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Killer Instinct Gold

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Reviewed by Tom Servo First off, a disclaimer. Plus or minus, I was not really a fan of the Killer Instinct arcade games, and as opposed to the viewpoints of most other reviews/reviewers here, I still believe that VF2 is by far the best fighting game around (discounting VF3, since it's not really out yet). Anyway, just to alleviate any concerns that this is going to be a KI bashing review, I actually really did like this game. However, now onto the review.

Graphics: 4/5

Not surprisingly, this game makes MKT look like dirt, though I think the programmers of MKT didn't make it look much better than that anyway. While some believe it looks better than Mario 64, I'm not absolutely sure that's so, though the backgrounds are very nice. They are very well done, and the rotational effects, etc. etc. look very sharp. Yet another example of just how well the N64 handles polygons. However, the cartridge really shows it's limitations on this game. I didn't play the game much in the arcades, and even I could see many missing frames of animation. It's basically like the Turbo SF2 for SNES if you played that. It still looks good, and never comes a time when the move looks horribly choppy, but it's still there, and it's still noticeable. Nothing really looks very fluid anymore. Maybe 64DD will change this, and if there's a KI3, that could very well take advantage of that. Secondly, the missing frames also come into play where there used to be FMV. The endings really aren't that exciting, they use the animation from the character select screen while showing the players background rotating about behind them. The Awesome victory sequences aren't very exciting, the motionless characters look painfully 2-d, almost like cardboard cutouts, and they just seem to float over the 3d background. However, it's an acceptable change, and at least you have the keen voice saying "Awesome Victory". And finally, the character select still has the characters moving, but only little bits of them. For example, Sabrewolf doesn't mouth except for his mouth, which just kinda opens and closes slowly. It really does like kinda silly. However, the FMV doesn't make the game, so I digress. Also, something I hoped I wouldn't see....slowdown. It does exist, and sometimes in mass quantities. On a higher note however, the explosions from fireballs look gorgeous, and the players are rather large on the screen. All in all, the graphics look good, it's just the missing frames that hurt it.

Sound: 4.5/5

The sound is great in this game. The only complaint, once again, is missing sounds, namely the announcer shouting "Hyyyper Combo" or whatever. It still says Ultra, Ultimate, etc., but nothing under an Ultra does it grace with a voice. The music did blow me away however. The music itself is not my fare, I'm not a big fan of rap or dance, and the metal sounding tracks sounded more like Poison or some other glam band than something like Tool or older Metallica, unfortunately. However, as far as the sound quality goes, I was astounded that they put all that data into the one cartridge. Some tracks have lyrics, as I'm sure you've heard, and the music is astoundingly clear. The grunts are clear, and I didn't notice any missing voices/sfx except the combo announcements. There's really nothing else to say except to wonder what the hell Williams was doing while they were supposed to be doing sound programming on MKT.

Gameplay: 3.5/5

As I said, I would put VF2 on a much higher level than KI. The combo system is rather silly in my opinion, although I was happy to notice that huge combos don't really do a HUGE amount of damage like MKT combos do, so even if you get caught by someone who knows giant combos that doesn't mean you're dead instantly. And I must admit, it is fun to spaz out and watch your character follow suit on screen. If you're a fan of the arcade version, this control is dead on, though it's ill-advised to use the analog stick...stick with the d-pad. I did have a problem with the close-together C buttons, I suppose it could just be that I have too big of hands. This 2 million combos per person thing seems a bit far-fetched, as I'm not sure substituting one kick for a slightly different one makes for an entirely different combo, but hey, what can ya do. You can only do so many things with 6 buttons. All in all however, it's got good control, I'm just not a fan of the whole philosophy.

Replay: 5/5

While I'm not crazy about KI, I am about fighting games, and just like any fighting game worth it's ROM, this game has plenty of replay value, especially in 2-player mode. There are plenty of options, from training for those of us who haven't played it a thousand times, to huge team battles and elimination tournaments. Also, discovering new combos and learning how to do them without just spazzing on the buttons could keep some people, especially beginners to the series, busy for quite a while.

Overall: 4.5/5

It may not seem like it from what I've written thus far, but I do like this game a lot. It's a bit frustrating to me, but I'm sure that will change with practice, and it's got some nice eye candy to go along with the gameplay. This game basically fills a niche for me that wanted a fighting game that was basically just fun to play around with, and not something that will take serious devotion to get good at. It's a great game to just sit down and mess around with a few friends. It's definitely the best fighter for N64 (the competition wasn't exactly tough) and I recommend it to anyone looking for a fighter, and if you liked the arcade, you'll love this.

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