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Killer Instinct Gold Review

Publisher - Nintendo
Developer - Rare
Platform - N64
Type - Fighting
Score - 7/10

While walking though the myriad of fighting games in the video arcade, I happened upon a Killer Instinct machine. In the arcade, a game has only a few chances to win you over- no one keeps pumping quarters in a game they THINK they like. Either a game grabs you or it doesn't. Killer Instinct did not grab me. I didn't even feel a tug. So, when I heard Killer Instinct Gold was coming to N64 (surprise surprise), I thought, "This is going to suck." I didn't mean just suck, I mean like big time suck. Huge suck. BIBLICAL suck. BUT, one must keep an open mind when first encountering a video game. So, I attempted to wipe the slate clean in spite of the fact that this game would really SUCK.

Before I attempted to size up this game, I tried to judge if the game made the jump from the arcade to the home system. Well, the answer to that is absolutely yes. This game looks so much like the arcade that any difference you may find should be minor at best.

Now to tear into the game... The graphics are really spiffy. This game feels at home on the N64; while the fighting is not true 3-D, the characters definitely LOOK 3-D. You won't feel the sense of disappointment you get from seeing those horribly flat Mortal Kombat Trilogy characters. The backgrounds are 3-D polygon based settings, having a similar blocky feel as the Soul Edge arcade game (for those of you unfamiliar with Soul Edge stages, picture Mario 64 landscapes that don't look quite as nice). The characters on the other hand are most likely prerendered; they don't seem to be composed of polygons like Waverace 64 or Tekken characters. The smooth, realistic (well, realistic in our KI fantasy world) appearance of the players is a point in Killer Instinct's favor. Also, combos and special moves throw hordes of neon sparks and ripples through your battered opponent. The flashy special effects is another plus for KI. As mentioned, Killer Instinct is NOT true 3-D. All the combat and movement occur in one plane. It does jazz that up by having credible 3-D backdrops (unlike Tekken's weak backgrounds) and cinematic zooms (a la Samurai Showdown). The camera angles and zooms don't particularly affect the gameplay, but it is swell eye candy.

The sound in Killer Instinct is a mixed blessing. The incidentals and character sounds are lacking. Most of the grunts, screams, and battle cries seem screechy and unrealistic. Also, the sounds of damage and impact do little to impart the feeling of prolific hurt that your target should be feeling.

The music on the other hand is very well done. The techno tracks that back up the game seem to be a combination of well orchestrated MIDI sequences mixed in with a few choice samples. In addition, the sound takes advantage of stereo channels in ways that most soundtracks ignore; the music jumps pleasingly from speaker to speaker, creating nifty stereo images that serve to enhance one's enjoyment of the game.

Now comes the only bad part of the game. Killer Instinct is not a game of exacting speed and razor sharp timing. Killer Instinct is a game of sheer brute force and bone snapping combos. While that it itself is not particularly bad, it is NO excuse for KI's sluggish controls. While KI is not the BEST game as far as graphics and sound, it excels in both- it's the sluggish controls that makes KI a good game rather than a great game. Don't get me wrong- I firmly believe that the controls in the home version are _superior_ to the arcade. Unfortunately, that still leaves a lot of room for improvement.

...What's the final verdict? Truth be told, I dunno. Killer Instinct is a true individual in a world of Street Fighter clones. It has a singular look and feel to the game. It also breaks the conventional layout of rounds, opting to fight nonstop until someone is knocked down two times. Also, KI has a distinctive and well planned combo system (unlike Mortal Kombat Trilogy, which has a combo system that is nothing but annoying), it is well worth the practice involved to master it. Killer Instinct is powerfully fun. Once you get the hang of the special moves and the stunning combos, you'll have a blast. I was wrong. This game doesn't suck.