Author: kerr9000

Snes Game Review 41: Killer Instinct

I wasn’t really sure what I was going to review as my 41st SNES review…several games nearly made there way into the SNES to instead be pulled away at the last instant. I have tried to keep things as messed up as possible for reasons of variety and surprise, so I have jumped from games launched early in the machines life then to late games and backwards and forwards pinballing all over the place. Sometimes though there has been a degree of method behind my madness and this is the case here. Today I am going to talk about Killer instinct the reason being that I have laid a small subtle amount of groundwork for this, first I made sure that I had already talked about Street Fighter 2 the world warrior because its the ground stick every other fighting game ended up  judged against back in the day and I also made sure to talk about Super Battletoads.

You might remember that I said that in the early days of the SNES Rare released very little, so really they jumped straight from Battletoads in Battlemaniacs to this game and Donkey Kong country. These games were made using the expensive workstations they had funneled all of there NES game profits in to.
So Killer Instinct is a fighting game developed by Rare.  Published by Midway and Nintendo, it was originally released as an arcade game during the summer of 1994. I remember seeing this in the arcades it caused a massive fuss, people flocked to it. When it was announced that it would be coming to a home system the first thing everyone I knew presumed was that it would be coming to some kind of ”next gen” system or that it would be a massively cut down shadow of its former self. So the  following year when it was ported to the SNES every ones jaws collectively hit the floor, there was cheering shouting and the usual unfortunate fan boy prodding of Megadrive/Genesis owners, some of which tried to counter the argument for format superiority with the fact that Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side was exclusive to the mega CD.
Some people would look at or play Killer Instinct and look at it from the point of view of it being a street fighter or mortal kombat clone and sure it has a little in common with both of these titles, if anything I would say it is kind of the middle point between the two in terms of style and playability. Killer Instinct was far from just a clone though, it had graphics the likes of which had never been seen in a home console game but there was more to it than that though it actually has a few game-play elements that were unique to fighting games at the time of its release some of which have been adapted by other games. (Similar ideas might have been tried in other games but KI is the one that made them well known).
Instead of fighting enemies in best-of-three rounds bouts, each player has two life bars. The player that depletes both of the other player’s life bars first wins. The game also introduced “auto-seconds”, which allows players to press a certain sequence of buttons to make characters automatically perform combos on opponents. Also featured in the game are “combo breakers”; special moves that can interrupt combos, for anyone who has been playing a fighting game and found themselves stuck in a life bar smashing sequence of hits that they just cant get away from combo breakers are and were a god send.
The graphics at the time were amazing, they haven’t aged brilliantly though, street fighter 2 has definitely aged better in this regard, but the sound in this game is out of this world, and not just out of this world in terms of games music it is actually brilliant music in its own right which probably explains one of the reasons that the game originally came with a CD called Killer Cuts featuring its music. To this day I still have a track from this disc on my phone so that I can listen to it when I travel.
I think that the game still more than has the quality of gameplay needed to drag you in, sure people will say there is only 10 characters and that once you have finished it with all of them there is not a lot to do, and yes this is kind of true but if you have two pads and a friend or two this game can last forever. You can get along playing it in a button mashing manner but if you want to see all that the game has to offer then it takes a lot of time and skill to see everything all of the combos, all of the finishers. Yes there is only 10 characters but there is no palette swapping they are all fully independent characters with there own move sets and fighting styles and each one of them has a story behind them.
Even given all of the years that have gone past I find myself needing to give this game a high score… I think I need to give this game an 8, its just that good. I have two copies of this, one is American and the other is English, they are both carts only unfortunately.. I wish I had a complete copy just so I still had the Killer Cuts CD.. last time I had my hands on a copy of the CD was at my brothers, he let me rip the disc and listen to it, but then he put it back in his car so he could listen to it while driving, unfortunately he was living in a rough area and someone set his car alight and well the car the CD and everything else in it turned in to a burned and melted wreckage.
If you want a copy of this game will only cost you around the £6 to £10 mark for a cart only, you can get a boxed copy for around £25 to £35 unfortunately very few of them seem to still have the Killer cuts disc in them.
Killer Instinct of course was followed by a sequel, the 1996 arcade game Killer Instinct 2, there are rumors that a SNES port of this was finished but never released, this may be true as other games were dropped towards the end of the machines life for fear they wouldn’t sell with different versions going on to become N64 games as well. For examplethe original Starfox 2 was left pretty much finished but unreleased at with some of the ideas from it becoming taken to help make+ Lylat Wars, and Killer instinct 2 was released on the N64 with the title Killer Instinct Gold). The Killer Instinct brand has been revivived by Microsoft who now own rare but they had used an other studio Double Helix to make the game, with apparently a tiny bit of advice and ideas from Rare. It kills me to think that KI is continuing to exist but Rare are busy making Kinect games and hats for Avatars.

SNES Game 43: SimCity

The Super Nintendo version of Sim City was the first console game in the Sim City Series, it was also apparently a launch title for the system. I have to admit though I never saw it in the early days, in fact I think I got it very late in the day.   It was developed by Nintendo EAD under license from Maxis and published by Nintendo (in 1990). I think the fact that Nintendo worked on it themselves shines through into the final product. This is far from a hasty cash in conversion, its a very specialized version of the game tailored towards SNES owners and it shows pretty much straight away, I know this is giving the game away early but I have to admit that this is actually my favourate version of Sim City. I fell in love with it from more or less the instant I played it.

The gameplay is similar to the PC version, but every step possible seems to have been made in order to make it easily playable with a jupad, there are also more buildings and scenarios added to the game so in a way you can consider this a sort of Sim City 1.5. There are lots of other little style based changes which the average user would not notice unless they have played both the SNES and PC versions, one example is that the buildings  present in the SNES version resemble those in Japan  as apposed to the typical North America styled ones in the PC version.
The best thing about this for me in comparison to the PC version is the adviser they have added to the game who goes by the name Dr. Wright, he is supposed to be a cartoon parody of Will Wright the creator of the Simcity Series, obviously I know that now but as a kid I never realized that, I just took him as a new cutesy fun Nintendo character and I actually wondered if he would ever turn up in anything else. He is basically there to offer you advice and to tell you things such as the population growth of your city. To add to the Nintendo related flavor Nintendo also sprinkled one of two little touches in there  the Godzilla attacks from the PC have been replaced with Bowser attacks and if you can reach a particularly high level of  growth then there is an unlock-able Mario Statue that you can place in your city .
The graphics are functional but cute, the music is a little twee but its also catchy, I have the main music from this game on my MP3 player and actually find it quiet relaxing. For those of you who haven’t played this the whole point of the game is basically to make a thriving city which grows and grows in size, but how you do this and what tax rate you set, how you choose to lay out the city all of these things are left to you. This is great as you can build a giant city have fun with it and then decide to do it all again this time setting it up in a completely different way. There are lots of different maps, you essentially put a number in and it decides a map for you, you then get to say Yes or No to this map.
In some ways this game was the 90’s equivalent of console Minecraft. I mean this in the way that you would spend your time building an impressive world which you could then show off to your friends. This is and was a great game if you had friends to share it with as you will all use the same basic game, the same basic framework but yet end up with a totally different city, to an extent your city is a reflection of yourself. One of the best things about the game was that there was very little like this on the system. If you were sick of all of the platformers, one on one beat em ups, sports games etc then this was something different something original, and for that I think it deserves a place in everyone’s SNES collection. This is pretty much the only PC to SNES conversion where I can say with utter confidence that I think the Super Nintendo version is the superior version. I am going to give it a 10 out of 10  that is how deep my love for this game is, I don’t think there is anything else really like it and I think that it is almost infinitely re-playable.
If you want to buy this game then it will cost you about £8 for a pal cart. Which I think is an absolutely brilliant price considering the fact that the enjoyment you can get out of it can be practically limitless.

150 SNES games reviewed #40: Acrobat Mission

Once again I am doing a review of a SNES game which started out life as an arcade machine before being converted. You would think it means once again I’m going to be talking about things that were left out and changes that were made.

But no, the main difference here is the game I am writing about today is probably one you have never heard of as it was only released in Japan. I can’t remember ever having seen or played the arcade machine so I’m not going to worry about that and judge it based on itself and to a least some degree its competition on the SNES.

When I tell you that the name of the game is Acrobat Mission you will probably say what kind of name is that for a game? Is it some kind of platformer where you are an acrobat? No, it’s a vertically scrolling shoot ’em up.

The first thing I noticed was that as the game began the story scrolled up the screen and I could read it. Yes, it’s a Japanese game but literally all of the language in it – the options and the story – is in English which makes it pretty cool for importers.

The graphics looked colourful but basic. In fact you could almost believe you were playing a NES game. I pressed all of the buttons and only one of them actually seemed to do anything and that was shoot. The next thing I tried was holding down the button assuming that there would be some kind of charge attack and nothing happened. I carried on playing it not really expecting much from it, then as things went on it hit me this game ran at a nice speed. Even though the player’s ship seems to be a really basic sprite a lot of the enemies seem to be larger and more detailed. Then I began to collect power ups and found not only did they affect the way my ship fired they also allowed me to do charged shots if I held the button. The bombs I collected actually appeared on the ship and disappeared once I worked out the button which you have  to press to fire them (so in the end there are two buttons to use). When you die, which you will because it is a reasonably tough game, instead of instantly exploding or disappearing your ship actually sort of limps along with steam coming out of it. While this is happening you’re still in control and can steer your burning spaceship. In fact you can steer it into something so when it explodes you can take enemies with you. I found this to be a really neat and interesting little idea.

The graphics are not the best but there is a lot of variety. It puts Super Strike Gunner, which I reviewed previously, to shame in this area. It also has large bosses. The first is a large battleship which is so long it is actually about four screens in length and covered in guns. The bullets it fires are larger than your ship and it can be tough because it tracks your movement and shoots at you. Another interesting fact is you don’t die if you physically touch enemy ships. If you run into bullets you’re screwed but you can fly through enemies and get away with it. There is also space debris which can get in the way of your ship and your shots. This is something I like sure it’s another simple touch but the beauty of this game is all of its simple touches.

As for the bad side, by shoot-em-up standards this game has a very limited selection of weapon pick-ups. There is the standard shot and then two or three special shots you can get by picking up letters. Compare this to the tonne of weapons in other shooters at the time such as UN Squadron and it’s a little disappointing.

Another problem some people have with the game is how short it is, this game relies on being very hard after the first two levels to prolong the game. There are only five stages, and when you think that this game was at one point a full priced retail game that seems to be a few short of what I think would be a fair number.

I would give this game a hearty seven out of 10. It’s not perfect but it was a very pleasant surprise. Unfortunately its not available either as a PAL or US NTSC cart, but with its heavy use of English and the fact it ran on both a modified machine and a very simple converter this is not a bad game for someone who wants to start importing. Or at least it would be if you could find a cheap copy. The only copy I can see online at the moment is £25. I bought this from someone as a package deal – seven Japanese carts for £14, all of which were sports games apart from this one.