Like many games on the SNES, this one was out of the radar for me… well almost. I never new about the arcade version nor its SNES counterpart, save for its availability in a Fingerhut catalog back then. I’d usually look at the catalog’s game section to see what games were being sold. While perusing it, I would see one game that looked relatively dark. Unfortunately since the boxart was small, I really couldn’t make out smaller details like the fact that on the cover was Fulgore. All I could really see was the scalpel-like “I” in the title. The product description was the only way I could see that the game was called “Killer Instinct.” Come the Family Christmas Party of 1995, I would hang out with a bunch of cousins I’ve since forgotten about. It was the same location that I mentioned in an earlier Retro Weekend, with the SNES in the corner. I noticed the black cartridge and recognized it from it’s distinctive “I” in the middle. So I finally got a good look at the cartridge. I asked if I could play the game, and the kids agreed since they were getting tired of Bart’s Nightmare.
So we commenced playing it. We had a blast playing the game. However, my memory of the game since then became a blur. I think I remember renting the game one weekend in the weeks that followed. But my ownership of the game wouldn’t come until many years later. I hung out with my godbrother at his house one day and noticed that he had Killer Instinct. We decided to play the game and in the end he let me borrow the game for a bit. About maybe two weeks later him and his mother came to visit. I was ready to give back the game, but since (I think) they were clearing out their videogame collection for new games, he said that I could keep it! I was shocked. “Are you sure?” He said, “Yeah, I got no problem.” “Okay. Thanks!” And so, about 7 years after the game’s release, I finally managed to own a copy of Killer Instinct.
Much of my memory of this game would come many years later. So I’ll start with the earliest. My first time playing the game, I was rather oblivious to the game having combos. I remember kicking ass with Riptor and Sabrewulf in the Christmas Party. But the fun would end when another kid more well versed in the game (probably the owner) came in and whooped my ass. I would finally learn the combo system when I borrowed the game from my godbrother. My mains were Sabrewulf and Orchid. Without a guide, I was able to figure out how to initiate combo strings and make them go longer. Then one time, as Orchid, I decided off an opponent with a regular combo but change up a few commands. He had a little bit of health left so I though why not. After the usual hits, Orchid kept going. I began to button-mash like crazy and Orchid suddenly picked up the pace and was beating the living shit outta my opponent (which I think was Cinder). And then, with one last hit, Cinder was sent flying off the stage, and the announcer yelled out “ULTRA, ULTra, ULtra, Ultra…!” (this was the SNES version). I stood there dumbfounded. This was MvC levels of madness I just watched. I had no idea how I did it but it was amazing. I wouldn’t be able to pull it off again, but it cemented the fact that I was going to like this game.
But for many years, I would start forgetting about it. My SNES disconnected to make room for the PS1, PS2, and Gamecube, my memories of the game only lived through that Ultra Combo that I pulled off, some of the characters, and that one time I played the Killer Instinct 2 arcade in a pizzeria close to my house. Then my memory started coming back when ScrewAttack would talk about it a lot on their site, most notably the music (we’ll get to that soon). I decided to play the game again and basked in whatever nostalgia I had for the game at the time. Then came college.
After joining an old club at college (which later became the Anime Club), James would bring in his SNES for others to play and other members would bring games in to play for the semester. I loaned Pilotwings and Killer Instinct to play. The plan was to play it for a half-hour since we were playtesting the games to see if they worked or not. It turned into hours of playtime. I ended up a bit late to class because I was watching some matches play out. There would be times when I would walk into the Anime Club to hang out and someone would still be there playing Killer Instinct. This was pretty much the game to play… until someone brought in a Gamecube/Wii to play Smash Bros. Melee/Brawl. But it was cool to see lots of people play this game. In a sense, I finally found equals after being the nerdy outcast for so many years before college.