Early in the life of the N64 – my brother and I rented Killer Instinct Gold – at the time the graphics dazzled me, and I was super impressed with how cool the characters were, and how crazy the killer combos could get. Having not played the game for at least 15 years, and having not reviewed an N64 game before, I thought it would be fitting time for a revisit!
At its core – this is a competitive fighting game for the N64. Players can choose from 10 fighters ranging from humans, through to ice monsters, to werewolves and even a skeleton! I was thoroughly impressed with the roster of characters because they each had such a unique design and a cool factor not often seen in fighting games to this day. The most generic character was probably Jago the ninja, but even he was a lot of fun to play control. My favourite was Spinal the Skeleton!
Each character felt really different in how they played with unique move-sets and interesting combos. I quickly learned that the gameplay was dependent on combos, as were combos breakers and counter moves. I really liked this depth which made the game all about skill rather than spamming cheap moves (like some of the early Mortal Kombat games). As much as I played though, I just could not fully comprehend how to pull off cool combos or how to defend against them.
Enter the impressive number of options and modes this game provides! There was the obvious standard one-player and versus multiplayer modes, but the game also includes a tournament mode (to set up games with multiple friends), team battles (where players choose more than one fighter), practice mode, and training mode. This last mode really stood out for me as up to this point in time, very few games (if any) had built-in tutorials on how to improve as a player.
The training mode walks players through each of the main types of moves – special moves, autodoubles, combos, combo breakers, and counter moves. Each exercise has multiple stages, and guides players from easy to hard moves. If the player makes a mistake, they can try again – practice makes perfect! This mode really made the difference between being a frustratingly hard game (as I was struggling with the one-player mode), to one that was challenging but rewarding the more time the player invests into the game. By the end of the training, I was pulling off cool combos and made it much further in the one-player mode!
In terms of the music, I was blown away. Similar to the first Killer Instinct, the score is outstanding and could be listened to on its own. Sound effects were good too. The graphics got the job done but were nothing fancy. There were quite a few 3D arenas spanning from south american temples to the streets of the USA. The game (similar to other N64 games) suffers from some muddied colour palettes (especially in the darker levels), but still manages to look good when the special moves and combos are pulled off! While the 2D characters are cool to look at, they don’t move especially fluidly which I think is important given the emphasis on combos and speed.
Overall, this is a challenging but rewarding N64 fighting game. The addition of the training mode significantly increases the score of this game as it makes it much more accessible to those who invest the time. While the graphics are nothing special, the music helps makes this game an above average N64 fighting game. I give this game an 7/10.
Final Score: 7/10