Killer Instinct is a fighting game developed by Rare. It was published by Midway on the arcade, and by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy. The game is well-known for the large amount of combos that a player can dole out.
Nintendo originally planned Killer Instinct for early release on the Nintendo 64. Killer Instinct and Cruis'n USA were actually among the first Nintendo 64 games announced. When manufacturing issues delayed the system's release, Nintendo debuted Killer Instinct on the SNES instead in late 1995. The N64 would instead get a port of Killer Instinct 2 entitled Killer Instinct Gold the year after.
Killer Instinct uses a basic 2D fighting layout, where players face each other from opposite sides of an arena and move primarily left and right, attacking from standing, jumping, or crouching positions. Its gameplay expanded on other 1990s fighters in important ways, including match format, multi-part combo system, and through the introduction of "breakers."
Prior to Killer Instinct, most fighting games (including Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat) used a strict "best of three" round system. Both players started with the same amount of energy, fought until one side ran out, and restarted the fight. Killer Instinct replaced this with a 2-stage life bar where matches reset when a player loses half their life, but the "leader" keeps their current amount. (This makes "perfect" rounds more challenging, as victors must drain both bars without taking damage.)
Killer Instinct's basic joystick and button controls closely resemble Street Fighter. Its six attacks use three strengths of punches and kicks, weak, medium, and strong. Players block by holding the stick away from their opponent (and not attacking). Most special moves use quarter-circle, half-circle, or back-forward joystick movements followed by an attack. Character-specific special moves also serve as openers to a combo chain.
Combo Attack System
Killer Instinct features a multi-stage attack system whose structure encouraged mastery of both basic attacks (as openers) and "continuers," moves that build into long, visually impressive combos.
- Combo opener: special move or jumping attack that leaves opponent "open" to combo (each character has several openers)
- Continuer: performed after successful opener and adds 2-4 hits; joystick + button move that's typically one "up" from the opener (weak to medium, medium to strong, strong to weak)
- Linker: joystick + button move that adds 2-3 hits (exact move is character-specific)
- Finisher: joystick + button move after linker and adds 3-4 hits (knocks opponent to ground and ends combo)
An unbroken, 4-part combo scores about a dozen hits, depending on the characters and moves used. (Note that the player only performs 4 distinct button presses.) Killer Instinct's combo system created longer attacks with fewer actions than most other fighting games, a system designers created to encourage deeper knowledge of each character and limit the success of "button mashing."
On defense, players can break attacker combos with a character-specific stick + button move at the start of any continuer, linker, or finisher (see Combo Breakers). Breakers end the combo's "flow" and knock the attacker back. (The match announcer says one of this game's distinctive lines, "C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER," on successful breakers.) Players must have energy in their life bar to break a combo; attackers who drain the final amount with an opener can continue their combo uninterrupted.
Once attackers deplete an opponent's life bar, they can finish opponents a la Mortal Kombat with a violent "No Mercy" move or Humiliation, which forces the opponent to dance. (Humiliations require the victor to still be on their first life bar.)
Attackers can also trigger an "Ultra Combo" (a knockout sequence consisting of 20+ hits) by inputting a character-specific move during their combo chain when an opponent's life bar flashes red (under 10% left). The game automates ultra finishing sequences, requiring no further button pressing; arcade players often removed their hands from the machine to accentuate their win and watch the combo play out.
Killer Cuts was a soundtrack album that was released and packaged with the video game Killer Instinct on the Super Nintendo in 1995. Many of the tracks were arranged and included the character's theme songs in addition to the songs featured in the fighting stages. Although exclusive to the pack-in with the game, it could be bought via the Nintendo Power magazine catalog.
- K.I. Feeling ( B. Orchid) - 3:45
- The Way U Move - 3:58
- Controlling Transmission ( Glacius) - 3:56
- Oh Yeah ( Chief Thunder) - 3:23
- It's a Jungle - 3:04
- Do It Now! ( Jago) - 3:55
- Full-bore ( Fulgore) - 3:16
- The Instinct (Theme) - 4:53
- Yo Check This Out! ( T.J. Combo) - 1:36
- Freeze - 2:11
- Trailblazer ( Cinder) - 1:50
- Tooth & Claw ( Sabrewulf) - 3:09
- Ya Ha Haa ( Spinal) - 3:00
- Rumble ( Riptor) - 2:11
- The Extreme ( Eyedol) - 2:33
Track 16 through 29 are blank and are only a few seconds in length. Track 30 is the song used in the Humiliation finishers/dances.
The game was also famous for the announcer, who announced the combos after their completion as well as the iconic Combo Breaker. There were 11 types of combos, each with a distinctive name and delivery.
- 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
- Finishing combo: Ultra combo (20+ hits)
A mega-corporation (mega-corporations have completely replaced governments in this future) named Ultratech organizes a tournament consisting of fights to the death. Ultratech has entered some of their experimental prototypes in the contest, as well as other entrants. Most of the other entrants have some sort of motivation to joining the contest, usually due to something that Ultratech has promised them (for example, in Sabrewulf's case, Ultratech promises to heal him of his lycantrophy) Ultratech discovers a way to unleash an ancient warrior named Eyedol and enters him into the tournament.
| Fulgore is a cyborg who is the result of a cybernetic project at Ultratech. He, like other Ultratech experiments, was entered into the tournament as a test. If it was able to win, it would be produced in mass quantities. However, it was defeated by Jago.|
| Cinder is a criminal who was promised a release from jail if he was tested on with chemical weapons. As a result, his body has been turned into fire. If he is able to defeat Glacius in the tournament, then he will return to his original form.|
| An alien who was captured by Ultratech, Glacius was promised freedom if he wins the tournament. His body is composed of ice and water, making him able to shapeshift.|
| Jago is a Tibetan monk who follows the Tiger Spirit (who later ends up to be Gargos). Jago is on the search for enlightenment, and wants to defeat Ultratech (he believes it is his destiny).|
| A velociraptor that has been genetically engineered by Ultratech. It is a prototype; it is a test to determine its abilities.|
| A normal human who has been transformed into a werewolf, and is promised the cure if he wins the tournament. He is likely a reference to Rare's game Sabre Wulf.|
| Spinal is a skeleton who, through cell regeneration, is made living. He is the remains of an ancient warrior, and unlike many others participating in the tournament, fights for enjoyment. His brain could not regenerate in the process, so this is probably the reason why.|
| TJ Combo is a boxer who was kicked out of his position of champion after it was discovered that his arms had cybernetic implants that improved his boxing ability. Ultratech promises him back his championship if he wins the contest.|
| Chief Thunder is a Native American who enters the tournament to find out what happened to his long lost brother Eagle. It is later revealed that his long lost brother is actually Spinal.|
| A spy for an unknown entity, she is a secretary for Ultratech. Jago and B. Orchid are essentially the protagonists of the game.|
| The final boss of the game, Eyedol is a two-headed, ancient mystical warlord who was trapped in a dimensional prison in the distant past. Ultratech released him to be the final combatant in the tournament. It is shown in Killer Instinct 2 that the person Eyedol was trapped in combat with was Gargos, the final boss of that game.|