Killer Instinct Original Soundtrack [KI OST] History
Eleven (11) or so months back, I wrote an article* that focused on music from a video game series titled Killer Instinct (KI). For me, it was a game played on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console. When the second installment was released, I played it only a handful of times via arcade machine and Nintendo 64 (N64).
With the initial article, I highlighted five themes: the intro theme along with four character themes that have appeared in all three KI installments. The idea for the article and theme came about less than a day after my coverage of E3 2014's press conference.
Since the conference coverage was being added to a pre-existing article (E3 2013), I decided to revisit the previous content. After going back, there was a need to explore the current music lineup for the then limited cast of characters. There wasn't much intention of republishing till the new tracks were released for some new characters.
Everything will be as it was except the videos that were used.
*The old article used to appear on Squidoo before it closed down. The initial subject focused on one of my favorite video game soundtracks [VGST].
Pic of personal KI 1994 SNES game cartridge.
What's an OST?
(In regards to video games.)
Let me explain what an OST [original soundtrack] is. An OST is a collection of music that plays in the background during gameplay. Genre/Type of music played often depends on the scene and or character present.
Example of Scene:
Some games tend to have music to convey a certain mood and or emotion. The RPG Legend of Dragoon has an intriguing soundtrack where each area visited by the characters has its own personality. The Town of Seles at the start of the game has a bit of a solemn track playing due to the aftermath of an attack.
The mood is sad because most of the structures are in ruin. There are wounded as well as dire casualties. To make matters worse, a childhood friend of the main character is taken away by the attacking group.
The music conveys the mood of sadness quite well but also manages to convey a mood of hope with the elevation of notes. The low notes convey sadness while the high notes - with the wind instrument - convey a sense of hope.
Before I go further, I'm using RPGs as examples because I'm going to focus on fighting later.
Example of Character:
Even though I have never played any of the Final Fantasy games for myself, I have listened to some of the music associated with the installments. Of all, at the time of writing, the theme for Sephiroth has stood out the most in terms of character themes. There are many wonderful character themes but for whatever reason this particular character's theme sticks in your head.
The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), the orchestral and the orchestral with guitar are all my favorites. Listening to the instruments alone conveys a sense of tension with a little grandeur in the mix. Adding the vocals present a sense foreboding.
The lyrics themselves tie together what I said above and many fans tend to agree that the composition along with the lyrics are memorable; no pun intended.
Despite the RPG focus, there is a great deal of fighting games that do the same. There are some pretty good soundtracks floating around out there and I have favorites.
One of my favorite soundtracks comes from the Killer Instinct series. By from, I'm talking about the series as a whole. From KI to KI Gold, the tracks have been outstanding.
Then came the recent release of KI 2013 which had me a bit skeptical after seeing the promo of gameplay during E3 2013. With the strange release of the game and the small character lineup with most being DLC [Download Content], I was a bit hesitant to explore the music. Well, while searching for one of my favorite character's theme I came across their new 2013 track and was quite impressed.
So I ventured further and explored the tracks of the other characters. Some took some getting used to while others hit home to the KI roots. It would be cool to do all the characters but I'm going to focus on a five theme list.
The list is in no particular order. Without further ado, some of my favorite tracks.
Killer Instinct Theme
Back some many years ago, I turned on the Super NES with the KI game in the cartridge slot. You hear this tune steadily increase in volume as the opening credits play. The build up continues with the introduction of a guitar.
The guitar continues till the Killer Instinct name appears at which point it breaks off into an adrenaline pumping beat. The music was so intriguing that I forgot to hit the START button to begin play. What I thought was pretty cool is how the track finale [on the first Killer Cuts Album] was utilized for the Character Select screen.
The Gold installment of KI has a similar feeling but still sets the mood as its predecessor. KI 2013, I'll admit, had me a bit worried with what I've seen up to that point. The result?
The opening theme for KI 2013 did not disappoint. The build up is similar to the first KI. The base of the original is there but in an updated format. Or as one commenter put it, ...a nice maturation of the theme [DocWolf, YouTube].
When I first wrote this, the full 2013 theme wasn't up. I have revisited the theme via the composers YouTube channel. The album theme for KI 2013 is just like the 1994 release; however, the first KI's finale is still a favorite of mine.
Also, kudos to Robin Beanland, Graeme Norgate and Mick Gordon.
KI Opening Theme
KI Opening/Main Theme - 1994
One of my favorite themes are the themes for Black Orchid. First introduced back in the 90s on the Super NES, her theme became a favorite due to the beat of the music. That and the genre of the theme was similar to my favorite music genre of the time.
When you first see Orchid, she comes off as being delicate with her ultra feminine attire. When the fight starts, she goes from delicate to vicious in no time at all. Matches her theme perfectly.
You hear the female vocals and the steady beat of the music which exhibits the civility of her girlish appearance. Then the beat picks up followed by the introduction of added elements including the lyrics which contain the phrase killer feeling. Orchid is pretty much the first female character I was exposed to that wore earrings and heels in a fighting match.
I thought her theme in the first installment was amazing but her theme from the Gold installment was simply mind blowing. It still encompassed her girlish appearance and lethal fighting style. The song starts off with female vocals that conveys a sense of safety but after hearing you've got nothing to lose... you WILL have second thoughts about her supposed harmlessness.
You can hear her base theme in the mix which is masterfully done. Perfect fight music especially if you're fighting for your life against her. She goes on hiatus for a while then makes a reappearance in 2013 as a member of the character lineup for the new Killer Instinct game for Xbox One.
As with the previous tracks, the new addition hits home with representing the character's lady-like appearance and lethal fighting abilities. Her themes always have a dance beat to them but this new one is...
Well the intro is like *BOOM* then there's a beat followed shortly by vocals. The beginning is like her entering onto the scene with the beat leading up to a fight and the vocals being like a stare down of the opponent with the words I'm gonna knock you down being like prep mode and come around I'll knock you down being fair warning with the words that follow being like 'oh well you didn't listen.'
Black Orchid's theme - 2013
Lady Jaguar is just something I came up. Its from the first Killer Instinct where one of her special moves involved turning into a jaguar.
Sabrewulf was a fascinating character when I first came across him but his theme stands out; mainly because I don't remember the story except for some mention about finding a cure for his current condition. Sabrewulf's theme from the first installment had an organ base mixed with violins. There were other instruments in the mix but these stoodout.
In game, the music would play steadily until either you or your opponent is close to being defeated in which case the music speeds up then finally ends once the finishing move is delivered. A crowning memory from the first installment is watching a Sabrewulf versus Sabrewulf match where instead of a finishing (KO) move being delivered, Humiliation -- a funky music theme -- is delivered instead. One of the only times when the main theme would stop playing altogether.
His theme in Killer Instinct Gold is amazing and for some reason reminded me of an RPG title. Anyway, the theme starts off with a somewhat battle ready type introduction. Rather than a build up to the character, the theme throws the character at you whether you're ready to meet them or not.
The sense of foreboding is still present and still gets the adrenaline flowing. Howls, dark laughter, tension building music. How can the mood get any darker?
Enter KI 2013.
Theme 1 invites you in for tea but leaves you regretting the invitation. Theme Gold throws you to the wulf almost immediately. And 2013?
Let me tell a story:
You are running to seek shelter from the rain and come across a seemingly abandoned structure. The air is a bit chilly so you start a fire to get warm. The chill increases as the faint glow of the fire illuminates something close by.
You soon regret taking shelter there when that something stalks towards you. Friend or foe? You move away backwards but they continue in your direction...
Not sure why but the theme sounds almost Bohemian; its the first thing that surfaced in my head as soon as I heard the track. The undertones of the original is present but the menacing appeal has increased. I'm currently listening to an extended version.
A dark waltz scene is beginning to play out in my head. The music is beckoning you to come closer.
HEAD FOR THE EXIT!
Sabrewulf's Theme - 1996
Talk about menacing. His theme is consistent from Super NES to XBone. Even though he is one my favorites to use in game he is my least favorite when it comes to opponents.
He’s like a nightmare version of that mimic character from the Tekken series. His theme from the first installment built tension even before the round started. The Gold theme is somewhat subdued but later scares you when you realize there is no safe distance.
When his first theme came onto the scene you wouldn't think much of it with the bone beats taking place in the background. Later duuuun-dunt starts playing and you realize he is moving in sync to the foreboding notes. Then out of nowhere you hear this strange, yet chilling laughter.
Before you can access the situation, your skeletal opponent disappears right before you. The hairs on your neck stand on end when a realization occurs. He's right behind you.
With Gold? He just taunts the living day lights out of you. First he charges then vanishes.
You look around seeing if you can make out the direction he went but can't find any trace of movement. A dark, bone chilling laughter echoes all around with no sign of a source. Looking around wildly you finally spot him, squatting in the distance amused by your anguish.
With 2013 he still amuses himself at his opponents expense. Rather than make himself visible off the bat, he waits patiently out of sight. He does as you do; you move, he moves.
He eventually grows bored with the game and starts a new one. Who's up for a game of tag?
[I'm sort of typing as I'm listening to the tracks themselves.]
*Ah haa hah*
Spinal's Theme - 1994
The title comes from the laughter he oh so willingly shares with us every match up.
All of Glacius' themes fit his persona. Ice, arctic chill, patient and quick. Though to be honest, his in game theme is more likable than the soundtrack version; personal opinion.
There's not much of a story to go with the first theme other than once it starts playing, you are instantly in his court. There's no lead in, there's no build up. Just tension and uncertainty.
Its almost like the theme is embodying churning gears. He's calculating his attacks to ensure each hit their mark. Once enough hits are executed, he goes in for the finish by becoming one with his environment.
In Gold? The churning speed of the gears just intensified. The hits are quicker and more precise. Rather than stopping with a finishing blow, he keeps hitting.
2013 presents him in a more composed fashion. Calm, collected, cunning. Rather than expend energy, he waits and observes his opponent.
His moves are slight but quick. He has a lot of endurance and holds out till the timing is right.
Glacius' Theme - 2013
Had to have a section in here for honorable mentions. Through all the series there have been great themes for the characters/stages.
Here are my honorable mentions:
Sadira* - Jago - Tusk - Maya - Cinder
*Sadira is a relatively new character in the KI franchise. Since this is her first appearance her theme is quite unique. So much so that when you listen to her theme, wearing headphones, you can hear the base track which is a modified version of the series' opening theme.
If I could share all the honorable mentions I would but only one can be featured. During the initial writing phase, Jago was the character in the honorable mentions lineup that has appeared in all three installments. Since then, Maya and Cinder have been introduced which will make this their second appearance in the KI franchise; who knows, Tusk might even make an appearance.
Both Maya and Cinder have themes that suit them well for the 2013/2014 installment. Just remember to reduce the volume for Maya's finale; I learned this the painful way.
Honorable Mention: Sadira
Sadira Theme - 2013
Heads up: brace yourselves at 0:27 and 0:46 -- mainly 0:46.
A Blast from the Past
Back in mid to late 2014, I took the research process for this article unusually seriously. Despite the seriousness, it was pretty fun. What has changed since then?
Well, Cinder and Maya have been added to the lineup along with several others. Cinder's new theme plays a nice homage to his classic and Maya's theme still encompasses her lethal fighting style. T.J. Combo and Riptor have also come onto the scene which gives this installment a rather nostalgic feel; to me anyway.
I still have the old 1994 installment which is sitting on the bookshelf one level down from the Super NES console itself. It's perfectly fine because the cartridges for Yoshi's Island and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time is keeping it company.
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You will love the characters as you play them in arcade but will dislike them when you face off against them; Spinal especially since he could mimic other characters -- like the one you're playing as.
KI Fanfare - End Theme
I couldn't help myself. While researching the composers of the themes from 1994 to 2013/2014 I came across something that caused a flashback. After many an attempt, I finally defeated the Final Boss Eyedol.
After the defeat I'm congradulated and then this begins to play. It brought a tear to me eye but more importantly, I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. The only person I know that has mastered this game (1994) is my brother.
In fact, I made use of his notes he made in the game booklet that came with the cartridge; don't ask for the whereabouts because I don't know. The Fanfare has such a triumphant sound and Mick Gordon's 2013 version hits home.