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Killer Instinct – “The Instinct” (Robin Beanland, Graeme Norgate)

October 17, 2010

Vangough’s album Game Over features a lot of music that is not normally found on game albums – and in some cases is very rarely mixed. Among these was a classic I hadn’t expected, “The Killer Instinct,” the main theme from the original Killer Instinct. Killer Instinct was a fighting game for the SNES that featured prerendered artwork turned into sprites, similar to Donkey Kong Country, with the same edgy style as found in Mortal Kombat and other clones of the gritty fighter. In Vangough’s mix, I was immediately able to recognize the style as coming from Robin Beanland (Goldeneye 007, Jet Force Gemini), whose work on Donkey Kong Country defines his career. “The Instinct” has many similarities with “Gang-Plank Galleon”, particularly the whistling synth used at 0:49, whose solitude for the melody represents the loner nature of the game’s fighters and the tropically echoing guitars.

Killer Cuts – “The Instinct” (Robin Beanland, Graeme Norton)

The Killer Instinct soundtrack was arranged in Killer Cuts (1995), an arrange album that was bundled with the game and also sold through the Nintendo Power Supplies Catalog. Beanland uses guitar sound similar to those found in Donkey Kong Country for the arrange, yet the in-game version is actually closer in composition and style to Goldeneye 007 and Jet Force Gemini – brooding strings coupled with trumpets with the ever-present, gritty guitars that portray a dystopian or post-apocalyptic atmosphere through good use of minor key. “The Instinct” makes good use of metal bars for percussion and has an intense layering of drums and guitar in several well-defined melodies. The end of “The Instinct” contains an arrange of the character select theme. Definitely a piece to check out, especially if you missed or skipped over fighting games like this.

It’s interesting to compare Killer Cuts with the original version, which opens with strings and low trumpet – almost like something out of the Amiga or the soundtrack to The Terminator, brooding and expectant of a fight. It then transitions to the main melody, which consists of a blood-boiling march and the whistling main theme, punctuated by sudden screeching explosions from the strings. The guitars here are incredibly gritty – so gritty, in fact, that the soundtrack might even sound better if it came from the Sega Genesis.

Incidentally, “The Instinct”/”Main Theme” was also arranged for Killer Instinct Gold on the N64, which as far as I can tell contains primarily arranges of all the character themes from the first game. Another great mix can be found on OCR by Jared Hudson, “KillerInstinctsEnhanced“, which is a fairly straightforward mix, but one that contains a slightly different instrument selection and a slick, meaty bass guitar and a bass guitar solo at the halfway point.

Beanland was assisted by Graeme Norton, whose work includes Perfect Dark and Timesplitters.

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