Killer Instinct Season 2 – Everything You Need to Know

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New KI-TJ Combo Season 2 Microsoft's announcement of a Killer Instinct (KI) reboot for the Xbox One literally sent some fans of the long-overlooked fighting game franchise into tears, but the wait was worth it. Putting all fears that it will botched to rest, the latest KI re-imagines everything that made the classic a blast to play -- killer combo-based gameplay, striking visuals, and interesting and hype characters -- and introduces new gameplay mechanics -- counter breakers, instinct mode, and multiple enders -- that add a level of depth unmatched by most modern-day fighting games. The fun and aggression never stop. Despite being a small studio allotted a very short time frame to get things done, the now departed Double Helix (Sadly, it was purchased by Amazon) did a superb job with establishing a solid foundation for the new KI, setting a strong precedent for the game's new developer, Iron Galaxy. For the most part, we got our money's worth with Season One, but it's all about Season 2 now. For better or for worse, Iron Galaxy promises is set to jam-pack Season 2 with a lot of content, but just what exactly are we in for? For your convenience, we have put together detailed preview of everything you can expect. Keep reading:

New Gameplay Mechanics & Changes

KI Season 2 will introduce a number of new gameplay mechanics, least of which is the Aerial Recapture mechanic first introduced on TJ Combo. This feature allows TJ to knock air-happy opponents (i.e. Sadira players) back out of the air, allowing him to continue his combo on the ground like normal. At the moment, only a few characters have Aerial Recapture abilities: TJ Combo, Sabrewul and Orchid. Air combo and counter breakers will also make their debut in Season 2, allowing players to potentially minimize damage sustained in the air in the case of the former, or rack up higher combos or more damage in the case of the latter. Successful air counter breakers bring you and you opponent back down to the ground for to perform a full combo. Similarly, an unsuccessful counter breaker brings both of you the ground, but this time leaving you open to eat a combo.
      Changes to existing gameplay mechanics are as follows:
The rules for performing Manuals after Linkers are now the same for all characters:
  • Doing a Light Linker gives you access to only a Light Manual; doing a Medium Linker gives you access to a Medium or Light Manual; and doing a Heavy Linker gives you access to a Heavy, Medium, or Light Manual.
  • Shadow Meter gain rates have decreased 20% for all characters, making Shadow Meter a scarcer resource that needs to be used more intelligently.
  • Non-combo hits (pokes) and the first hit in combos now deal additional damage, meaning that normal attacks, uppercuts any special move will hurt a lot more.
  • Potential (white) damage decays slower than before, giving you a better chance to cash out any unrealized damage in a follow-up combo.
  • Shadow Enders now scale damage based on current Ender Level. More specifically, using a shadow ender in a leveled combo deals the next level of damage (i.e. using a shadow while at level 3 damage gets you level 4 damage).
  • Shadow Enders used when the opponent is being juggled are now subject to Opener-Ender breaker rules, but now cash out damage like regular Enders.
  • After the 3rd non-chained move, combos that are not part of the Linker/Double ruleset are now breakable via Manual rules. This includes juggled manuals and non-projectile special moves.
  • Combo Breakers no longer cause a Hard Knockdown; you can now get up quickly with the press of a button.
  • Projectiles no longer darken the screen.
  • Ability to Instinct Cancel during an Ender has been removed.
  • Ability to perform Ultra Enders from the air has been removed.
  • Now have 4 additional frames to break Manuals, making it easier to stop the ass-whopping you’re receiving.

New Characters

Like in Season 1, KI Season 2 will have a roster consisting of eight new and returning characters, all of which will be announced before it goes on sale on October 15. Two characters have been revealed thus and will be playable at launch, while the remaining six will follow afterwards, one released every month. Unfortunately, not all of the remaining KI and KI2 characters will make the cut for season two (our list will be updated as more characters are revealed): TJ Combo: Disgraced and with his cybernetic implanted removed from his arms, TJ is back seeking redemption with heavy-hitting moves and the ability to ‘resurrect’ after losing a match. Maya: Originally from Killer Instinct 2, Maya returns with her two trademark daggers, which are at the core of her high-pressure fighting style. Each dagger can be thrown independently, powering up and gaining special properties after bouncing off her opponent. She can lose access to them if her throws miss the opponent. More details on her unique play style, as well as her design, can be found here.

Season 1 Character Adjustments

Iron Galaxy made adjustments to every single one of Season 1's characters. Whether most of these adjustments were needed is up for debate, but they are as follows: Jago: Adjustments mostly make it harder for him to close in on opponents safely from a far distance.
  • Heavy Wind Kick does not push back as far and is more negative on block, making it more punishable.
  • Shadow Wind Kick travels 60% as far as before, making it more difficult to punish opponents from across the screen.
  • Can no longer Counter Break from Opener to Ender situations.
  • During instinct, Jago no longer heals automatically while engaged in combat. The only time he heals is when throws Endokukens (Double, Enders, and Shadow) that hit the opponent. Fortunately, his frame advantages remain unchanged.
Sabrewulf: Gains recapture ability, while several of his seemingly overpowered moves have been "fixed". The 'wulf is still a dangerously offensive character
  • The final hit of Shadow Leaping Slash now recaptures an airborne opponent into a ground combo, allowing Sabrewulf to continue mauling
  • One additional frame has been added after the Super Flash before Shadow Eclipse hits, allowing opponents to block it on reaction
  • Backdash distance has been reduced, making it harder to run away and play chicken.
  • Crouching Light Punch pushes the opponent back further.
  • While the forward Dash is the same duration as before, Sabrewulf gets behind his opponent quicker now so that properly timed punish attempts are less likely to come out facing the wrong way.
  • Fixed a bug that let Sabrewulf cancel Crouching Medium Punch into his Heavy Chain during Hitstop and prevented Manual Breakers from firing correctly.
  • During instinct, Sabrewulf still does extra damage but now gains the ability to perform a Feral Cancel (HP+HK), which cancels any grounded move back to neutral. Feral Cancel has a short cooldown and can be performed as much as you want during Instinct mode.
Glacius: Changes give him new ways to pressure opponents and dodge their attacks
  • Medium and Light Hail now bounce along the ground, instead of breaking when hitting the floor, serving as a new offensive tool for setting up opponents
  • Gains a new move called ‘Liquidize’: By pressing and holding all three kicks (hold), Glacius melts into a puddle that can be moved left or right ever so slightly. As a dodge move, Liquidize is immune to projectiles on the way down, but vulnerable to everything else.
  • Shadow Cold Shoulder is slightly less negative on block and can now combo from Ice Lance at maximum distance.
  • Shadow Puddle Punch is no longer throwable until after the first active frame
  • Startup time on all jumping Kick attacks has increased slightly.
  • Shatter has a few additional frames of recovery.
Thunder: It will be harder for opponents to run away from this hugger.
  • Gains a new move called ‘Call of Sky’ that acts as a deterrent against opponents who like to play keep-away. By pressing all three punch buttons, Thunder calls a fast-hitting bolt of lightning from the sky that strikes an opponent’s current location on the screen. So as not to be abused, Call of Sky has a very long startup and recovery.
  • Medium Sammamish has the same start up as Light Sammamish, which now travels a bit more vertically
  • Skyfall is now considered a special move instead of a command normal, meaning that characters like Spinal can now absorb it instead of taking damage.
  • Ankle Slicer is less negative on block, while its low crush effect is now more reliable.
  • Every character's reaction to Back Throw is now identical in duration so that Thunder can manual properly.
  • When performing a manual after Back Throw, Thunder automatically moves in a bit to ensure that the intended combo works against all characters.
Orchid: Gets an explosive new weapon to take down Ultratech, as well as a Magnetic Shockwave
  • Gains a new move called ‘Grenade Toss’. By pressing Back+HP, Orchid throws a grenade that doesn’t explode on contact. The longer you hold HP, the longer it takes to explode and the further it travels. However, the grade detonates immediately upon colliding with an opponent’s projectile.
  • Shadow Ich Ni San now sends out a shockwave of energy columns. Charge the move up by holding the buttons to fire additional towers of energy that travel further. Unlike before, the final charge level is not unblockable.
  • Danger Zone (Air Throw) causes a recapture when used outside of a combo.
  • Flick Flack’s low crush effect now lasts until the first active frame.
  • Standing Medium Punch and Standing Heavy Punch become active slightly faster and their hitboxes are a bit larger.
  • Shadow Cat (Knee Slide) has a larger hit area and slightly smaller vulnerable area.
  • Crouching Medium Punch animation has changed slightly and now hits low.
Sadira: Spider Woman is now less of a biatch, but still deadly in the air
  • Gains a new move called ‘Shadow Web Cling’: By pressing QCB+2P, Sadira launches from the ground to the wall and then back down to her opponent with an attack. Shadow Web Cling is only usable on the ground, but is invulnerable until she hits the wall.
  • During instinct, using a jump cancel and then canceling into a normal or special during pre-jump frames used to ignore the combo system and skip doubles and linkers in favor of manuals or openers. It now obeys the normal ground combo rules. This alone fixes Sadira’s broken combo string while in instinct mode.
  • It is no longer possible to avoid the special landing recovery from Web Cling by throwing a Widow’s Bite, making you think twice about harassing from the air.
  • The cross-up hitbox on Jumping Heavy Kick has been reduced slightly.
  • Removed the ability to place a Web Trap from Counter Breaker stance. Additionally, Web Trap’s hold is slightly shorter.
  • Gains a new target ground combo that launches opponents into the air: Press MP->HK or Close MP->HK to initiate.
Spinal: The bony, green and eerie maniac has turned into a clown. What a shame...
  • Spinal's attacks have been color-coded “to more clearly show what does what”: Green attacks give you skulls, Blue attacks curse the opponent’s Shadow Meter, and Yellow attacks curse the opponent’s Instinct Meter. He gains one skull any time a ghostly attack (green hand) registers a hit.
  • Spinal can now cancel all normal attacks (except c.HP and c.HK) into his run at the cost of 1 Skull
  • Crouching Medium Kick no longer sweeps and is now cancelable.
  • Shadow Bone Shaker is now projectile immune.
  • Throw Range increased slightly.
  • Shadow Searing Skull applies its curse on the 1st hit instead of the 5th.
  • Divekick causes a Ground Bounce when hitting an airborne opponent.
Fulgore: Killer robot has undergone some serious upgrades; no longer charges his lasers
  • Meter mechanics have been completely reworked to reward aggressive play with faster meter gain. As a result, he can no longer manually charge his meter and the charge command has been removed.
  • The reactor always spins, so Fulgore is always gaining pips at a minimum rate at least. Any physical attack that make contact (hit or blocked) increase spin speed, while using energy attacks (Energy Bolt, Plasmaport, or Eye Beam), getting knocked down, or staying idle (not attacking) reduces spin speed. Auto Triples give a huge spin speed bonus.
  • A new energy bar has been added above the pip display to show you exactly when your next pip will appear based on the current spin rate.
  • Activating Instinct Mode makes the reactor spin at maximum speed for the duration regardless of what Fulgore does or doesn’t do, or what happens to him. He gains the walk forward speed buff after green pips are full, the walk back buff after yellow pips are full, and his dash buff at full pips.
  • Energy Bolt (Fulgore’s fireball) has been reworked: Light, Medium, and Heavy inputs now all fire a single projectile, with their speed determined by the button used. Tapping LP, MP, or HP while firing will spend 1 pip to fire an additional projectile at that button’s speed. This can be done twice, resulting in a total of three projectiles traveling at various speeds on the screen.
  • Devastation (hype) Beam does considerably less damage, but is now available outside of Instinct Mode when Fulgore has full pips.
  • Plasmaport control input has been moved to QCB+K, while Auto Triples are now performed by pressing the respective button instead of holding it down.
  • Medium Cyber Uppercut now hits twice, and Heavy hits three times.
  • All versions of Cyber Uppercut can be Shadow Cancelled into Air Shadow Eye Beam.
  • Air Shadow Eye Beam no longer hits low and damage has been reduced, but the hitboxes are taller and it now juggles.
  • Axis Smash (F+HP) is slightly less positive on hit and block.

Single-player & Multiplayer Modes

Killer Instinct Season 2 will greatly build upon Season 1's story, possibly featuring a revamped story mode that use in-game cut scenes for each character’s unique story, as a opposed to Season 1’s disappointing static images. Character-specific dojo lessons are also part of the plan, so no more being forced to learn the game exclusively with Jago. Unlike Killer Instinct 1’s multiplayer, where players of all ranks -- be it a mere button-masher or veteran -- are forced to fight each other with complete disregard to pairing of ranks, Season 2 will likely have a place for lower level players to improve their skills while ranking up, as well as a place for the hardcore elite to play their epic matches. A first for a fighting game, a ladder system similar to the one used by StarCraft is strong possibility, ranking and placing players into leagues base on their skill. Your win percentage against players both inside and outside you league determines whether you are upgraded to a higher level or downgraded to a lower one. The rank limit will be raised above 40, while another 1000+ gamerscore will be added. You can expect a similar achievement set for all the new characters (150GS each), plus some new ones for the season overall.

Purchasing and Bundle Options

As mentioned earlier, Season 2 will launch with two of the eight planned characters -- TJ Combo and Maya -- and will be followed by one new character release every month until all eight are available. In a similar fashion to Season One, two editions of the game will be available:
  • Combo Breaker Edition: For $19.99, buyers get all eight Season Two characters
  • Ultra Edition: Priced at $39.99, includes all eight characters, classic costumes and accessories, and a classic download of Killer Instinct 2!
Of course, if you don't want either edition, you can always purchase any character individually online for $4.99.

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