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C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!
"Available for your home in 1995, only on Nintendo Ultra 64..."
The attract mode for the first Killer Instinct. They never fulfilled that promise. note 
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The year was 1994. Nintendo were feeling the gaming equivalent of the Animation Age Ghetto. They got a lot of grief for censoring the blood and Fatalities in their otherwise-excellent port of Mortal Kombat. It was The '90s, so what else was there to do but launch a new IP which would make Mortal Kombat look tame (even hiring Midway Games to co-develop it with Rare)? Nintendo even broke their own long-established rules like allowing a player to control the undead, or putting the word "Killer" in the game.

Killer Instinct is a series of fighting games developed by Rare originally for Nintendo systems, then developed by Double Helix Games and later Iron Galaxy Studios for Microsoft's Xbox One and PC. The series comprises the following games:

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Set in a dystopic future Earth, the plot revolves around the eponymous Killer Instinct tournament held by the hugely-evil UltraTech corporation for reasons that are unclear, though the comic implies it's for the huge revenue from bloodthirsty spectators. Among the competitors are people who have been wronged by UltraTech, most notably the Corporate Samurai and fanservice character Orchid, and a few of the company's whacked-out test subjects such as the Mascot Mook Fulgore.

KI-style combos are great for beginners who are inexperienced at fighting games. ("C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER" and "ULLLLLTRAAAAAA COMBO" seem to be running gags associated with the series.) You don't have to expertly string moves together to keep your opponent in a stunlock state to rack up big damage. Instead, combos in Killer Instinct are very formulaic and easy, following a strict formula of opening with a special move (called Openers by the community), linking together autoboubles and more special moves, before finally ending in a finisher that shaves off a ton of health. However, the combo system has an out for players who are observant enough to know how their opponent is trying to combo them. A "Combo Breaker" occurs if the opponent is keen enough to know what works in a Rock/Paper/Scissors situation by pressing the two light, medium or heavy buttons corresponding to what type of autodouble is being performed. This forces players to be keenly aware of what buttons their opponent is pressing even mid combo, and keeps things interesting and engaging the entire match.

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The first proved popular due to its eye-popping graphics (courtesy of Silicon Graphics, who did the pre-rendered sprites for Donkey Kong Country), catchy soundtrack, and signature combo-intensive gameplay. A sequel called Killer Instinct 2 was later released, but wasn't nearly as popular for several reasons: getting rid of the pre-rendered backgrounds in favor of real time polygonal backgrounds, the revamping of several characters, a confusing time-travel plot, and the rise of 3D Fighting Games. An updated version, titled Killer Instinct Gold, was released for the Nintendo 64 a couple months after launch. The series still had a fanbase, however, and some still hoped for a revival done by developer Rare. However, in light of certain news, it sadly seemed unlikely...

.. that is, until E3 2013 when Microsoft announced a new KI game was in the works for the Xbox One. The third game, a reboot of the series titled simply Killer Instinct again, released in 2013. It brought back many of the old characters and gameplay mechanics, but with a modern spin that helped revitalize a nearly 20-year-old franchise.


The game is the Trope Namer for:

  • Combo Breaker: Combos have various 'stages' to them, some of which are immune to being broken, some of which are not.note  In the first game and the 2013 game, the breaker must be done based on the strength of the attack used in the attacker's combo. In Killer Instinct 2, the breaker must be done with Punch if the attacker is using Kick, and vice-versa. Unique to the 2013 game, the breaker itself can be broken, which allows the combo to continue and temporarily disables combo breakers.

The series provides examples ofnote :

    open/close all folders 
    The franchise in general 
  • 2½D: While the stages rotated freely, characters could only move in 2D under their own power. There was no sidestep command, and they only entered the Z-axis when being hit with certain attacks.
  • 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:
    • "UL-TRAAAAAA COM-BOOOOOOOOO!!!"
    • C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!!!!!
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Even though these were probably a byproduct of the Dark Age of Supernames (mid-Nineties, people), pretty much every character. Thunder, Cinder, Riptor, Fulgore, Tusk, you name it.
  • Blessed with Suck: Jago gets superpowers that make him one of the strongest on the entire planet and devotes his whole life to finding inner peace, only to find out he can't find it because those superpowers were bestowed upon him by a demon that wants to take over the world.
  • Blue Means Cold: Glacius is an alien with ice-based powers and his skin is blue and white.
  • Boobs of Steel: Maya and Orchid.
  • Call-Back: Sabrewulf's name traces back to Rare's 1984 ZX Spectrum game, Sabre Wulf, back when they were still called Ultimate Play The Game.
  • Calling Your Attacks: ENDOKUKEN!
  • Charged Attack: Charged by performing a combo breaker.
  • Cherry Tapping: The "Humiliation" moves, which makes your opponent dance to a disco-ish beat.
  • Combos: This series is basically the Trope Codifier, as it was the secondnote  Fighting Game to count combo hits and the third to use chain combosnote . 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 games are 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.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Sabrewulf laments the fact he is a giant, badass, super strong, super fast, sapient werewolf and never stops looking for a cure until he finally accepts the fact it has made him nothing but better, save for the fact he's a big ugly wolf now.
  • Death Cry Echo
  • Dem Bones: Spinal, complete with sword and shield.
  • 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 and Nintendo 64 port of the second.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: In the easier difficulties in some versions, after you fought Fulgore you get... a credits screen and a message from the developers. The outright mockery is if you beat the first game in difficulty 2:
    Congratulations, you have defeated Ultratech's low end, garbage, obsolete, floor model, weak, on the verge of extinction, barely mobile, only can do a 5 hit combo, pathetic, yesterday's news boss. I hope you're happy with yourself!
  • Economy Cast: Compared to many modern fighters. Between being a series starting nearly two decades ago and having a long Sequel Gap, the cast of the series never gets very big. Both KI and KI2 have ten playable characters and one boss character, adding up to a grand total of 15 characters across both games.
  • Evil Laugh: SPINAL.
  • 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 the first two games. It's a flat platform somehow floating several stories above ground in-between 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). KI2 made it even worse: the platform is even smaller, and you can die simply by walking off.
  • Homage:
    • B. Orchid homages Cheshire from DC Comics. Orchid may have received a homage of her own in Joystick from Marvel Comics.
    • The entire series and the characters are one huge homage to various cult classics: for example, Jago is a homage to various ninja flicks that were popular in the 80's and 90's, while Eyedol's desing references the cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
  • Large Ham: The announcer, bar none.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Jago is Orchid's long-lost brother.
  • Mechanical Muscles: TJ Combo, with the help of Ultratech, illegally implanted cybernetics in his arms, in order to win in boxing battles, said prosthetics being very muscular. Later he was discovered and kicked off. While in KI1 it's covered with artificial skin, in KI2 it's visible with his hands peeled off showing his cybernetics, and in the 2013 game, his arms appear scarred all over, implying that the prosthetics had been implanted under his skin and later removed.
  • Mega-Corp: ULTRATECH. They dabble in all sorts of freaky science from Mecha-Mooks to reviving the dead to cross-breeding humans and reptile genetics. They also capture aliens and force them to fight, turn convicted felons into sentient lava beings, and graft mechanical arms to werewolves.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Ultratech.
  • Perfect-Play A.I.: Very prevalent in the first game, not so much in the second. Makes a violent comeback in the third when playing under ''Kyle'' Difficulty.note 
  • Prison Dimension: Both Eyedol and Gargos were trapped in one until Ultratech busted them out.
  • 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.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic: When one of the fighters enters Danger state (i.e. is on the verge of losing), the music becomes tense and, sometimes, slightly faster paced, until the end of the fight.
  • 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.
  • Three Round Deathmatch: A variant: Each character gets two life meters (except for ARIA who has three, one for each form) When the first runs out, the character stands back up, the two face off, and the battle continues.
  • Title Scream: Well, more like pronounced normally in a sinisterly low voice.
  • Troperiffic: The entire game's roster, who are inspired by all sorts of media, primarily American film. Jago is a McNinja, Orchid is the kick-ass Action Girl, TJ Combo is inspired by Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang, Spinal is directly inspired by the skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts, Sabrewulf is the classic Werewolf movie monster, Maya is a Jungle Princess, etc. The third game continues this in earnest, with Hisako being a Japanese Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl, Aganos being a Rock Monster, ARIA riffing off classic anime conventions, and Kan-Ra being representative of an Evil Sorcerer and the classic Mummy movie monster.

    Killer Instinct 
  • A.I. 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.
  • Arcade-Perfect Port: As for the presentation: The all-black cartridge was pretty badass. (DOOM was pretty amazing as well; one of only two blood-red carts, the other being Maximum Carnage.) It was basically Mortal Kombat but with Donkey Kong Country 2½D graphics: they rendered some 3D graphics that the SNES isn't capable of producing on its own, then screenshotted them to make sprites that the SNES can draw. So, was the SNES version a good port? The models were grainer, and the cool fireball glowing effects were gone. The "3D" levels like Orchid's rooftop were flattened and the Ring Outs were changed... It was a little too ambitious for the SNES and it shows, especially 20 years later. But in the summer of '94, it was a good conversion. KI was going to be the flagship "Ultra 64" game; the tease for the imminent Nintendo 64. Nintendo were advertising CGI cutscenes for Killer Instinct that wouldn't come to fruition until the console's release two years later. (Sony pulled a similar trick with PlayStation, by the way: kids were standing in crowds three-deep to watch the intro to Final Fantasy VII playing on a loop at Gamestop, years before the game was released.) KI on SNES was Nintendo's apology for the long-overdue N64.
  • Cap: You can do up to 80 hits in a single combo, except for Ultra Combos, which could easily break into the triple digits.
  • Downer Ending: Riptor and Fulgore endings. In the former, the humanity is wiped out (even Ultratech) and the earth is ruled by Dinosaurs again. In the latter, Ultratech successfully starts to mass product a new Fulgore generation. (No wonder Fulgore was the penultimate opponent of single-player).
  • Early Installment Weirdness: No one touches the original SNES/Arcade games anymore, which have a really wacky combo system: More than half the special moves hit multiple times, so you have to chain them together with regular attacks.
  • Feelies: The game was released with a soundtrack album, Killer Cuts.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Both Cinder and Eyedol had, as the result of bugs, infinite hit combos. Cinder's however, could be done at any time during a match, completely shutting out the opponent and guaranteeing Cinder the win once the timer ran down.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Ultratech in Riptor's ending. Riptor reproduction goes out of control, killing all humans.
  • Idiosyncratic Combo Levels: Triple, Super, Hyper, Brutal, Master, Awesome, Blaster, Monster, King, Killer. Above that, there's two types: Ultimate Combos and ULTRAAAAAAAAA COOOOOOMBOOOOOOOOOS!
  • I'm Melting!: In the Arcade version, if you finish off Glacius with Riptor's Acid Spit or Chief Thunder's Lighting Bolt No Mercy moves, Glacius will melt into oblivion.
  • Kabuki Sounds: On the special limited edition Killer Cuts CD that came with the SNES port, Jago's theme "Do It Now!" features the "Yoo~ooh!" voice.
  • Naked People Are Funny: One of Orchid's finishing moves has her flashing her opponent, causing a comedic overreaction.
  • Pre-Rendered Graphics: The original arcade version featured pre-rendered backgrounds, sprites, and ending cutscenes.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Retroactively defied in the original game. Originally Orchid seemed like the only female character on the cast but later on it was revealed that Riptor was probably female in the original game.
  • Stage Fatality: Cinder, Orchid and Spinal's stages are buildings where the loser can be knocked off the edge. The Sky Stage can be fallen off of from either side regardless of health. Eyedol has a unique stage fatality (and a different death cinematic) if he's knocked off the lava bridge instead of punched out on his feet. A popular Urban Legend of Zelda maintained that Thunder's stage contained a a stage fatality; it didn't.
  • Take That!: Eyedol's ending is clearly inspired by Blanka's ending in Street Fighter II.

    Killer Instinct 2/Gold 
  • Cap: You can do up to 80 hits in a single combo, except for Ultra Combos, which could easily break into the triple digits.
  • Charged Attack: In addition to the breakers, this game also had a more traditional super meter, but the easiest way to charge it was performing combo breakers.
  • Continuity Snarl: The character profiles for the second game explain that Eyedol's death sent the surviving characters 2000 years into the past, but several parts of the game's design contradict this while others reinforce it. Several characters, especially the three new ones who could only be from the past, have stages seemingly set in fantasy worlds or at least fanciful concepts of a past time. On the flipside, T.J. Combo's and Orchid's stages are set in a modern-day city (albeit a ruined one), Fulgore's stage is a robot factory, and Sabrewulf has involuntarily gained cybernetic arms courtesy of Ultratech (not to mention that, when you knock someone off the Sky Stage in the arcade version, there appears to be a modern city layout down there). Various handwaves have been proposed, some more reasonable than others, but none of them come from the actual game.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Maya is a barefoot savage.
  • Downer Ending: Since the game introduced the concept of Multiple Endings, depending on which specific character you finish off in specific ways, you may get this for your character. For example, if you have Orchid kill Jago (same if you kill Orchid with Jago) in 2.
  • Feelies: KI Gold had its own soundtrack CD called Gold Cuts.
  • Guide Dang It!: In order to win, the final hit on Gargos must launch him into the air. If it doesn't, his health bar will hit zero but he won't go down until he's knocked off his feet, and the player will still lose if the timer runs down.
  • Idiosyncratic Combo Levels: Triple, Super, Hyper, Brutal, Master, Awesome, Blaster, Monster, King, Killer. Above that, there's two types: Ultimate Combos and ULTRAAAAAAAAA COOOOOOMBOOOOOOOOOS!
  • Multiple Endings: Depending on who you did or didn't let live (and in Glacius' case, if his ship is still intact), it can cause different ending scenes to play out at the end of the game. KI Gold removes this and has only one ending per character, most of them based on the arcade (due to this, The Reveal that Jago and Orchid are siblings is never mentioned).
  • 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!
  • Stage Fatality:
    • Orchid and Kim Wu's stages are buildings where the loser can be knocked off the edge. The loser in Spinal's stage can be knocked off his ship into the sea on the left side. Sabrewulf's stage has a well the loser can be knocked into if one of the fighters is first knocked through the nearby wall during the bout. Tusk's stage has a flaming pit in the center, and Jago's stage is a bridge that the loser can be knocked off of at any partexcept either end. Gargos' stage can also have the loser knocked off in any spot, including Gargos himself (you can only defeat him this way; normally depleting his life bar won't cut it). The Sky Stage makes a return.
    • Gold has all of the above and adds a finisher to T.J. Combo's stage, where the loser can be knocked into train tracks on the background just before the train runs by.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors:
    • 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.

Supreme victory!

 
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Shadow Jago's Ultra Combo

Shadow Jago performs a unique musical beatdown to finish off his opponent. ULTRAAA COMBOOO!

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