Killer Instinct Gold is a 2.5D fighting game based on the arcade game Killer Instinct 2. The game was developed by Rare and released by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. As in other series entries, players control characters who fight on a 2D plane set against a 3D background. Players press buttons to punch and kick their opponent in chains of successive hits, known as combos. Large combo successions lead to stronger attacks and brutal, stylistic finisher moves underscored by an announcer. Characters—including a gargoyle, a ninja, and a femme fatale—fight in settings such as a jungle and a spaceship. Killer Instinct Gold includes the arcade release’s characters, combos, and 3D, pre-rendered environments, but excludes its full-motion video sequences and some voice-overs due to restrictions of the cartridge media format. The Gold release adds a training mode, new camera views, and improved audiovisuals.
Rare was a prominent second-party developer for Nintendo in the 1990s, and their Killer Instinct series was produced as an exclusive partnership in response to the popularity of Mortal Kombat. Following the success of the 1995 Killer Instinct port for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Rare began a sequel for the same platform but transitioned development to its successor, the Nintendo 64, upon its unveiling. Gold was scheduled as a launch title for the new console but was delayed until its North American release in November 1996. It was released in other regions in May 1997. Gold was later included in Rare’s 2015 Xbox One retrospective compilation, Rare Replay.
Reviewers preferred the Nintendo 64 port over the arcade release, and appreciated its audiovisual enhancements, but felt that its graphical upgrades and memorization-based combo gameplay were insufficient when compared to fighting games like Tekken 2 and Virtua Fighter 2. Critics recommended Gold primarily for fans of the series and genre, but IGN reported that even fans were upset by changes in the combo system and the absence of several well-liked characters. Gold ultimately did not replicate the success of its Super NES predecessor, and the series remained dormant through its 2002 acquisition by Microsoft until its 2013 reboot.
Killer Instinct Gold is a port of the arcade fighting game Killer Instinct 2. Like other entries in the Killer Instinct series, two characters controlled by humans or artificial intelligence fight in one-on-one matches to deplete their opponent’s health meter. While the characters move and attack on a 2D plane, the background is depicted in pre-rendered 3D and gives the appearance of depth. Players fight with a six-button setup: three punch buttons and three kick buttons, similar to the controls in Street Fighter II. Players can chain together a series of hits into “combos” for increased damage, with some combos requiring a specific, memorized sequences of button presses. Multiple hit combos lead to stronger attacks and brutal, stylistic finisher moves, or “Fatalities”. Characters on the receiving end of a combo can interrupt the sequence with a “combo breaker” move. An announcer narrates major game moments with phrases like, “Awesome combo!”
Gold features arcade, team, and tournament gameplay modes. The game’s new “practice mode” lets players rehearse their skills and follow tutorials. In the new knockout tournament mode, players cycle through a preselected team of characters when their current character is eliminated. Gold features the same characters, combos, and environments available in the arcade Killer Instinct 2. Players can unlock new character appearances, gameplay difficulty levels, and an additional playable character. Gold and Killer Instinct 2‘s shared roster contains eleven characters in total: four new additions and seven returning from the previous title. Characters include a gargoyle, a ninja, and a femme fatale. Fights are set in spaceship, jungle, and castle settings, among others, and some backgrounds are interactive. Gold features new camera functions that automatically zoom to better frame the fight. The release also includes enhancements to the 3D backgrounds and an upgraded soundtrack, but excludes the full-motion video sequences and some voice-overs from the arcade release due to the Nintendo 64’s cartridge media data storage restrictions. While Gold‘s backgrounds are fluidly animated in 60 frames per second, its character animations have fewer frames than its arcade equivalent.