A killer Nintendo 64 fighting sequel
It’s not been that long ago that Killer Instinct was still being recognized in the top echelon of fighting game series. But that was then, and this is now, and folks have a critical eye toward the legacy of the defunct series. What folks really want to know: Where does KI Gold – the 2.5 sequel game – appear in that legacy?
I’m old enough to remember the launch of KI2 and then Gold for the Nintendo 64 in 1996. I was heavily into fighting games then, still sticking with Mortal Kombat and looking for something new to supplement that fighting game itch. Enter Gold, which is an upgrade of KI2 for the home market. It’s a slight uptick in graphics, music and tweaks over the arcade version. The upgrades make it the better version of the game and push it toward must-have status for the N64.
Control-wise, KI Gold is easy to pick up and a lot more accessible than its predecessor. For context, I barely understood the combo system of the first game, but by the time Gold came along, I could hold my own against other KI masters, such as longtime friend of GI David Rhodes. If I could actually win some rounds and every so often matches against him, that’s evidence that the system is improved for casual fans. The concept of linkers and chain combos made much more sense with a little in-game explanation, so this made the learning process a lot easier to grasp. The change in systems was the best in terms of accessibility.
Gold’s graphics are a slight improvement over the arcade version and even more so over the original game. But, in comparison to other games on the market at the time, Gold doesn’t hold up particularly well. Putting it alongside other games available at the same time, such as Tekken 2, doesn’t bode well for Gold. In particular, there are janky textures that snag and tear in the background environments, which detracts from the otherwise solid character models.
The soundtrack, much like the previous game, carries the burden for the rest of the game. Rare’s sound department was known for pumping out good music, and Gold’s soundtrack has quite a few bangers. It’s a lot of hard rock and a few techno tracks thrown in for good measure, but it still holds up. In particular, the character select theme – which was recreated for the 2013 revival of the series – is a toe-tapper and still sounds fantastic on modern sound systems.
But, the pertinent question still remains: Where does Gold rank in fighting game genre legacy? It depends. If you care about flashy combos and aren’t too much of a technical content fighting purist, Gold is probably your fancy. It’s got enough to draw the casual fan in, but it’s light on the technical aspect of fighting games that the longtime purist would be looking for. It’s fun to play and revisit from time to time, but if you’re looking to get bogged down in frame data and dig a little deeper, Gold isn’t going to be your color. Your best bet is to look to the future of the series, and let this instinct die out.