades by Cinder, by pushing an opponent into a side (or a corner) of an arena and doing successive flip kicks. Since the damage went down astronomically as more hits were added to the combo, this was a very ineffective way of defeating an opponent, and was usually only done for show. I believe this was fixed in later versions of the arcade units.

I've been recently re-addicted, thanks to ZSnes! The newer versions of ZSnes have network play, so if anyone wants to play, give me a /msg, and we'll see how well it works. ;)

I'd love to get my hands on an arcade unit. Anyone want to start a Help jeremy f Purchase Killer Instinct Fund? ;)