The new Killer Instinct game, like many franchise revisits this generation, is channeling a lot of the goodwill that the original releases have maintained throughout the years. It does everything we have come to expect from modern introductions to new franchises and then some. Like Street Fighter IV before it, it successfully transitions a Super Nintendo classic to the modern age and looks fantastic doing so.
It’s worth mentioning that only two characters were playable in the E3 build: Jago the ninja and Sabrewulf the werewolf. Despite this, the matches were intense and enjoyable. Professional UK gamer Ryan Hart was on-hand while the XBLAFans staff was at the MadCatz booth playing the demo, and he explained the game’s new combo breaker mechanic. In the original Killer Instinct each player had a unique move that would instantly break a combo. In the new game, the combo breaker is universal to all characters – pressing light kick and light punch together will break a combo if the opponent is using a light move; similarly, medium kick plus medium punch beats a medium attack, and high kick plus high punch beats a hard attack. Guessing wrong locks a player out of making a second guess for three seconds, so randomly hitting the buttons is unadvised. In our brief experience with the game, the medium breaker was more useful against Ryan Hart’s onslaught than the others, but it might well have been a lucky guess on the part of XBLAFans – he was obviously in a league of his own!
Killer Instinct will draw obvious comparisons to the other two-dimensional fighting games currently on the market, and the back-and-forth footsies feel more like Street Fighter than either Mortal Kombat or Marvel vs. Capcom. The instructions for Jago came complete with references to Ryu’s “Dragon Punch” and “Hadoken,” and Ryu is indeed the closest analogue Street Fighter character. Once a player gets a solid hit, though, the combo system is entirely different. Unlike Street Fighter IV, where players must learn complex timings in order to complete their combos, Killer Instinct allows players to hit all of the buttons for their combo in relatively short order, letting the game finish the combo at the appropriate speed, including a special (or super, if the meter is available) move finisher. This slightly more lax method of executing combos is extremely fun. It removes pressure from players who already know how to execute complex combos but lack the focus and/or skill to do so, while also allowing complete button mashers to at least accomplish something instead of just sweeping and throwing fireballs from full screen.
The game is looking extremely good, running at a very smooth 60 frames-per-second. There is a lot more to learn about Killer Instinct, including what the complete roster of characters look like. Hopefully we learn more about Double Helix Games’ Xbox One launch title during this year’s Evolution fighting game tournament next month. From what we saw at E3, Killer Instinct thus far looks like a faithful rebirth of a treasured fighting game franchise.