The music of Killer Instinct will always remain close to my heart, even if it was a product of its time. When I was a kid just getting into music, Killer Cuts and Gold Cuts were very influential for me thanks to their incredible mix of dance, pop, industrial, and electro-funk, very popular genres of the 90’s. Even today, these soundtracks from composers Graeme Norgate and Robin Beanland are regarded as some of the best game soundtracks. KI as a whole represented a proud, unashamed snapshot of everything that was “cool” and popular during that time.
So, when a new KI was announced at E3 in 2013, I had a miniature freak out just thinking about the implications of a new Killer Cuts album. Even though a new OST hasn’t yet been announced, Mick Gordon, composer of the new music for KI, has teased it via Twitter and even asked for fan input.
As a huge fan of KI’s music, I have to say that I’m extremely impressed with Gordon’s work thus far on his Soundcloud page. He’s clearly a fan, and that he “gets it”. He also seems to know exactly what other fans would like to hear, and is even throwing little references to the original music in his work.
But how did we get here? A lot has changed over the last 20 years, for games and for music. Let us embark on a musical journey of cheesy 90’s video game music and how it was reimagined and reinvigorated for a new decade of gaming.
“K. I. Feeling” from the first Killer Cuts album is an awesome, cheeseball track that sounds like it was used in a club scene for a 90’s sitcom.
Female vocals start off with “Such a feeling, such a feeling, such a feeling, killer feeling!” and it only gets better from there. The track really hits its stride when the female vocalist starts getting all breathy and sensual, whispering “Touch me, touch me, feel me, feel me” to main chorus of “Killer, Killer! She’s a killer!” Truly, this was great stuff.
It actually does fit Orchid’s look, though – dressed in a green, skin-tight leotard with knee-high boots and dual glowing nightsticks, you couldn’t tell if she was going to a rave, or getting ready to kick someone’s ass, or both.
It’s great music that worked perfectly for a new, edgy fighting game in 1994. For the modern era, however, it’s hard not to laugh – both at the music and the impracticality of Orchid’s sexualized outfit. While her outfit remained almost unchanged for the Xbox One version, thankfully the music has undergone a complete overhaul.
Updated and re-imagined for the modern era, Orchid’s new theme is a great tribute to the original song. It retains its own identity, though, and features minimal dubstep! It’s a very energetic song this time around, and makes you feel hyped to be fighting someone.
As a kid, I really hated Thunder. I have very vivid memories of him beating me using a single, match-long Ultra Combo, denying me even one button press. I’m also pretty sure this was the last time I played a Killer Instinct game until 2013.
His theme, titled “Oh Yeah” on Killer Cuts, was definitely a more unique track from the album. It had this cool indigenous/industrial beat to it, but the echoing, Native American chants come off sounding more like an extremely racist fever dream. Without it, though, how were we to know this was the Native American character’s theme?!
As good as it was back then, Thunder’s new theme needed a serious makeover, and boy, did it get one.
Probably my favorite theme of all of the new ones, the rock intro with the percussion just hits so hard. Gone are the electronic themes of the original, as are the weird Native American chants throughout. There’s some impressive flute work in this one as well, adding to the overall heroicness. The awesome acoustic folk guitar breakdown caught me off guard, and adds some great overall depth, too.
The track “Do It Now” (again, from Killer Cuts) is a sweet, energetic track perfect for a fighting game. It has this cool, upbeat dance vibe while still retaining its Asian influences. Of course, it doesn’t resist the urge to “get all urban” on ya, with some record scratching in the middle, to the lyrics “Let-let-let-let-let’s do it now!” As a kid, I always imagined Jago doing a home workout video to this music.
Jago’s theme was updated for Gold Cuts, which features a much more Asian sound it this time around. It has a bit of a heavier feel it as well, and features some powerful chanting. Overall, it better suited to a character guided by the powerful Tiger Spirit, and serves as the basis for the Xbox One version of his theme.
The new theme is quite fantastic, and does good service to the character. Heavy guitars, deeper percussion, and louder chants make this track much more exciting to listen to while fighting on his stage.
“Controlling Transmission” is a fantastic electronic song in its own right, and one of my personal favorites from Killer Cuts. Some excellent melodies really come together in this one, and besides a couple of other tracks on this album, is one of the few to stand the test of time. It still sounds good to this day.
However, Glacius’ theme in Gold Cuts took on a completely different (and more badass) sounding path, with a grittier, heavier electronic sound to it. Mimicking Glacius’ “voice” if you will, it served as inspiration for his theme in 2013.
Again, Gordon’s impressive use of percussion in conjunction with a very staccato electronic beat helps create the impression of an unsettling, hostile character that defies our laws of physics.
Tyler is the managing editor of Gamemusicfans.com, a small site dedicated to promoting video game music and composers. He lives in Milwaukee, WI with his wife and 2 cats. Tyler met his wife playing Mass Effect 3 online multiplayer, and each have tattoos to honor their special bond. Together in their spare time, they enjoy gaming, cooking, listening to music, and laughing at cat .gifs on Reddit