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It was the olden days of 1994, and Nintendo felt they were hurt hard by the perception that they were the video gaming equivalent of the Animation Age Ghetto. They took a huge hit in censoring the Gorn in Mortal Kombat, and even allowing it in the sequel didn't calm their detractors. What was there to do?
Why, go Darker and Edgier, of course! Make a Fighting Game that would make Mortal Kombat look tame, and even make sure to break their own long-established rules (like allowing a player to control the undead or putting the word "Killer" in the title). Even better, get Midway Games to manufacture it! And thus, the seeds of Killer Instinct were planted.
The game's actual story revolves around the eponymous Killer Instinct tournament, which is being held by the mysterious UltraTech company for reasons not totally revealed. Attracting several disparate competitors in addition to a few of the company's own projects, it's not quite known what the result of the tournament will be.
The first proved popular due to its eye-popping graphics (courtesy of Silicon Graphics, who did the pre-rendered sprites for Donkey Kong Country) and signature combo-intensive gameplay, which also allowed players the chance to break combos and fight back. A sequel was later released which wasn't nearly as popular, partly for revamping several characters, partly for a confusing time-travel plot, and partly due to the rise of 3D Fighting Games. The series still has a fanbase, however, and some still hope for a revival done by developer Rare.
This series has examples of:
- A-A-A-A-AI BREAKER!: You can easily beat Fulgore by dashing in, stopping just out of reach, and jumping back until he tries to uppercut you, then countering over and over.
- All There in the Manual: The games themselves give nothing more than character backgrounds, although important character information can be pieced together from various profiles to form a vague idea about what's going on. Anything else came from the manuals to the console ports or Word of God attached to official artwork and the like. The biggest plot point ignored by the game is that Eyedol is not an UltraTech bio-weapon in testing like many of the standard characters, but a warring god from ancient times sealed in Limbo by sorcerers (the other one being Gargos, boss of the second game). Eyedol's lava-bridge stage has the portal machine that freed him as its backdrop.
- Announcer Chatter: "ULTRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA COMBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"
- C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!!!!!
- Balloon Belly: Riptor gets one of these after devouring his opponents.
- Boobs of Steel: Maya and Orchid
- Cap: You can do up to 80 hits in a single combo.
- Charged Attack: Charged by performing a combo breaker. The second game had a more traditional super meter, but the easiest way to charge it was performing combo breakers.
- Cherry Tapping: The "Humiliation" moves, which makes your opponent dance to a disco-ish beat.
- Combo Breaker: The Trope Namer.
- Combos: This series is basically the Trope Codifier, as it was the second (after Super Street Fighter II) Fighting Game to count combo hits and the first to use chain combos (later copied by Darkstalkers, the first Street Fighter Alpha and Mortal Kombat 3.) Almost any hit can be strung into a combo, and can be interrupted with a C-C-C-Combo Breaker! In Killer Instinct 2, it's possible to reach 60+ hits without glitching or cheating, although this is limited to the end-of-match Ultra combos, and to players who had a full comprehension of the combo engine. Also, combos basically ARE the gameplay; you won't get far without using a few of them.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The computer pretty much performs combo breakers at will. In the second game, it almost always counters your combo opener with the move that trumps it. One saving grace; the computer will never have magical immunity to the Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors; if you respond to the computer opponent's opener with the appropriate counter, it will work, every time. The game is also quite infamous for the computer controlled characters hit harder then human ones. Get into a mirror match with the computer and trade blows, you will lose.
- Death Cry Echo
- Desperation Attack — If your opponent doesn't use a finishing move of some kind, it's possible to recover from no damage once, which also grants you a Charged Attack chance.
- Digitized Sprites: At least with the SNES port of the first game.
- Easy Mode Mockery: In the easier difficulties in some versions, after you fought Fulgore you get... a credits screen.
- Feelies — The game was released with a soundtrack album, Killer Cuts.
- Finishing Move — Each character gets at least two, plus the Humiliation moves and a match-ending "Ultra Combo".
- Fire, Ice, Lightning — Cinder, Glacius, and Chief Thunder, respectively. They don't do extra damage to each other, though.
- Gorn: The game exceeded Mortal Kombat in the gallons of blood characters lost during the match, though the actual finishing moves were relatively tame (opponents still died, but in a less gruesome manner, probably to maintain the game's "T" rating.
- High Altitude Battle: The ever-elusive Sky Stage present in both games. It's a flat platform somehow floating several stories abovegroung inbetween clouds rushing at high speed. Any hit may be deadly as in, even if you're whooping your opponent's ass, if he manages to use a knockdown move while you're at the corner, you'll fall off the stage and lose (it's a pretty long fall, by the way). KI 2 made it even worse: the platform is even smaller, and you can die simply by walking off.
- Hitbox Dissonance
- Homage: B. Orchid is practically a homage of Cheshire from DC Comics. If you think that is unbelievable, then check out the pictures of B. Orchid and Cheshire here and here.
- Idiosyncratic Combo Levels: They go in this order: Triple, Super, Hyper, Brutal, Master, Awesome, Blaster, Monster, King, Killer. Above that, there's two types: Ultimate Combos and ULTRAAAAAAAAA COOOOOOMBOOOOOOOOOS!
- Mega Corp: Ultra Tech.
- Multiple Endings
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness — UltraTech.
- Perfect Play AI: Very prevalent in the first game, not so much in the second.
- Scenery Porn: Noted for its at-the-time excellent pre-rendered graphics, which made it stand out against the hand-drawn or digitized-sprite fighting games in the genre's glut of imitators.
- Sprite Polygon Mix: More noticeable in Killer Instinct Gold, and EVEN MORE noticeable when you knock your opponent off Jago's stage — the sprite will stay there as if it suddenly decided to lie down on the bridge!
- Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors — The proper combo breaker to use depends on the strength of the combo's initial attack.
- Complaints about the ridiculousness of this (it takes master-level knowledge of every character to recognize what button to do the breaker with) led to a simpler system in the second game, where punch breaks kick and vice-versa. Unlike in the first game, maneuvers in combos will always match the button being used as a blink-and-you-miss-it visual cue for the victim; a punch input results in the character performing a punch, even if it's not the punch that button does outside of combos.
- Also in the second game, every character can open a combo with most basic attacks, standing or jumping in. However, every character also has three special moves that are specifically meant to open combos, often more damaging and easier to work with than the basic punches and kicks. The weakness of the special-move openers is that they function on a literal rock-paper-scissors mechanic, and no matter which two characters are facing off, one character's specific opener will always trump someone else's specific opener.
- Take That: Eyedol's ending is clearly inspired by Blanka's ending in Street Fighter II.
- Title Scream: Well, more like pronounced normally in a sinisterly low voice.
- Three Round Deathmatch: A variant: Each character gets two life meters. When the first runs out, the character stands back up, the two face off, and the battle continues.
- Actually, we just gave up and pasted their solo poses.
- Even though KI Gold eventually did make it to the Nintendo (Not-So-Ultra) 64. In 1996.