Retro Weekends – Killer Instinct

Welcome to Fighting February! This month, we’ll be covering four retro fighting games. As they say, what’s love without pain. So sit back, relax, grab a loved one, and promptly break up because you’re being a cheap-ass with the hadoukens. Trust us, it’ll make us feel less lonely :)

The year is 1994. The fighting game craze is in full swing with Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, King of Fighters, and many others are duking it out for the most quarters and carts at home. While the more niche enthusiasts of fighting games had a plethora to choose from, the mainstream crowd sided with either Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. Nintendo, and by extension Rareware, saw this as an opportunity to jump into the fray. With a new console on the horizon and some sick-ass hardware to work with now, Rare was ready to level the playing field and offer a viable third option for players looking for that Killer Instinct.

The Hard Disk That Birthed The Black Cartridge

Looking at the competition, most notably Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, you were to be acquainted with one of two fighting styles. There was Street Fighter‘s more pixel-timed combos, and there was Mortal Kombat‘s Special Move-centered combos (and of course the Fatalities). Rare sought to bridge the gap with their new game, Killer Instinct. To make this game look the best it could, they utilized the Silicon Graphics workstation they used for the Donkey Kong Country games. They were also one of the first to use an on-board HDD in the arcade cabinet so store much of the data. If you look at the arcade version’s intro, it states that it would be made available on Nintendo’s Ultra 64 (later dubbed the Nintendo 64). Unfortunately that wasn’t going to happen.

Nintendo decided to delay their new console to 1996 to finish up developing the hardware. So that meant that if Rare wanted to make a home port like they said they’d do in the intro, that meant porting it to the SNES. From the outset, the SNES wouldn’t be able to deliver the quality of gameplay and graphics that was available on the arcade version. But Rare had to make due if it meant bringing Killer Instinct to homes. They took this time to fix some nasty glitches and character balancing issues prevalent in the arcade version. But since this was a higher-end game coming to the SNES, that meant smaller sprites, a lowered frame count, 2D backgrounds, and reduced sound quality. With all these sacrifices that had to be made, it still turned out to be a good port. While there are still those that prefer the arcade version, it was nice to finally play KI in the comfort of your own home. Plus it came with black cartridge and a kick-ass music CD!

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