Killer Instinct Gold. Rare (1997) Nintendo 64

Killer Instinct was a pretty solid Tournament Fighter  with a combo system added a depth that newbs and pros could all have some fun. It did look like arse, and had a stupid difficulty at the end but what about the sequel?

Surprisingly Killer Instinct Gold looks worse than Killer Instinct on the SNES, and while the fighting is still solid there is a big fly in the ointment.


So this is a Tournament Fighter, so you fight one-on-one against a multitude of strange creatures. It isn’t clear if Ultratech are still involved as the “story” has been trimmed. Most Fighters have a convoluted story that is tacked on underneath, Mortal Kombat has bullshit about Realms, Street Fighter has something that people bizarrely eat up, and Dead or Alive has 13 year old girls with huge boobs. Killer Instinct Gold seems to have nothing. I honestly can’t find any story.

No story, jut two PowerPoint slides for epilogue.

What separates Killer Instinct from the other tournament fighters is a fairly impressive combo system. As somebody who is utterly terrible at fighters I am able to string some fairly impressive moves together. You CAN effectively button-mash your way through the game, though obviously getting good and learning moves will see more successes in your win/lose ratio.

Similar to ClayFighter and the first Killer Instinct each fight is best of 3, but rather than having separate rounds, when one health bar is burnt, you start with the next health bar and the other fighter on whatever they were. I do prefer this kind of fighting style as it usually means the best fighter in that round wins, rather than somebody getting a bit lucky.

Decent enough Vs screen this time round.

Graphics, stage design and music

Oddly Killer Instinct Gold looks worse than the first one. KI had awful sprites that looked like a hairy arse smeared in Vaseline on a glass table, Killer Instinct Gold is worse. The stages are 3d, but the models are rendered in 2d, and to an awful standard. Character models are blurry, and ill defined and I honestly can’t think of a worse character model in the PS1/N64 era, even Bubsy 3d has better character models. To sum up the graphics, Killer Instinct Gold looks like somebody vomited on the pencil sketch concept art and fed that straight into the game.

No, it really does look this bad

The stages do actually look pretty good, though there are a number of camera issues especially on CJ Combo’s stage. On this level the camera is forced to pan and tilt due to environmental items. It means the 2D character models start to warp as they are distorted by the new camera angle.

Other stages are very strange in their size too. Spinal’s stage, while admitedly looks cool as fuck is about 7 characters wide it means fighting becomes unnecessarily cramped.

The soundtrack is still pretty …killer… (sorry), thumping bass and everything you came to like about the original’s soundtrack. There is however some odd ass lyrics added. Orchid’s theme is Sonic Adventure levels of awful vocals. Oh and Sabrewulf’s music is a little bit inspired by the Imperial March.

The Fighting

So as mentioned the fighting is based on a pretty robust combo system. It means fighting is fast and fluid, and while it is let down by the awkwardness of the Nintendo 64 pad works as well as it can within the confines of said pad.

Gone are the unnecessary Fatalities, this might upset some people, but Killer Instinct Gold is a solid enough Fighter to not need to rip off Mortal Kombat.

Why yes, that *IS* a 55 hit combo!


This is where the game starts to fall apart for me.

Glacius seems stupidly overpowered and absolutely rapes me no matter which character I am. Regardless of difficulty setting he either stands far away and spams protectiles, or he does a teleport uppercut when you get near. He feels very broken to fight against, and while beatable, he feels a little like an awkward Mortal Kombat sub-boss in terms of bullshit design.

Fuck Glacius.

Gargos, the final boss is the biggest pile of wank that ever existed. The ONLY way to win is to get him to 0% and then do a move that knocks him in the air. If you’re good at the this won’t be a problem, but if you’re like most people and starting off on Easy it is next to impossible. You don’t know all the moves, and the few you do he’ll just block or in my case combo breaker the only time I was about to perform the uppercut combo.

To top this off he has a really cheap taunt move that gives him life back which he performs EVERY time he knocks you down. So have fun with that.


For me the single player is totally ruined by a stupid fucking gimmick that is not required. Have a hard final boss, fine. Having a hardish boss that can only be killed with a gimmick is fucking retarded.

Pros will enjoy the game, as the fighting is fast, and it is as fluid as a Nintendo 64 game can be. The rest of us will be frustrated by odd difficulty spikes in Glacius, and then a wank ass gimmick on the final boss.

It makes scoring difficult, as two player is fun, regular fighting is fun, but the sudden difficulty is bullshit.

Pros: The music, fluid fighting

Cons: The music, being on the N64, stupid ass bullshit gimmick to kill the boss


Add 25% if you’re awesome at Tournament Fighters and don’t hate wank ass gimmicks thrown in as a curveball.

Back in the day:

Scores were all over the palce for Killer Instinct Gold, is scored 60% all the way up to low 90s. The detailed backgrounds and controls were praised, but the blurry models critised so too the “archaic combo system”.

I'm awesome. I write about videogames occasionally but spend most time painting and playing Warhammer in varying formats.

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Posted in Nintendo 64
8 comments on “Killer Instinct Gold. Rare (1997) Nintendo 64
  1. Mr. Wapojif says:

    I seem to remember Killer Instinct on the SNES more fondly than you. It wrapped up Game of the Year in many quarters and the graphics were cutting edge for the time.

    I’m not much of a beat-em-up fan, to be honest, so didn’t bother with Gold after I saw the middling reviews back in t’ day. Rare promptly went on to be pretty much the best thing about the N64, so it was onwards and upwards for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As fighters go KI 1 is pretty solid in terms of the mechanics, my only real issue was the having to learn stupid amounts of moves to beat the game. It is hella fun though.

      Gold, could be better but again it has a stupid ass gimmick. Fun to pick up though and play vs mates the same skill as you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the SNES Killer Instinct. For me it was my favourite fighter of the era (possibly not a popular opinion!) I actually loved the graphics, and the gameplay and story worked for me.
    That being said I was so disappointed with Killer instinct Gold. I agree with you that it was a step backwards, the graphics no longer work, I don’t think the gameplay is as smooth and I just couldn’t get into it.
    I still have both, I revisit the SNES version often, but I have stopped playing the N64 version a long time ago. A real shame I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Killer Instinct on the SNES is great for me and my mates because we all equal ability to the fights are fun and fair, so still fun to pull out.

      The 64 one… Doubt I’ll play it again.


  3. Imtiaz Ahmed says:

    I loved this game and played it to death back in the day, although I’m sure it hasn’t aged well.

    If there’s one thing that’s aged well, is select music from the game. I know you don’t like Gargos, but his stage music is fuckin awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Chris Scott says:

    I’m not a huge fighting game guy and this doesn’t seem to have held up very well. I’ll stick with the free KI on Xbox One and PC for now.

    Liked by 1 person

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