With all the talk regarding current and upcoming fighting games, it's starting to feel like the early 90's again. Gamers are buzzing about Mortal Kombat X, the latest entry in the infamous fatality-soaked franchise, which comes out in just over a month. Yesterday, Street Fighter 5 made headlines with a supposedly leaked release date. Even Clay Fighter is getting a second chance, thanks to developers at Interplay (or what remains of it, at any rate).
And then, of course, there's Killer Instinct. Originally released in arcades in 1994, Killer Instinct eventually made its way to the Super Nintendo, where it represented something of a watershed moment for the gaming giant. In the past, Nintendo had been relatively squeamish regarding gore and violence (Mortal Kombat fans had to input a special code to unlock blood, for example). With Killer Instinct, the gloves came off. In fact, rumor has it that Killer Instinct was the first-ever game on a Nintendo platform with "kill" in the title.
Things are different now, of course: mainly, Killer Instinct now lives at Microsoft, who acquired its creator, Rare, in 2002. The franchise returned to consoles in 2013 as a free-to-play title for Xbox One. Developer Iron Galaxy (taking over from Double Helix) is well into Killer Instinct's second season, steadily releasing new characters, as well as reviving some older fan favorites. As announced at PAX East, the newest character to join Killer Instinct will be Hisako, a 19 year-old Japanese girl based on creatures from Japanese horror films. Spoiler: she is terrifying.
As far as fighting game characters go, Hisako is fairly unique. Like the supernatural threats in the movies that inspired her, Hisako moves incredibly slowly, although she occasionally unleashes a startling and unexpected burst of speed. Most of Hisako's offense relies on counters - button-mashing won't work with her - that use a special "wraith meter" to reverse enemy attacks and exploit openings. She can also enter opponents' bodies and break all of their bones from inside. Ouch.
Hisako's coming to Killer Instinct at the end of the month, but she's not the only surprise that Iron Galaxy has in store. The developer also announced a special game mode, Shadows, in which players can download digital profiles based on other people, then spar as if they're fighting the real person. In addition, Killer Instinct's story mode will receive a substantial upgrade: at long last, season two characters will be part of the plot.
Finally, Microsoft says that it hasn't ruled out a PC version of Killer Instinct; while nothing's in the works just yet, fighting game fans without an Xbox One shouldn't lose hope. If you're lucky, Killer Instinct could be coming.