Oh, you have piqued my interest. That's… Rare? (rimshot)
Ah, Killer Instinct. I was never any good at you, but you helped in defining one of the summers of my life with your B-movie-styled villains and over-the-top WTF combo system. When even I can pull off a 20 -combo without much trouble and can figure out how to break the combo of somebody else, that's a pretty open game!
KI's last formal release was KI Gold in 1996, so any fans of the series have reached middle-age since then (at 28 and nearly 29… I know I have), so it's been… holy crap, 17 years? And after nearly two decades, not only is it still the craziness from my old super-tiny arcade from the summer of 1996, but a new way of marketing a fighting game.
Little was talked about on the floor (beyond obligatory "HOLY CRAP, IT'S BAAAACK!" talk), but here's what I was able to find out. KI is on schedule to be a launch-day release for the Xbox One, and it will be free to download. It's not going to be a boxed store product, but download-only, and it will be free. And by "free," I mean you can play Jago. And he's it. Everything else is said to be handled as DLC, and that's everything… the story mode, other characters, presumably other stages to fight in. and any other modes Rare might come up with.
With the focus starting on Jago it'll be easy to try out, but buying piecemeal is bound to turn off more than a few players. Especially so with some in the fighting game community, or anyone who enjoys experimenting with new characters and strategies. And doubly so when the KI team makes clear that they want it on the tournament circuit.
But at least it plays all right. Only two characters were playable, Sabrewulf and Jago, and both felt like they were adapted from the original to fit the recent Street Fighter IV vibe. It actually lends itself well to stringing together personalized combos, which is the whole point of the game: beating the living hell out of your opponent in as many strung-together attacks as possible.
My matches both with and against Jago and Sabrewulf were more than a little button-mashy, but there was definitely a skill element that I could appreciate. Their animation was a bit love-or-hate — I think it's currently right in the middle of "meh" — but I do miss the older sort of stop-animation style from the original games. It could have been an amazing retro touch had it been brought back… updated with smoother character models and more fluid movement and all that, of course.
With the additions of things like the extra power meters unique to each character, like the Shadow Meter and Instinct meter (both of which are still a bit mysterious to me) and the ability to share and edit videos of your favorite battles with friends, Killer Instinct looks like it might be the fighter to bring the more casual fan back into the fold… or at least shoot some nostalgia right into the femoral nerdery. Killer Instinct is exclusive for Xbox One and is planned to be released some time this year.