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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Killer Instinct


Many do claim that 1994 was an actual date in history with people living their curious lives, having casual fun under morose cable rainbows. Bah! Little if any do these scientific observers know about the favorite interests and pastimes of the violent arcade geek with the well developed affection for all things post- apocalyptic. Killer Instinct scouts out fictional areas conceived in a future that worships violence and finds rampant pleasure observing the twisted beauty it delivers. The game made its debut of aggressive retinaseduction with a visual/modal style vivid and radical enough to solidify the output as one of the most memorable VS installments.

Enjoy and read on!

Killer Instinct arrives by a time that already have seen illustrious franchises and The Lady Kier! emerge. Mortal Kombat, the Street Fighter series, even Sega's Virtua Fighter is available to the public and the style is quite popular by the period. Killer Instinct comes to the arcades as a rather unorthodox machine, sporting a muscular CPU which is steadily supported by a highly secretive hard drive. This storage capacity throws the green light on a massive amount of data, giving - totally and completely blissful - possibility to invoke pre-rendered 3D backgrounds. Increased efficiency to store data enabled the developers to go Nuclear with the detail work, giving you delicious, rather large 2D characters, ready and able to splatter some quality guts around in high definition. Did you believe that? From a technical point of view, an evident, elegant Killer we are talking about, living up to its name right by its debut minute.

Thank God that Killer Instinct sports the most trite - and subsequently most beautiful - post-apocalypse setting the human mind - ok, the sedated sloth mind - could conceive. You know the drill, it is something like:

"... then the remaining survivors are forced to retreat from the surface of this here scorched, sorrowful Earth! Radical entertainment is the only form of mass pleasure, preventing a dangerously hectic society from losing its fragile balance!"

This setting never gets old, because it is beyond being old since times immemorial. The Ultratech Corporation organizes the Killer Instinct Tournaments, toe to toe battles taking place between illustrious participants, all of them having rather inventive characters, background stories and -perplexedly! - consorting agendas.

I find Killer Instinct to be especially strong and brave in its atmosphere, in its modal buildup. The character roster is exceptionally flamboyant, even inventive - creating a spectrum in which you won't find the same flavor or tint of color twice. Got any doubts? Consult the Optional Randompraise of the Killer Instinct Character Roster section then.

Optional Randompraise of the Killer Instinct Character Roster

Spinal is an ancient warrior. At default, he is dead since millenniums, yet now he reigns in sheer skeletal form, revived by Ultratech. Pretty traditional delivery from a storytelling point of view, yet this nice, kind of a classic fictionmodel does a very elegant job of introducing a skillfully outlined past to a skillfully crafted future.

Riptor is a genetic experiment. Hm. A geneRic experiment, you thought? AND a possible tribute to Primal Rage, huh? A modest WOW nevertheless, as commanding rampant T-Rexes was great fun for the whole family in 1994 - we are only one year after Stevie Spielberg's Jurassic Prick!! - and I have a PayPal Donation to make that it remains great fun for the same type of community to this day, as well.

Cinder is a convict, trapped in some relatively crazy existence characterized by a constant self-burning that WOULD consume the flesh - but this man has a SIN so DREADFUL that his spirit forces him to re-experience torment without END, without RELIEF. I confess I made half of this up. Which part is the actual background story of Cinder, you wonder? Yet Another Amazing Reason to be a regular.

Glacius is an ice-alien. Exhibits evident T1000 influences from Terminator 2. Question arises: why would we have any problem with this? Sabrewulf delivers a nice, massive goth impact on the atmosphere, no woman nor man could play as a werewolf in a 2D fighting game prior to this. Let's face the Strange: werewolves are kind of cool, and, according to popular mainstream mythology, - worship redundance, then kill it with ignorance - they shred Vamp butts!

Killer Instinct delivers even when it comes to those popular "BAH! Every. Body. Picks. Them." characters. Some people will tell you that the most popular characters of the game are Orchid and TJ Combo. That is a lie, I think. The most popular character of Killer Instinct is Orchid. Period. Yes, TJ Combo would be the next in line in popularity, but you will never select this muscular brada', as the Orchid with the different outfit color - press up and down on character selection - looks waaay better, yes?

Even when she has the mild Michael Jackson going on.

and now -

The Gameplay

Killer Instinct comes with two health bars, though you won't necessarily believe this until you see the first one being destroyed, just to be replaced by the second, final one. The game comes with six action buttons. If it came with any less, consider yourself an unlucky dudette and demand a flawless model from the factory. If it came with more than six action buttons, then contact the favorite identity of your optional multiple personality disorder, which, I guess, could be even me, huh? Anyway. Three kinds of punches and kicks are available: Quick, Medium and Fierce. Block happens by the traditional way, meaning all you have to do is to pull your sista'/duda' towards the opposite direction the attack is coming from. The first elegant catch of Killer Instinct slowly and surely emerges though.


- How was that again?
- The Shadow of Your Smiiiile - When You ... Were Gooooone ...

In this here game, you can perform a block in the lower region or you can perform a block in the upper region. Doing the two simultaneously would be a nice trick to show off, but, luckily/sadly, no one will be able to do that without cheating. Here is how the system works: an attack aimed for the upper body region will smash a low guard, but will be blocked on an upper defense. An attack aimed for the lower body region naturally will bypass a high block, but will be blocked and will cause no damage if it meets with a successful lower block.

The system of Quick, Medium and Fierce punches and kicks offers a solid basis for the steady pace the game flows at, giving the players an experience of swift tactical warfare characterized by two or three exchanges AND consecutive attempts to introduce Specials and/or Combos. Killer Instinct likes to seduce its participants to be engaged in fervent bloodshed with relative intensity. I have a scientific observation to defend this here latest notion with.

Behold how the characters are moving way faster when they are approaching their rivals. Backpedaling is an option in the game, but a fragile one for escaping. Remains useful for Combos and Specials that require you to utilize a so called "Charge", though. We will observe these Charges later on thoroughly.

Playing Killer Instinct with a keyboard on a PC on MAME while your neighbor has no idea of this at all, will give you amazing Specials. First of all, be sure to tap around on the direction keys like an accomplished idiot would do in Masterful Manic mode. The effect will be tremendous! Also notice one of the tiny Wonders that Killer Instinct delivers: Fulgore's metal body will collide with the ground via a highly acceptable metallic sound, even upon finishing a jump. This is all very tender AND a nice base to sew sentiments of later on, true? Now let me ask you this:

What do you think will happen if Fulgore's metal body collides with snow, wood or ice on the backgrounds that have snow, wood or ice on them? What do you think will happen then, huh?
Now unto the gameplay mechanics.

Gameplay Mechanics

A Quick kick deals less damage than its other variants, yet it connects before a concurrent stronger kick would do. An orthodox method to punish the newbie in Killer Instinct is to "steal" a row of quick strikes or punches on her/him while she/he is busy introducing Specials. Notice how dramatic the damage dealt by a Fierce kick is when compared to that dealt by a Quick kick.

Specials come in two forms: those that do require Charging movements and those that do not. Charging is quite similar to what you have seen in Street Fighter II, for example. All it takes to perform is to constrain your movement towards the required direction - usually back - then release with the given command to state your Special and/or Combo. In fact, I am tempted to believe that there are no Charge movements in Killer Instinct apart from the "Away" direction - BUT!, since I defy belief with ruthless efficiency, I believe I'll defy to believe that from now on.

MAME Review Killer Instinct Minigame!

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Can you spot the ass?

The game partly is about Specials, yet it is massively about Combos. Combos are the bread and butter of what Killer Instinct really is. Each character have a number of Specials that are utilizable to Open a Combo. Combos, as you may have suspected already, are offensive moves you land on your puny rival with rapid succession, giving her/him no time to regain composure. Not giving the time is not identical of not GETTING any, though. We will see into this matter later.

MAME Review gives you:
The not too GTA IV screenshot.

As far as the Killer Instinct Combo system goes, you need to master Openers, Linkers and Enders. And, everything else that do not fall into these aforementioned categories. These cited elements are executed automatically once you give in the appropriate commands, yet the name of the game here is your own readiness and trusty knowledge of implementing possible, additional hits before moving on to the consecutive Linker or Ender maneuver. Thus: the art of playing according to the rules of this system consists of two main ingredients:

1. finding the elements (hits) you could - effectively - smuggle in between the aforementioned categories of Openers, Linkers and Enders.
2. proving that the elements are implementable, merely by demonstrating your crazy Combo on any opposing butt foolish enough to stay in the presence of your amazing skill set of profane deconstruction!

The game monitors all successful Combo efforts and will categorize executed Combos on the fly. The basis of this is a simple, yet elegant naming convention, one which categorizes a Combo based on the number of successful hits it consists of. There are Triple, Super, Hyper ... etc. Combos up to Ultimate Combos, but those are invokable only if certain prerequisites are met. Once you master the Killer Combos of your favorite characters, you could call yourself a competent personificator of those particular participants and you could jump right on to master the Ultra Combos. Do not be afraid: Ultras are but two-three buttons away from you once certain prerequisites are met.

Combos can be broken by the proper Combo Breaker move. Each character have a Special which is suitable to be utilized as a Combo Breaker as well, but, in order to use a particular Breaker Special effectively, you should know what kind of attack - Quick, Medium or Fierce - you want to break the opposing Combo on. If you are new to Killer Instinct and all this sounds like Chinese Mandarin to you, then you are getting close to understand, trust me. The Combo Breaker system is quite similar to the Stone, Paper, Scissors game, yet thorough knowledge of the characters and their Combos will be a must to find/reveal/recognize and PLAY True Fun out of this underlying system, one which invites you to explore depths rarely offered by the genre.

In the Guides this review points you to at the end, you will find extensive information on Combos and Combo Breakers.

The Killer Instinct Dilemma for the Miserable and the Proud

Or: Are You a Presser or Not?

As you will see while you perfecting your Killer Instinct, Ultra Combos are quite easy to trigger: all they require is a flashing hostile health bar and - as mentioned - a combination of two-three buttons once a Combo is being performed. Now, here is the catch and also here is the Killer Instinct Dilemma for the Miserable and the Proud.

Once invoked, Ultra and Ultimate Combos will come to their glorious manifestations as acceptably long sequences of successful attacks. You are pretty much free to sit back, grab a beer and/or a (couple of) well shaped (fe)male knee(s) and enjoy the Ultra or Ultimate Combo you have just stated.

But! If!

You are one of the Miserable and the Proud, then you will not do this. The Miserable and the Proud player of Killer Instinct will push the buttons around in a highly manic manner once the Ultra or the Ultimate Combo is triggered - making absolutely everyone believe that he is a One in a Million kind of player, a Legit Archtalent, a VS Type Fighter Demigod! Absolutely everyone, granted that we are talking about the happy people who have zero idea about the workings of the game, that is. Ultras are nice additions, as they are glorious Finishes you could flatter your best Killer Combos with, yet they also are the Bittersweet Solace of the Lazy and the Incompetent, and THIS - is acceptable.

Just not laugh when you spot a Killer Instinct Ultra Combo Presser showing off the Godlike Skillzzzzz. First of all, it might hurt the feelings, not to mention that the point of the game is to remain Ultra Serious when an Ultra Combo is being guitar-soloed in front of your very eyes.

Question arises though: is it satisfying to push the buttons around like a mad person when your automated Ultra/Ultimate is triggered and plays along safely, regardless of your actions?
The only honest answer for this question is this: you must seek YOUR answer for this question. And yes, I asked Yoda and he confirmed, too. (Yoda is a Presser by the way.)


Killer Instinct had no aspiration for being accused of coming short of the cute novelties and good old fatalities the era and the style demanded by the day. The game delivers acceptably yet not too memorably in this regard. Each participants have multiple finishing moves - fatalities, if you will - and all of them could engage the opponent in a brief, nevertheless somewhat satisfying dance session, too. Once you have mastered the ropes and you are in the possession of the "basic" - HAH! - combo set of your favorite characters, the game invites you to explore even deeper waters by mastering the highly secretive Shadow Combos and related delicacies that deliver additional content to the game.

As you may have suspected by now, Killer Instinct brings you a rather sophisticated system with plenty of moves and secrets to discover. The knowledge about the game is vast already, therefore I give you a link which points to the most serious and truthful Killer Instinct Guides the human race has grateful knowledge of.

Killer Instinct Guides for the Arcade version, emulated by MAME

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