NetherRealm Studios, who has given us two really amazing Mortal Kombat games recently in the form of the ninth entry in the series and the crossover involving the DC Universe, has been working on acquiring an old and beloved fighting franchise to add to their roster. Rumors that they were seeking to purchase the rights to the Rare game Killer Instinct began appearing late in 2011, and earlier this month Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon tweeted...
RT @YoungNate19: @noobde Mortal Kombat vs. Killer Instinct. EB: We just got the OK to do it! Coming in 2013! Stay tuned!
Now, that tweet did appear on April Fools' Day, so let's not all start high-fiving each other just yet, but the quest by NetherRealm to secure Killer Instinct is pretty widely known. It's possible it may be legit.
Killer Instinct was developed by Rare and published jointly by Nintendo and Midway -- Boon's old employer -- for the arcades in 1994. The series was based on extremely high hitting and exciting combos, and featured a cast of characters that in many ways were already Mortal Kombat homages. Despite a somewhat two-dimensional cast and a mediocre storyline, the two games produced in the series showcased some truly innovative graphics and fight mechanics that have kept it high in the minds of gamers as an innovative and entertaining title.
No new games in the series have been released since Killer Instinct 2 in 1996. Rare ended their roles as a second-party developer for Nintendo to partner with Microsoft in 2002 after having produced some of the top games ever like Goldeneye and Donkey Kong Country. As of 2010 Rare, who had not duplicated their success with Nintendo at Microsoft, was talking about a possible Killer Instinct 3. Whether that will still happen is open, but regardless, it looks like NetherRealm will finally be returning Jago, Sabrewulf and Glacius to the arena.
This got us wondering what other properties it would be nice to see NetherRealm seek out for some good crossover action.
Namco's Weaponlord was a game way too ahead of its time, and that's why you never hear anymore about it. Back in 1995 when everyone was still making games for arcades and then dumbing them down for console systems, Weaponlord was built for SNES and Genesis from the ground up. Combos were an essential part of the game -- fatalities couldn't be performed without them -- it had blocking as a thrusting attack, multiple endings depending on who you killed in the course of the game, and you could cut off your opponent's hair or some of his clothing with well-timed strikes. Basically, Weaponlord invented modern fighting games all at once, and that innovation was too much to handle. Also, it was extremely difficult.
Set in a grim, Conan-style barbarian world, the game was basically the story of Jesus if Herod had been a massive, spider demon-possessed berserker and Jesus used a sword instead of parables. It was also the goriest fighting game ever made at the time. Namco went on to start the less violent series Soul Edge, loosely based on the concepts of Weaponlord, but no news has been heard about the series in years. Despite Namco being a bromance with Capcom recently, maybe they'd be willing to dust off the property and let NetherRealm resurrect it.
When people argue about the rise of bloody fighting games in the '90s, it always comes down to Weaponlord vs. Eternal Champions...after you both beat down the Time Killers fan who won't admit that hacking off limbs is not a substitute for good gameplay. What Eternal Champions lacked in revolutionary mechanics it made up for in a much better story, a more diverse cast and ingenuous stage fatalities.
The game brought murdered warriors from various time periods past and future to compete against each other for the chance to reclaim their souls. So basically, it was Time Killers if that game didn't suck. It held in there for a while, and even though it wasn't on the level of popularity of Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, it slowly built a pretty good following.
Eventually Sega abandoned it to refocus on Virtua Fighter. Now that it's just a third-party developer who apparently has had to branch out into the online gambling market, we're willing to bet they'd be keen to be in bed with someone like NetherRealm that is reconquering the fighting market.
War Gods was similar to Eternal Champions in that it drew together fighters from all different eras, but it was actually a Midway game that was used to test out the transition from 2D to 3D in the Mortal Kombat series. The plot revolved around a magic ore that falls to Earth in pieces and grants ten warriors godlike powers of destruction. The 3D interface was clunky, and the character development wasn't great, but there was something really wonderful about it.
Part of it was the absolutely over-the-top fatalities, something that we didn't really see again until the last Mortal Kombat. Sure, there's always been gore, but the gods would conjure up altars to rip out hearts on, or summon sarcophagi to mummify your opponents. Now that the experimental phase is over, it would be perfectly plausible to imagine Shao Kahn coming to the War Gods universe in search of the magic ore to help him conquer Earthrealm using a more traditional fight engine.
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Primal Rage was what every 12-year-old always wanted. It was a chance to make dinosaurs and giant apes fight each other to the death. Sure, there was a plot about the forces of good and the forces of evil, but no one cares. It was just good carnage, and the game let you eat your tiny worshippers in the middle of a battle to restore health.
Okay, yes, it would be very difficult to somehow combine a game where giant dinosaurs battle each other for dominance of a destroyed Earth with puny, human-sized ninjas. But think how awesome it would be if that did happen? Perhaps the various Mortal Kombat deities could summon some fun-sized versions to enlist in their war? Or maybe teams of three kombatants could tackle the giants like the Galactus fight in Marvel vs. Capcom 3? Whatever it takes to get this done.