Killer Instinct – Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?

Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?” Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:

Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.

Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.

Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.

Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.

This week the Diehard GameFAN staff is looking at a franchise that has been dormant for a whopping fourteen years and remains a series people either loves or hates. Co-developed by Midway and Rare, this fighting game series management to make a huge splash when the genre was at its peak. Although it lacked the staying power of top tier fighting game franchises like The King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, it remains far more popular and memorable that other fighting games of that same era like Primal Rage, Pit Fighter, or Aggressors of Dark Kombat. Outside of arcades, the series has only been released on Nintendo based systems due to Rare’s relationship with Nintendo at the time. Will Killer Instinct ever re-appear outside of the Nintendo Game Boy, SNES, or Nintendo 64, and more importantly, SHOULD it? Let’s see what ten Diehard GameFAN staffers have to say about Killer Instinct and what its fate should be.

Killer Instinct

AJ Hess – Sequel
When Microsoft brought Rare into the fold, my first thought was Killer Instinct 360. It would be the series’ third game, and a perfect excuse to take the game 3-D. Sure, the first two titles had some issues. They came out at a difficult time though. Rare wanted the accessibility of the familiar Street Fighter patterns and needed a certain amount of bloodshed in order to compete with Mortal Kombat. They nailed both and managed to create a game full of memorable-if slightly unoriginal-characters. The Combo system is something else I’d be happy to see return, but maybe in a toned down version. Stepping onto Xbox Live and getting a hundred-hit Ultra Combo landed by a twelve-year old just doesn’t appeal to me.

Widro – Sequel
It’s remarkable in an era of digital downloads that it remains impossible to play either Killer Instinct 1 or 2 in their arcade form. The Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 versions are pale comparisons to the arcade games (and also unavailable). The stylized rendered characters stand up as unique and striking to this day, and the emergence of online networks has re-invigorated the fighting market. It would be a perfect time to simply re-release the arcade games in HD on one of the download services to test the waters, and then if there is enough interest, put out a third sequel. Like it or hate it, the combo system in Killer Instinct is such a great candidate for achievements/trophies and could prove a sleeper hit with the modern gamer.

Christopher Bowen – Sequel
Ironically, two of the dumbest things I hear people say that are the biggest into retro gaming involve games made by Rare. The first is that Donkey Kong Country was overrated, and not very good. This is stupid. DKC was a great platformer in its own right that – yes – stands up on its own today, not to mention the fact that back in ’94, the graphics were great. In fact, they were better than a lot of “next generation” stuff from the Playstation era, because they didn’t beat us over the head with polygons. For people to look back in 2009 and say that Donkey Kong Country wasn’t great is idiotic, in my mind.

I feel the same way about Killer Instinct. Over the years, everyone’s moved on, Street Fighter II became a huge franchise, Mortal Kombat rose and fell, fighting games went into 3D, and everyone forgot about Killer Instinct, except to lump it in with all the other “me-too” games that aped Street Fighter. People don’t quite remember how awesome KI’s system was. There were timing-based combos, with a way to break each and every one turned every match into a chess match when they involved two really good players. Of course, if you had a good player against a mediocre one the latter player was usually screwed, but the system was there to be played with. It was a beautiful system that I still enjoy.

If someone were to take this system, add in a few new characters (the character designs did suck), and increase the number of combos and breakers to make the possibilities near-endless, that would be an amazing 2D fighting game. It can be done. The question is: who would do it? We have no clue what the hell’s going on with Rare since they started sleeping with Microsoft. For all we know, they might have been turned into a Kate Hudson-like mannequin. This is the reason we can’t play KI outside of either the SNES port or via emulation, and the same reason we’re never, ever ever EVER going to see Goldeneye on a downloadable service, either. It doesn’t benefit anyone’s bottom line, so we’ll never see them.

In a perfect world, someone’s working on anotherKiller Instinct game right now. In the real world, I’m sure Rare’s working on a way to shit out another crappy N64 platformer for $15 on Live Arcade.

Guy Desmarais – Sequel

For a while, Killer Instinct was my favorite fighting game of all time. There’s a summer that was almost entirely lost playing that game, with an incredible number of tournaments being fought between eight or so kids while the rest of the world was enjoying the sun outside. I believe that the combo system is a great one, and while it’s a bit hard for newcomers, it’s the kind of game that is very rewarding when a little bit of time is put in to learn the proper moves. I will admit that when simply taken as a button-mashing game, it loses a lot of its fun, but even then, there are other positives to the game that I believe warrant a new sequel.

For one, I have always enjoyed the corny selection of characters, such as Fulgore the killer robot, Riptor the humanoid dinosaur and B. Orchid the sexy police officer that looks nothing like a prostitution sting operation double agent. I believe that these characters were so over the top that they went all the way back to good, and that if the series goes all the way on that aspect of character designs, they could have something unique.

There are a lot of things that set the original apart from its contemporaries, and while it may not make it the greatest fighting game of all time, I think the foundations of the series are good enough to be brought back in the spotlight one more time.

DJ Tatsujin -Sequel

When it comes to arcade games, I usually have those stories I pull out where I go would go to “x” arcade and enjoy “y” game title and Killer Instinct is no different. I knew someone that owned both Killer Instinct and Killer Instinct 2 and between KI and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, he installed the heavy duty of springs in the joysticks in preparation for the marathons of free play we would enjoy on the titles. While we played UMK3 more often, the two titles come together by chance as I often say Killer Instinct, much like UMK3, is a title that most casual players do not truly understand. Until you meet skilled players and put in hours of gameplay, you’ll only see a fraction of what the game has to offer. In Killer Instinct, to play well, you have to understand and know every single character in the game and this admittedly goes well beyond the bounds of the average gamer. As one of our other staff members has stated, watching two skilled KI players go at it is almost like watching a chess match unfold – you have to be a couple of steps ahead of your opponent and must know how to counter every single possible situation.

With KI’s six-button setup and techniques, maybe rock-paper-scissors is more appropriate, but this unfolds through techniques as well. In combos, each strength of attack cancels out another and by knowing your opponents’ combos, you can turn the tables quite easily if the opponent does not have a mastery of their character. If all you know is B. Orchid’s b, f+6, 1 links, I will wreck you every single time you try it and the longer you make your combos, the more opportunities someone has to break the combos. You’ve seen the videos and you know they are there, but in the middle of a fight, these huge combos are worthless against someone that knows what is going on, so it is clearly just a matter of a gimmick getting in the way of what the game is truly about.
What was KI all about? – the typical in-your-face ’90s action title. The music in the title was fantastic and the sound effects made everyone in the arcade take notice of what was going on with the cabinet. The rendered visuals didn’t hurt either (even though the compression was very noticeable in some cases – moreso in the first title), making the title one of the more attractive games to hit arcades at the time. Once you got used to a few knacks, the controls become second nature, making the series a pretty fleshed-out experience. People can argue whether KI2 actually improved the series or ruined it, however, it balanced the game a little for the better and upped the presentation in almost every conceivable category.

Although people keep teasing the return of the series, if it does happen, I just want to see a 2D throwback title, preferably adding in new characters (yeah, some of the series’ characters are pretty lame) and mixing in the best of KI and KI2 along with new mechanics for the current times. With online play, people would be able to find ample competition and the insane moves and combos are complete fodder for achievements and trophies. As long as Rare could move away from the rated-G “fatalities,” Killer Instinct would have a lot of edge that would do well with today’s market and the fact people keep clamoring about a sequel means people actually want to see this happen. I’ll give Rare the benefit of the doubt on this one . It is most likely Microsoft twisting Rare’s arm to develop family-based titles and I think if let loose, the company would have a good amount of motivation to do something different for once. This is the same company that released an arcade game where anamorphic frogs with muscles grabbed giant rats by their junk and punched them in the balls until they died – I know someone there can pull this off.

ML Kennedy – Stay Dead
I have no love for this game. It is just poor man’s Street Fighter with poor man’s Mortal Kombat finishers with a touch of obnoxious interminable combos.

Is there anything really special about this series? Is there anything worth saving? You could make your opponents dance as a finishing move, and one character could finish off an opponent by flashing her cans.


Mark B. – Stay Dead

First: Rare is not a good developer anymore. There was a point, many years ago, where Rare was considered to be one of the greatest developers on the planet, largely because of games like Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, and later, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. Those days are over. Perfect Dark Zero was acceptable, but underwhelming, Grabbed by the Ghoulies was apparently “not very good”, Kameo was above average, and aside from their various rereleases, only Viva Pinata and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts have made any sort of significant strides towards reminding players that the company is in any way relevant. To be polite: I don’t see the modern Rare turning out a fantastic Killer Instinct, primarily because they are not that company anymore.

Second: I never cared for Killer Instinct when it was popular, and don’t see a need for the franchise to return now. Disregarding the terrible character designs and the game’s Mortal Kombat envy, the gameplay mechanics, that is to say the game’s Combo system, isn’t particularly exciting. I understand what they were going for, what with the whole, “one player initiates auto-combos while the other player tries to break out” tug-of-war mentality, but there was never a point where I found the game to be more engaging than any of the twenty or so fighting game franchises that preceded or came after it. To say that the franchise is good or bad is irrelevant in this case; it’s simply unnecessary. Let it go.

Dave Olvera – Stay Dead

Killer Instinct was a middle of the road fighting game that had visuals I did not like as well as a constipated announcer telling me about MASSIVE COMBOS or ULTRA COMBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOS! I loathed the game, which always seemed stationed near my favorite Samurai Shodown 2 cabinet.

What does KI bring to the modern era? Fighting games have elaborate combination systems that are much better than what KI used and all this without the announcer that has to pinch a loaf but is all bound up in his bowels. Memorable characters? I know there was a stiffed boobed lady in green and a boxer named TJ Combo. Maybe there was a clown or something – I don’t remember. Killer Instinct is a fighting game franchise but one that had one gimmick and flashy graphics for the time. Does anyone really sit there and throw Killer Instinct into the high quality 2D fighter category? You could go 3D but then again is there room for a half forgotten, more gimmick than substance, game that would have to re-invent itself to go beyond its obstructed colon combination concept?

I certainly do not think so and hope that I will never hear that annoying master of ceremonies or the KI logo on anything that is not found in the nostaligia bin at Goodwill.

Alex Lucard – Stay Dead

You know, I’ve never really liked the Killer Instinct series. The characters were boring and the game was more about the combo gimmicks than any real test of skill, frame rate memorization or challenge. I remember I played both KI’s in the arcade, beat them both with a single quarter without needing to continue and just sat there going, “That was it?” They weren’t horrible fighting games like Time Killers, but like most second tier fighting games in the 1990’s, it was about style over substance and there was little to no depth, challenge or balance. There’s a comment amongst fighting game aficionados that a world class KI player is the equivalent of a mediocre KoF player and in my experience with both the arcade and console versions of the game, that saying holds true.

As well, Rare hasn’t made many, if any, good games since leaving Nintendo’s fold. They’ve become a third rate developer and that coupled with a second rate fighting game franchise means the end result will be something horrible. I really don’t want to see fans of this series have their good memories tarnished. If Rare honestly thought they could make a third Killer Instinct, they would have done it years ago after all the hints and teasing they’ve put into other games. Rare obviously doesn’t feel they have the ability or skill to make KI3, so why even dream of a day when it comes out. It’ll just be disappointment all around.

Matt Yeager – Start Over

I think this franchise has taken a long enough break that most people old enough to remember it do so in a fog of nostalgia where they remember the good things and have forgotten the not so good parts of this franchise. I think that there would be enough interest in starting the series over again with the characters from a fresh perspective. With Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat Vs. DC selling well they can even keep the traditional 2D view and work on creating good fighting mechanics. Since the latest Mortal Kombat was a more sterile affair than previous versions, Killer Instinct could step in an be the M-rated title that MK veterans were hoping for.

End Result:
Sequel: 5
Stay Dead: 4
Star Over: 1
Spin-Off: 0

It’s interesting to see how close this came to a tie between sequel and stay dead here. Truly Killer Instinct is a series that elicits a lot of passion from both fans and detractors. I do find it interesting that the three biggest fighting gamers on staff voted “stay dead” while the more casual fighting game players voted “sequel.” Perhaps there is a correlation there to be made. Perhaps not. Either way, Killer Instinct was a franchise that elicited the most response from DHGF staffers since the very first S4 column about Mutant League Football. That definitely shows the name recognition this franchise still possesses.

Next week, join us for a look at arguably the most famous beat ’em up series of all time. It’s been made into a cartoon and a crappy movie, but does it still have potential in the video game realm. See you then!



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