Posts tagged #fighting

Killer Instinct - Review (Xbox One)

In the mid 1990’s, Mortal Kombat was huge, Street Fighter was pretty much just as huge and Killer Instinct was the new kid who sought to meld the two franchises into one unique fighting game. Though its time on the gaming scene was short, KI has been a much loved franchise and fans have clamored for a sequel since 1996’s KI2.
Originally published by Nintendo (developed by Rare, makers of the Donkey Kong Country franchise)
in 1994, the rights to the Killer Instinct brand were acquired by Microsoft Studios when the company bought Rare back in 2002. For years, many KI fans hoped for a new sequel in the franchise and were hyped beyond belief when one was finally announced in 2013 as an Xbox One exclusive developed by Double Helix Games.
How have the 17 years between KI2 and the new game treated the franchise? Find out after the jump!


Story: Non-existant (…yet)
This is a fighting game, so story has only rarely ever been the most important aspect of the genre. However, with recent blockbuster-quality story modes in games like Mortal Kombat (2011) and Injustice: Gods Among Us, a great story to back up the brutality is starting to become the norm. KI, however, has no story at the time of this writing because... well… it hasn’t been released yet. Instead of including a story mode, Double Helix instead chose to focus on the core fighting mechanics of the game. I think they made the right call, but I also think that this could be related to the rushed development of a game for a rushed console, which I alluded to in my Xbox One review.  Just like many of the Xbox One’s features, KI is missing a lot of features at launch. Story mode and an arcade ladder are two of them… not to mention only 6 playable characters.

Visuals: 10/10
Killer Instinct is the first fighter developed on next-gen hardware and it shows. The characters, while looking as though they take a bit of influence from Street Fighter IV’s designs, are beautifully rendered, particle effects from a well-placed fireball are amazing, and the game outputs at 1080p (one of the only Xbox One titles to do so). Characters move smoothly and backgrounds are simple, but look great. There’s no shortage of great visuals here. Everything looks stunning.  

Sound: 10/10
Everybody who plays fighting games (and some who haven’t) has heard someone yell, “C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!!!!” at some point in his or her lifetime. This classic phrase, and every other notable shout of the KI announcer, has been expertly recreated in the new Killer Instinct. The sounds of combat punch you in the gut like no other fighting game to date. And getting punched in the gut by sound is always fun, right?
Speaking of getting punched in the gut by sound, the original KI was always known for its exceptional music. The new game doesn’t disappoint. The classic Killer Instinct theme is perfectly remixed and modernized for 2013. In fact, music plays a significant part in the game. When you go for that devastating Ultra combo to finish off your opponent, the music goes along with, and is perfectly scored to every single hit. In the pause menus, some ominous, swelling chords are accompanied by a note from the KI theme’s melody for each option you highlight. This is almost like a mini-game in and of itself, as you try and match the melody to the chords.
As I pointed out to my friend, it’s like the developers knew how much the original music meant to the franchise and tried to make it an integral part of the new KI experience.

Gameplay: 9/10
From what I’ve played so far, KI’s gameplay is pretty top-notch. The combo system is fluid, the moves are easy to pull off (well… they’re supposed to be. I’ll get to that), and you can pretty much mash buttons to make your character do some really flashy stuff. But that’s not a good idea to do against someone who knows what they’re doing.
Double Helix made KI a game for everyone. For casual players who just want to sit around and beat up their buddies, KI is a decent game and there is a lot of fun to be had in doing so. For people who really want to get into the game and learn its intricacies, it’s almost overwhelmingly deep. Learning how to break combos alone takes a good amount of practice and patience. Luckily, the game includes a “Dojo” mode which teaches you every single aspect of the game and it’s one of the most intensive and thorough tutorials I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. In dojo mode, you’ll learn everything from how your regular attacks work, to countering combo breakers, and even how frame data works. It’s a lot to take in, but with some practice, you’ll be on your way to fighting like a KI pro.

One thing I should probably note is the Xbox One controller when used to play KI. The game itself is great, but using the pad is, in my opinion, an utter disaster. “Dragon punch motions (Forward, Down, Down Forward)” are extremely inconsistent with the Xbox One d-pad, as are quarter circles used for the majority of the special moves in the game. It’s manageable, but it can be pretty frustrating most of the time – especially given how simplistic the combo system can be. Also, KI is a 6 button game, meaning there are 3 kick and 3 punch buttons. Game pads for titles that use this layout (like Street Fighter, for example), have always been troublesome due to mapping the heavy attacks to the top of the controller (usually the triggers). My hand literally cramps up while trying to pull off longer, more difficult combos. Especially those you’ll come across in the dojo mode. (As I write this, the muscles in my right thumb and palm are aching severely from doing the last lesson of the dojo.)
Since the controller isn’t that good, your best option is going to be to pick up the MadCatz TE2 fightstick, which is currently and unfortunately the only next-gen fighting game controller. All your old arcade sticks won’t work on the new hardware (which is stupid and makes no sense whatsoever, in my opinion). I wasn’t too crazy about dropping $200 on ANOTHER fightstick, but I’m glad I have it preordered. I think my overall experience will improve once I’m able to play the game on something it was designed for.

Having to use the Xbox One controller at launch is really my only real complaint about Killer Instinct. It’s a great fighter that can be as deep and engaging as you want it to be. Is it worth the $40 download for the “Ultra Edition?” In the long-run, and considering the fact that you also get the original Killer Instinct arcade game in the download package, along with two downloadable characters about a month or so down the road, I would say yes. Sure, there are some missing features that will be added later, but none of that is necessary for you to enjoy the game. Also, if you want to play as only Jago, you can get the entire game for free as a sort of demo. I’m not exactly thrilled about this particular sales model, as I hope developers choose not to adopt the practice of releasing half-featured games, but I think KI is worth the full price of admission if you own an Xbox One.  It’s a fun fighter and lives up to the hype of the Killer Instinct franchise. Here’s to hoping we don’t have to wait another 17 years to get a sequel!

Final Score: 9.6/10 (score will be updated when more features are released)


Images taken from Google Images.



Tekken Tag Tournament 2 vs. Dead Or Alive 5 Opinions / Mini-Review

On release day, I got my hands on a shiny new copy of Dead Or Alive 5 for the Xbox 360. Not the shiniest copy, as that title goes to the Collector’s Edition (art book, soundtrack, a tin case, etc). I intended to purchase the CE, but unfortunately, it was a Gamestop PREORDER exclusive. Why is “preorder” in all caps? Because Gamestop, at least on their website, never stated that it was, in fact, a preorder exclusive. I had to find that out by calling around to several stores within driving distance, only to hear the clerks say, “Um… yeah… the collector’s edition is only for people who preordered.” Lame. Lame, indeed.

So anyway, I had a friend pick the game up for me on day 1. After spending a few days with the game, I really don’t know what to think about it. This is not my first DOA. I’ve played all of ‘em, but this is my first DOA during my newfound appreciation for learning fighting games.
Since Mortal Kombat 9’s life signs appear to be fading from the tournament scene and there’s not a sequel on the horizon, I decided that it was time for me to move on to another fighter. Sure, there are games like BlazBlue and that new Persona Arena game out there, but I’m not exactly sure about those. Any new fighting game seems overwhelming when trying to learn it, but anime based fighting games, while fun on a casual level, just seem much too overwhelming to me when trying to learn them. That and, on a competitive level, I’m just not that interested.

DOA 5 and Tekken Tag 2 were both released within 2 weeks of each other. A decision had to be made: Would I choose DOA 5 or TTT2 as my main fighting game? After having spent some time trying to learn both games, I have come to my conclusion. I figured the best way to shed some light on the reasoning behind my decision would be to basically give a mini-review and comparison of each game.

Round 1…. Fight!
Graphics: Believe it or not, I’ve actually heard this being debated a lot. Personally, I think both games are about the same on the visual level except for one thing: The stages. I’m not really that impressed with Tekken’s stages, but DOA’s are gorgeous. Stage features, such as being able to knock people through walls, are not that important to me (something which both games have), but I do like the stages to be somewhat lifelike. At least, I like them to have an exciting feel. One of the stages in TTT2 is literally just a street. You can make out some faded buildings in the background, but that’s about it. There are some pretty stages in TTT2, but that’s just an extreme example of how bland they can sometimes be. DOA, on the other hand, has one particular stage where you are in the middle of a middle-eastern war zone! Quite cool. Dead Or Alive 5 wins.

Round 2…. Fight!
Art Style / Characters: (To use a quote from MK9 Pro, Tom Brady) “Let’s be serious here:” Who doesn’t like hot women? Well, I’m sure there are quite a few ladies out there who just raised their hands, and probably some dudes, as well. If ladies aren’t your thing, don’t worry, there are guys in both Tekken and DOA, but you can’t deny that both Namco and Team Ninja/Tecmo have an affinity for the ladies. Especially Tecmo with the bouncing… well… you know. Anyway, the art style for both games is pretty phenomenal. Both are on the quasi-anime side when it comes to character design, with Tekken’s being slightly more realistic, but that’s to be expected from 2 Japanese developers. TTT2 boasts 50+ characters while DOA 5’s roster consists of approximately 25. All the characters from both series have unique designs and personalities, so both games are visually appealing on the character front. Draw.

Round 3…. Fight!
Fighting System / Gameplay: Here is what really sets the two games apart. Both are 3D fighters, so there is some degree of similarity between the two such as side steps, whiff punishing, etc.
Tekken system – In Tekken, your most basic objective is to play mind games with your opponent. Since high damage combos are usually done by starting with a launcher (a highly unsafe move that can usually be punished after it’s blocked), you spend most of your time trying to trick the other player into falling for it. This is usually done by “poking” the other player with low attacks which might make them crouch-block in order to avoid taking damage. When he/she crouch-blocks, they become vulnerable to mid attacks such as launchers. That doesn’t mean you should predominantly use low attacks during a match, though. You need to mix up your strikes and keep the opponent guessing so you can get that big damage. Sometimes though, an entire Tekken match will consist of nothing but poking. If both players are 100% on their game, this is not entirely uncommon.

DOA system – As stated above, in a sense, I’m kinda new to DOA. Before trying to learn the basics of the game, I read a lot of people’s comments on it saying that it’s nothing more than a “guessing game.” My thoughts were, “But isn’t every fighting game essentially a guessing game?” DOA uses a “hold,” or counter system, in which you can stop an opponent’s attack and counterattack by doing a certain input. The problem is that that you have to do the RIGHT input. As with most fighting games, DOA uses 3 hit levels for attacks: High, Mid and Low. If your opponent throws out a high attack, you can counter it by pressing diagonal up and back along with the hold button (usually X on ps3 and A on 360). Good so far? Just wait… If they throw out a low, you press diagonal down and back and the hold button. For a mid attack, press back plus hold. If your opponent throws out a mid kick, not a punch, but a kick, you press forward and the hold button. These are 4 options in which you have to guess to avoid taking damage. Not only do you have to guess what hold to counter with when your opponent attacks you, you are also able to pull off these holds during combos as long as you’re being hit while touching the ground. This means that even though you might be setting up massive damage in a combo, if your opponent guesses right, they can stop your combo and you take damage. You also have to deal with what is referred to as “the triangle system.” The triangle system is basically a form of rock, paper, scissors in which Strikes beat Throws, Throws beat Holds and Holds beat Strikes. This leads to even more guessing. When you add Offensive Holds (holds which go through strikes) from all the game’s grapple (wrestler type) characters, the game’s fighting system just starts to seem like a huge mess. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 wins.

The Winner: We’ll call it a draw.

While guessing, or “making reads” as the fighting game community tends to call it, is a part of every fighter to a certain extent, DOA in my opinion, relies on guessing much too heavily. The fact that if I do a combo on someone and they just happen to guess the correct counter hold to an attack I’m throwing out, leaving me at a disadvantage and unable to retaliate, is kind of wonky. Yes, you have to guess at times in Tekken, but it’s really only in one particular situation: getting off the ground.

Knocking people down is monumentally important in Tekken games. After a knockdown, you are able to pressure the opponent by throwing out an attack while they’re grounded. The flip side is that the opponent has “wakeup” options, as well. Because of the “crush” system (which is in both DOA and Tekken), if the opponent wakes up with a low, something like a jump kick will usually beat that attack. Most of the time, this results in getting launched all over again. The difference with DOA is that you must guess correctly all the time. Not just when on the ground or pressuring a grounded opponent.

Does all this guessing make DOA 5 a bad game? Absolutely not. It’s just not a game that I would want to play seriously and learn all of its intricacies. There is a competitive DOA scene out there, but it’s a pretty small one. One has to wonder if this is because DOA is considered by the majority as “unbalanced,” or if DOA players just have it figured out and the rest of us aren’t smart or good enough to play it. Depending on whom you asked, you’d probably get both responses.

Mortal Kombat is the first fighting game that I ever decided to learn and master. I had a lot of fun over the past year and a half with my experience playing the game, but it’s time to move on. Shortly before I competed at Final Round in Atlanta, I started to get into Tekken 6. I even considered entering it, along with MK9 and Soulcalibur V, but decided instead to focus only on MK. Now that MK has begun to die down, I believe I’ll just stick to my guns and continue on with Tekken Tag Tournament 2. DOA is a great and very deep game which I will continue to play on the side, but it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s most certainly not a game I would want to play on a tournament level.

My overall scores for the games: Dead Or Alive 5 – 7.5 Tekken Tag Tournament 2 – 9.0

Posted on September 27, 2012 .