It was the summer of 1995. Young Matt and
his neighbour buddies were stoked that Killer Instinct was finally out for the
Super Nintendo that they biked down to the video store, only to be turned down from renting it because they weren’t old enough. Luckily, one of those neighbours had an older brother who rented it for them, and they spent the last couple days of summer vacation running that AC Adaptor on the wall scalding (remember how badly those things heated up?) playing fight after fight.
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Rating: T for Teen
Available For: Xbox One
(Note: A version of the Combo Breaker Pack was sold on Xbox Live starting last November, however, this one is updated and contains all of the patches and updates up to the end of Season One.)
Almost 20 years after the fact, Killer Instinct helped launch the Xbox One, and now, “Season One” is out in disc form Xbox One. Essentially, Microsoft started the game with a small shell of versus battles, and built and built around it. The patches for this game were massive, and I figured that inevitably, there’d just be a be all end all at some point, and here it is. Instead of piecing things out one by one, you get all the characters and access to ALMOST all the up to date content. Why do I say almost? There was a day one software update, so this isn’t quite ready for a plug and play. You’ll have to get through a 536 MB update first. If you bought the game already, pop it in, update and continue reading this review. It should be done by the time you’re finished.
Back when this game originally came out in 1994, it had a few things going for it that you didn’t see very often. The fight stages were huge and the camera could pan as fighters moved farther away from each other. This wasn’t new since Samurai Shodown did it a year before, but it still wasn’t very common. The combo system, however, was something that was brought into prominence. The game was the first to my knowledge to name combos based on how many hits you got, and would call it out every time you did it. The root of the combat system was based more around these combos than chaining special moves, and it did it well. I’d say that combo system was what gave this game such a lasting legacy, and why we never quite forgot about it (that and Orchid’s finishing move of course.) The game was built for both button mashers and strategic fighters on the back of the combo system. Button mashers could still participate in the combo system and usually get a pretty good one over time, but those who worked out their button combos and timing could usually string together really impressive and really long combo sequences. The Combo Breaker system would allow opponents to bust the combo before it did too much damage.
Thankfully, this version is a little bit more merciful to those who were gluttons for punishment. Combo Breakers are a lot easier to do than they were previously, which require you to guess which type of attack is next and counter by pressing that button. This is a big improvement that hurt the button mashers who might be prone to doing the same attacks over and over again. However, if you miss, you can’t perform a combo breaker for a few more moves, and get hit with a few more. A combo meter has also been put in place, meaning that combos can’t go on forever. The meter fills as moves are carried out, and once full, the combo ends. Supplementing these combos are a couple combat meters which fill and allow you to summon special abilities. Some characters can use it to attack and regen health, while others can simply have more potent attacks.
There is also a training mode where you can practice and create combos. This is pretty helpful to have actually considering you basically need to teach yourself the combo system again with the new meter in place. That’s about the best purpose for it, but I’m sure you’ll want to use it as time goes on and you try to master new characters and their combo abilities.
The whole game handles pretty well. The controls are pretty responsive in a whole and transition over to the Xbox One controller pretty well. It’s a bit harder than it should be to time blocks for some reason, but that’s really it. The soundtrack is just – average. The SFX all makes up for it, but the soundtrack, just like the previous game is just average. It’s a lot of fairly generic rock and metal riffs, and nothing that particularly sticks out as memorable.
That’s really the game in a nutshell. It’s still a pretty stock standard fighter that’s almost like it was 20 years ago. In the way, it’s refreshing that the developers didn’t deviate from the original concept very much, and kept things almost the way we enjoyed them so long ago. On the other hand, it’s disappointing there isn’t more. I don’t know what it is, but between starting on the game when it was on Xbox Live last year, and picking the Combo Breaker Pack up Day One and blasting through it for old times sake, I still felt like this reiteration of Killer Instinct had something missing.
Disappointing, in my opinion, is the fact that you can’t play as all of the original characters. Cinder (my 2nd favourite character from the original) and Riptor are nowhere to be found, replaced by Sadira and, well, nobody. TJ Combo is a season 2 character, but a download code for him comes with the disc if you wish to pop him on right away. If you purchased the Day One Xbox Live Gold tin last year, you also get access to Shadow Jago. Still, none of this makes up for the loss of Cinder, the random human torch that nobody suspected was such a deadly character. I also see that the Shadow Jago code has become somewhat of a collector’s item so if you purchased the Day One Gold tin last year and still have your Shadow Jago code, you should be able to find a Killer Instinct fan to easily take it off your hands.
The biggest omission in my opinion, and I’m not sure whether this was done on purpose (to maintain the T for Teen rating, for example,) or due to time constraints are the finishers. Many of those were hilarious and over the top addons to the original game, and hopefully, you should see them patched into Season Two. What you get in return are these flashy combo finisher moves. Believe me when I say what a weird feeling it is when you played Killer Instinct for years and years with finishers, and the matches here just come to a dead stop after winning the second round.
I’m usually a big fan of the “what’s old is new again” concept, and it was nice to see this one come back, if only in a scattered form. This was an amazing breakthrough for fighting games back in 1994, but much like many of Xbox Live game revivals, it just feels like the same old house with a new coat of paint applied to it. There are a few new tricks and enhancements to the gameplay, but if you know what you normally get out of the game, it’s basically what you’re getting here. Besides single and online play, you CAN feasibly play this game for dozens of hours in single player since there are a TON of unlockables to get through the KI Cash system.
Still, it’s coming strongly recommended from me simply because of the price point. I’d have a hard time justifying this game at full retail, but at $20 out of the gate, reliving the nostalgia won’t cost you very much. Since most of the beloved characters are here (and let’s face it, I was probably the only person that ever played as Cinder,) it’s kind of a no brainer. If you enjoyed the Killer Instinct of old, surely you’ll like the new version too, and you can even ready yourself for Season Two as it begins to roll out throughout the next year (starting on October 15th.)
Gameplay: 3 / 5
Graphics: 4 / 5
Sound: 3 / 5
Controls: 4 / 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 2.5 / 5
Overall Rating: 3.3 / 5 (66%)
Killer Instinct: Combo Breaker Pack is now available at Best Buy and online at BestBuy.ca and exclusively for the Xbox One