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Written: 8.30.15
Acquired: 1.20.06
Status: CIB w/ CD
Price: $5

Pub: Nintendo8.30.95
Dev: Rare32 MEGS

August 30, 1995. It's been 20 years to the day since Killer Instinct came home on the SNES. Everywhere you looked that summer, the impending release of this game was heavily touted. Many saw it as sort of a cross between Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Sprinkle in some insane combos and boom, ya get KILLER INSTINCT. This was... truly... the last game of my childhood and as such, it holds a special place in my heart. Best of all, it's also a great game!
Happy 20th anniversary Killer Instinct!  My, how crazy time flies...

                                       THE SUMMER OF 1995... THE DYING DAYS OF OUR CHILDHOOD

The year was 1995. It was the summer before junior high, and my best friend Nelson and I, as always, were determined to make the most out of it. A bunch of things were changing in our lives, though. It's truly amazing how much things can shift in one year. The previous summer was the best summer of my life. We finished 5th grade and were on the cusp of being the oldest students at our elementary school. All the seniority perks were soon to be ours. The SNES was in its prime, and it was an epic summer that gave me some of my greatest memories. Fast forward a year and suddenly the SNES had gone from dominant to rapidly aging, and Nelson and I were gearing for our biggest life transition yet... junior high. I find it fitting that as we were graduating from one school to the next that video games were also graduating from 16 to 32-bit. Evolution. You can't stop time, but you sure can make the most of it. And that's what Nelson and I did that summer. We stayed up late. We binged on terrible horror movies, junk food and SNES games. But it was on August 30, 1995, that Nelson would purchase Killer Instinct on launch day and 20 years later it still remains one of the most vivid memories I have from that awesome summer. We ended our childhood with a bang

For Nelson and me, it truly was a special time in our lives indeed

I remember the release of Killer Instinct like it were yesterday. My best friend Nelson rushed out to buy it on launch day. It was a Wednesday... August 30, 1995. I vividly recall feeling that it was a time of heavy transition. 32-bit systems were TAKING OVER and it was clear that the SNES was in its waning days. Nelson and I were going from elementary school to junior high. It was a crazy time where our world was quickly changing. But on that Wednesday of August 30, 1995... it wasn't about a changing of the guard. It wasn't about an uncertain future. No, it was all about Killer Instinct. We stuffed ourselves in Nelson's room and as he played his new game, I found myself lost in the latest GameFan ish. But it was World Heroes Perfect I was intrigued by. It was my favorite fighting game franchise at the time and I was insanely curious about it. Moreso than even SNES KILLER INSTINCT!

I remember as Nelson first booted up Killer Instinct, I was too busy gawking at the review of World Heroes Perfect. Nelson told me to watch but my eyes were glued on that GameFan magazine. After around 15 or so minutes, Nelson was pulling off some sick 20+ hit combos in the practice mode, and I finally looked up long enough to take notice. It was then that I saw Killer Instinct for the first time, truly. Watching those SICK Ultra combos Nelson pulled off with the greatest of ease was like some kind of awakening for me. I joined in. While he kicked my ass hard, I had a blast with the game. Looking back, I remember that summer of '95 as the summer we played Killer Instinct to death that last week, as if we were trying to hold back the hands of time. It wasn't a bad way to spend the final days of our last summer of sheer unadulterated childhood :)

                                        Besides, who could ever forget that sleek, epic black cart look?

All things must come to an end. It's the way of life. As the final hours of our last childhood summer were ticking down, Nelson and I had one last KILLER (sorry) Killer Instinct romp. We were worried about changing clothes in PE class, where we'd hang out at lunch time and how brutal having six different classes might be, but in spite of that, we powered on Killer Instinct to spend the final night of our last summer of true innocence in grand fashion. They say video games are a form of escapism. It's true. While tomorrow would bring a litany of headaches and worries, TONIGHT was all about going out with a bang. This was it. The last night of summer. And Nelson and I pushed the closing of that memorable summer to its very limit. We played Killer Instinct until well after dark. Finally, my mom called me to come home. Before I left, Nelson and I exchanged a look as if we had made some sort of silent pact to never forget these days no matter where life may take us. Junior high was a whole new ball of wax and we were facing an uncertain future but whatever happens, we were gonna face it together. We also knew, regardless of what the future held, we'll always remember these innocent blissful youthful days; we'll always remember the wonder years

                                       20 years go by fast, eh?  Thanks for the memories, Killer Instinct!


The typical Ryu main guy. At least he doesn't have a twin though

Jago battles from his Tibetan courtyard. The head of a huge golden tiger statue is proudly displayed. Birds fly by casually in the distance

The typical fireball, Dragon Punch and some sort of kick combo, plus a sick sword strike. His Wind Kick travels through projectiles (take that, Ryu) and I've always loved his fireball

It's almost as if Predator and Robocop had a love child, err, thing

Brings back memories of Donkey Kong Country eh? Rare developed both. The SNES port had swinging lamps added in, and the lighting effect was sweet

Fulgore is a beast, er, machine. Ah you know what I mean. It shoots up to 3 consecutive laser shots, reflect enemy projectiles, teleports, and oh yes, has one lethal Dragon Punch

Whoever designed this vixen must have resented being bottle-fed

This city rooftop (complete with a shameless plug on Rare's part) may not look impressive today, but boy did it look badass twenty years ago. You can knock your opponent off the roof at the end of the match

Orchid's got some neat moves, including a flashy fireball, some nice combo chains and coolest of all, she can briefly morph into a fire cat. Her infamous "strip" fatality is back...

What's up with all these Native Americans being called Thunder?

Thunder's stage is by far my favorite in the game. It has aged like fine wine. I absolutely love the bits of swirling mist, that orange blazed sky, and even the way the bridge moves and reacts to the weight of its competitors. Good stuff...

Thunder has a neat looking fireball. For a 42 year old, he's also quicker than you might think. He has a decent anti-air attack and he can also rain death from above on your ass

DYK that Cinder was originally canned from the SNES port due to
memory? Ken Lobb even called Cinder a wimp. Well, he made it!

It's not one of my favorite stages. There isn't much going on or to marvel at. On the bright side, it is a roof stage which means you can send your rival spiraling to a gruesome death at the end of a fight

I'm glad Cinder made the final cut and NO finishing moves were sacrificed at his expense. It just wouldn't be Killer Instinct without Cinder. Screw you, Lobb!  Love his Flash Kick :)

With no arcade zoom out, he's claustrophobia-inducingly deadly

Welcome to Glacius' Ice Temple. The stinging cold air is offset by the heat of the battle. Don't worry, he will gladly shed your blood to help keep you toasty...

I love the way his fireball bounces along the ground. Glacius knows how to give you the cold shoulder [Ai... -Ed.] and he can teleport or teleport AND uppercut you into oblivion

"We need a black fighter. What if we combined Jax and Balrog?"

Combo spends his days buried in a gym. The one he frequents is a little bit rundown, but it's got the "SOUL" that most of the newer gyms are lacking. His gym's full of history, blood, sweat and tears. Just the way he likes it

T.J. has some nifty running strikes, a sweet rolling multi-hit attack and a flying knee that changes angles based on the button strength ya push. Love when fighting games do that

Every fighting game needs its freaks and oddities. Here's the first

This stage is awesome. I love how you can see the reflections of the fighters on the canvas, and the blood-stained floor is a lovely and sinister touch

That's some rancid breath Riptor's got there. Like most "oddball" fighters, Riptor isn't really ideal for novices, but an advanced player can pull off some pretty sick combos

Wait, first we get a dinosaur-like creature, now a werewolf?  Nice

Players duel to the death in the candle-lit study of Sabrewulf's castle. It's a great looking stage and the portrait hanging to the right there is hauntingly realistic. Love the lighting

I love how his Flaming Bat flaps its wings. It's these neat little touches that you appreciate when seeing the game in motion. Sabrewulf howls in order to gain extra strength / power

And let's finish the freak show with an ASS KICKING SKELETON!

Of all the roof stages, this is my favorite one. I'm a sucker for any night time stages with a moon in the background. It gets me everytime. As you would expect, you can knock your foe off the roof at the end of a match. Beautiful

Spinal can absorb projectiles, and fire off some of his own. He also has 2 lunging strikes, in addition to a cool teleport (that can also be done in mid-air) and a MEAN sword swing

Welcome to the last boss. Ultratech's resurrected a true monster...

Yeah, good luck against Eyedol. He's a tough cookie who dishes out MASSIVE damage

Hint: To play as Eyedol, select Cinder. At the VS screen, hold right and press L, R, X, B, Y, A


Similar to Mortal Kombat, you can perform fatalities on your foe

                                       I liken it to Scorp's flaming finale. When I think KI, I think of this!

But don't get it twisted... they're NOWHERE as gruesome as MK's

                                       Not showing her strip; it's NSFW  [Or you just couldn't do it -Ed.]

In fact, truth be told, most of them are generic and unmemorable

                                       Like f'rinstance, check this one out. Keep this animation in mind

Uhhh, didn't I just see this?  Oh well, better to have 'em than not!

                                        But wait a second. This one's pretty damn cool, you must admit

And just like that, we're back to MEH. Very tame and rather lame

                                        This one looks odd. But the blood gushing out afterward is neat

No, Thunder Hawk, er, Chief Thunder had nothing similar to this!

                                        Remember the Pit Fatalities?  Killer Instinct has rooftop fatalities

It's nice to have but it's nowhere as sick as Mortal Kombat's pit fatalities. Still, fun to do


What differentiates it really is the combo system. You can get over 25 hits and only have to press a few buttons. Knowing the chain command is critical if you want to pull off some crazy ass combos and become a Killer Instinct champion. It's very combo heavy but a 20 hit combo here is easier to do than say a 5 hit combo in Street Fighter II. There are also Combo Breakers (cue the token announcer's "C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!") to break up the action and keep everyone on their toes. Thankfully, the SNES port includes a practice mode where you'll find yourself bustin' out 10, 15, 20 hit combos soon enough

                                        Combos are the name of the game and what makes KI, well... KI

Here's a simple 5 hit HYPER combo from Jago. I love the finish as he kicks Spinal back. While Spinal is still hanging in mid-air, bust out Jago's fireball to show him who's boss!


The SNES port received major hype and some or many would say it didn't come close to replicating its arcade original as seen in reviews; it didn't exactly garner the best of scores. EGM gave it ratings of 8.5, 8.0, 7.5 and 7.0. Naturally, GameFan in their typical fashion would dish out the highest marks: 96, 95 and 90%. Super Play praised it, but did NOT give it their full endorsement. It earned a very solid (but somewhat unremarkable) 85%. Fans and retro gamers seem to be split on this port. You basically have one camp who absolutely adores it, saying that the gameplay is largely intact and that Rare did the best job one could hope for. Then you have another camp who thinks this port is too far removed from its arcade brethren, too downsized and too ugly on the eyes. I'll admit that time hasn't been particularly kind to its visuals but gameplay-wise, it still holds up well
Nintendo Power ranked it #72 on their top 100 list (November '97)

                                       Leave it to good ole SUPER PLAY to not be so overly impressed!


20 YEARS... damn... time flies. 20 years ago, Nelson and I were in the twilight of our childhoods. We were 6 days out from junior high. Our world was changing. I'll always remember Killer Instinct as the final video game of our childhood. To me, this game will always have a very special spot in my gaming heart; all those sessions Nelson and I had leading up to the finale of that summer, the combos we cranked out, and the good times we shared is something that stays with you through thick and thin. Junior high came and went as did the SNES, but the memories we carved with this game are ETCHED in our heart of hearts forever. It's crazy to think it's now been 20 years since Killer Instinct came home. It is truly one of the last great memories from the dying days of my childhood and something I'll never forget!

It's not arcade perfect but Rare did the best that one could expect

I always saw Killer Instinct as a mix of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. That still holds true to this day. The combos are fun to do, there are some really cool fighters to pick from and you gotta love that crazy announcer going ULTRA! The visuals are a bit rough in places, but they do an admirable job. The sound is hit and miss, as some grunts are repeated often and gets annoying after a while. The music, though, is pretty damn good. The gameplay is what counts though, and Killer Instinct still plays very well. The AI can be cheap at times but Rare did an "AWESOME" job with translating such a big arcade game to such a tiny SNES cartridge (a black one at that). I'm in the camp of folks who believe Killer Instinct on the SNES is pretty much about as good as it can get. I wouldn't go so far as to claim it's the best fighter on the system, but it's definitely one of the better ones and a "must-have" if you own a Super Nintendo and fancy yourself as a fighting game freak. Looking back on it all, that fateful summer of 1995 was truly my last summer of pure unadulterated childhood. And playing this game non-stop for the last 6 days of that summer with my best friend is something I'll carry with me for life. Thanks for all the memories, Killer Instinct

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 9

Overall: 9.0

Gold Award

                                       Uhh, yeah. It's nice to see this "fatality" made it over to the SNES

Tuesday... September 5, 1995. The first morning of junior high. For the last 4 or so years Nelson and I walked to school. For the first time in our lives, we were gearing to board the junior high bus. It was an incredible morning, full of butterflies and trying to look and act cooler than what we were. You could feel the SHIFT. Childhood was now in the rear view mirror; life would never be the same. Getting on that bus, Nelson and I waded through a sea of unfamiliar faces. Luckily I had a best friend to brave it with. Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise was THE hit song at the time and I remember it blaring on the bus speaker as we rode from our familiar stomping grounds near that bus stop to the scary foreign world of junior high. As nervous as I was, still to this day, I recall rocking out to Gangsta's Paradise. "TELL ME WHY ARE WE... SO BLIND TO SEE... THAT THE ONES WE HURT... ARE YOU AND ME. They been spending most their lives in a gangsta's paradise." That song haunts me still whenever I hear it. It brings me back to that precious time of my youth

Additional links

Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II Turbo

Super Street Fighter II

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat II

My Best Friend Nelson



Of Mastodons and Men (The Wonder Years Recap)