Gameplay, Story and Value:
Killer Instinct is a fighting game released by Rare that bares more than a few resemblances to another certain fighting game franchise. It’s been several years since I’d last play this game, especially the SNES version, and I was legitimately surprised to see just how similar it is to Mortal Kombat II. Everything from the digitized sprite graphics, the tower of combatants, even the music is similar.
As far as gameplay is concerned it’s your typical 2D fighting fare. Buttons are assigned to quick, medium and heavy variations of punches and kicks, and various button combinations initiate combos and special moves. Special moves are mostly what you’d find in other fighters of the time, though here they’re generally much more challenging to actually pull off, resulting in less fireballs and more face-punching. Where Killer Instinct tried to be different for its time was in the combo system. The reason it fails (or succeeds depending on who you ask) in this regard is because pulling off the combos themselves is extremely complicated and involved. While future games like Mortal Kombat 3 and Marvel vs Capcom 2 would make combos feel like a natural input sequence, Killer Instinct treats them much like special moves, requiring several non-intuitive button combinations to execute.
Aside from that the game feels much like Mortal Kombat II in the way it handles both its fighting and its game systems. You’ll select one player or two player mode, then square off against increasingly difficult opponents until you either get a game over, or have no one left to fight! Once a fighter is defeated the screen goes dim, giving the victor an opportunity to execute a deadly finishing move. One welcome addition here is a Practice mode, which all fighters should have but few did back then.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
Killer Instinct has not aged well visually, and playing it in upscaled 1080p is doing it no favors. Sprites are muddy and ugly and it can be hard to figure out what you’re actually looking at sometimes. Special effects such as projectiles look blatantly superimposed over the characters and the whole game lacks any real visual cohesion. Environments use pseudo-3D effects and look okay but it still doesn’t really come together.
Music is dull and muted, though never distracting. Sound effects from the fighters could get annoying after a bit but I found that to about par for the course for this kind of game. Digitized voice samples were scattered throughout as well, which are always nice.
As a huge fan of fighting games it will come as no surprise that Killer Instinct spent a lot of time sitting in my SNES in the 90’s. What did come as a surprise, and saying this will surely upset some people, is how this game is practically a carbon copy of Mortal Kombat II minus all the things that made Mortal Kombat II fun and memorable. My experience with the game just felt completely derivative and over-complicated, and I just didn’t have fun with it.
I know Killer Instinct has gone down as a classic, and the N64 version may change my opinion on it, but the SNES port just left me bored and frustrated.