A single tomahawk was all it took during the Killer Instinct demonstration at EVO 2013 for fans to speculate the return of Thunder as the fourth announced character in the upcoming Xbox One free-to-play fighter.
In a recent video posted over at IGN, the team at Double Helix has finally pulled back the curtain and officially announced the Native American axe-wielding warrior. The reveal highlights a more stoic Thunder who has evolved from his days of tossing flaming phoenixs from afar into a devastating grappler archetype. It also debuts his new stage, set amongst a gorgeous canyon backdrop that clearly pays homage to the legendary bridge stage from the series' first game.
In his transformation to an up-close and impersonal grappler, Thunder has retained his triplax and sammamish (rising uppercut) attacks while picking up a few new moves like the low-attacking ankle slicer. For the most part his triplax remains relatively unchanged, but his sammamish now possess invulnerability through projectiles, as well as a foot stomp that can be executed during the moves apex. Additionally, his shadow technique (which looks amazing as a cloud of ravens trails his motions) contains a hit of armor protection which allows him to break through opponent's attacks at close range.
I really dig the new look for Thunder. It's simplistic and not as overtly stereotypical as his 1994 design. The changeover to a grappler also seems quite smart as it adds a well rounded layer of balance to the game's current roster and a level of freshness to an already established character. I am bummed his phoenix projectile is absent, but I think he's got enough tools in his arsenal for pretty much any occasion.
The next character reveal for Killer Instinct is scheduled for gamescom in Germany according to a tweet from designer David Verfaillie. At this point I really only see two options: femme fatale Orchid or a brand new character. Either way I willing to bet the fifth fighter will be female.