iller Instinct is one of my favorite fighting game series of all-time. I use to play Killer Instinct Gold for the Nintendo 64 all the time when I was younger, however, the fact that we had not seen a new iteration into the series after so many years left me disappointed and with little hope. Then, out of nowhere, we began to see rumors that Microsoft was set to revive the famed fighting-game franchise for the release of its new console, the Xbox One.
Not long after its announcement, I won a tournament at one of Microsoft’s preview events. I was blown away by the particle effects on fireballs, loved how they integrated audio into everything, and by just everything the game was at that time…so what has changed my mind now?
I have an Xbox One and I have Killer Instinct, yet I will barely play it and I credit to how the game evolved from its predecessors and why it is not what I hoped that it would be.
[ My Disappointment as it Stands ]
Killer Instinct, back in the day, was compared to both Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. In a sense, Killer Instinct has now come into its own with a unique fighting style which centers around the famous “combo breaker” mechanic. Essentially, everything that anyone does has the ability to be broken to minimize damage. Guessing the wrong strength of the attack hitting you will cause a “lock out”, a period where it is impossible to combo break. However, if you feel like someone will combo breaker something you do, you have the ability to stop your combo mid-way through and perform a “counter breaker” in order to halt their attempt at saving themselves from your onslaught. I feel that the combo breaker/counter breaker mechanic is something that both helps and hurts this franchise and is one of my biggest reasons for not liking the game as much as I do, along with aesthetics and not having any gory content for finishers present.
Most other fighting games, such as Mortal Kombat
and Tatsunoko vs Capcom
make it so that you have to have meter to interrupt the combo of an opponent, making it where you cannot do so repeatedly and that it is guaranteed once attempted. Killer Instinct
makes it where you can break ANYTHING as long as you recognize what it is and plays more of a mental game of “Will or will I not counter break your combo breaker?”. It forces people to setup situations that they know they can counter break by repeatedly setting up mind games in order to bait their opponent into doing the very thing they want them to do, but this also means that someone who is completely random with when and where they break always has about a 33% (1/3 chance) of being correct. While it is true that someone who is a veteran at the game will be able to heavily punish the times an opponent misses a combo breaker opportunity and gets locked out with an optimum combo, the fact that you cannot rely on counter breaker to stop someone who is flailing insanely (and they can easily bait you into a counter breaker by performing a number of easy-to-break auto-doubles). I really feel like they should have went with the older system for combo breaker, or at least modified it only slightly. It originally was that you had to input a corresponding special move within the first few hits of the combo in order to break it, meaning your anticipation had to be key.
Myself, I am a fan of combos that are guaranteed to land and you do not have to worry every single second about whether something is or is not going to be broken, especially with the amount of randomness that you come across online (as I am someone who cannot make actual in-person tournaments because I get bodied by a weekend job). Even in Super Smash Bros.
you have situations which, once you start a combo, your opponent does not have any options but to take all the damage up until you decide to end it, Killer Instinct
has none outside of lockouts (and if you go straight from opener to ender it can be broken with heavy). Many, including myself, have found that the ability to break anything and everything (with the exception of Ultras and Enders) leads to uncertainty with everything. A lot of people will claim that it is part of the hype, but to me it is simply a guessing game, a series of well-formed hypothesis that we are trying to see bear fruit in the form of catching someone with a counter breaker.
Do not get me wrong, it is not that I am a bad player and am faulting the system as to why I cannot be good, I am actually pretty decent at Killer Instinct
. The problem is that the game does not feel fun enough with its combat to make me want to continually play it and become the best I can possibly be with it. In Soul Calibur V
, I was at 400 losses before I even made it to 50 wins when I was using Alpha Patroklos, yet I kept going until I became a force because the game was fun to play, even as frustrating as it was to continually lose because I was not adept at using the character I was trying to master (just-frame links online was terrible). If the game is good enough, it does not matter how bad I am or how good I am at it, I will play it until I become a force to be reckoned with, but only if the game itself is fun enough to play that I am motivated to learn it. I think that everyone feels that way with anything that they are willing to devote time into, it has to be worth it.
Something else that troubles, besides the fact that the aesthetics are not as good as I would hope that they would be. I feel like Jago’s retro costume is not where it should have been, that they should have given Orchid the Killer Instinct 2
costume, Thunder’s original retro costume was not released, etc. I mean come on, Jago’s move is called “Laser Sword” but they do not give him an actual laser sword with his original costume? That is a bit ridiculous in my opinion. Orchid was clearly wanted in her original Killer Instinct 2
costume, there was even art for it. However, I feel because of social justice warriors and the increasing prevalence of rising feminist figures (like Anita Sarkeesian) that they did not want to have to defend bringing back a costume which could be seen as “controversial”, so they went with the safest bet and brought back her first costume (though you could argue that they used her baton design so they use the costume that fit it most, but still). I was also very upset with Hisako’s classic costume, they gave her more-or-less punk rock and J-Pop types of outfits instead of the classic eerie sailor school girl uniform that everyone loves (I would love for some of those “loose socks” instead of the goat things as well).
Another thing that has gotten me is the lack of gore in K.I.’s new iteration. The one thing that drove me to play the game was seeing all the blood flying around with every single hit (while there is blood in the game, there is a minimal amount, and it causes no lasting damage). Also, they do not have anything present that was found within the previous game except “Ultra Combos”. There are no “Ultimates” or “Out-of-Combo Ultimates” (better known as “No Mercys”). There was numerous promises of them being introduced later on into the game, and there was a little hope when Shadow Jago was introduced with something that appeared to be something of a No Mercy (with them stating he originally use to cut his opponent in half), but it seems that they are shying away from anything that could be gore-related in this new Killer Instinct
. Rash from Battletoads
being in the game was the final nail in the coffin in my opinion, I do not see them mutilating him and potential future characters that could be guests from other franchises, especially when Killer Instinct: Season 3
already being announced and we only have Tusk, Kim Wu, Eyedol, and Gargos left as original characters.
All-in-all, the new Killer Instinct
is not really too bad. It has made itself unique and more of a thinking man’s game with the amount of “Yomi” required due to the entire fighting system focused around combo breakers. At the same time, however, I cannot help but be disappointed by some of the design decisions and others regarding gore and core game play. Nothing is meant for everyone, and Killer Instinct
does have a solid fan base, but I feel those things I mentioned above keep the game from going truly mainstream. Many people have tried the game since its release and it has even gotten to the Evolution
fighting tournament, but I think its popularity will only continue to plummet downwards. Though Killer Instinct: Season 3
is right around the corner, releases like Guilty Gear Revelator, BlazBlue: Central Fiction,
and Street Fighter V
suggest that it could quickly become unforgettable if they do not bring something to wow more newcomers. I hope that Iron Galaxy and Microsoft Studios are ready, otherwise we may not see a Killer Instinct Season 4.