Brutal 2D arcade wrestling at its finest.
This is hardcore no-rules wrestling where wrestlers don’t hesitate to fight dirty. In order to stay alive in this ring, you must use your wits, skills and whatever tools you can get your hands on. Pummel, pound, bite, scratch, slice, kick and gouge your way to survival and the world championship!
3 Count Bout is known as one of the only wrestling games that were released on the Neo Geo console. It does not have any official wrestling licenses and thus it is set in a fictional setting.
Basically, this is a no-rules bone breaking wrestling / fighting game where just about anything goes. This means that conventional wrestling rules does not always apply – for instance, matches can take place on the streets and weapons can be used freely when found.
The game offers ten different wrestlers to play, all of which have unique attack moves and fighting styles.
The controls certainly do feel stiff at first – your character moves rather slowly, and each attack has a recovery time in which you can’t do anything. But after learning some basic moves you’ll automatically start to work with these limitations as a natural part of your game. Somehow the game manages to be fast paced and filled with action even though the wrestlers are relatively slow most of the time.
This is a game where you’re constantly prompted to rapidly press buttons – in fact, all the special grabs and holds are executed by first winning a quick button mashing contest against the opponent. The fastest button masher wins, as indicated on-screen with a power gauge. Once you’ve won this test, you’re free to land a special move on the opponent by inputting a combination of button presses and pulls with the stick. Needless to say, this becomes tiring very quickly and a distinctive trait of playing this game is that you’ll start sweating sooner rather than later.
In Tag Team matches, you can recover health by rapidly pressing the attack button when you’re outside the ring. The problem with this is that you’ll eventually tire while the AI opponents happily recover health at a steady pace.
The game does not tell you how to perform the various grabs and special moves. You’ll have to figure this out yourself or consult the game manual. Normally the wrestler who started the grappling attempt is at an advantage, but sometimes it seems as if the AI opponent wins a grapple automatically, which certainly feels as if the game is breaking its own rules.
Holds and grabs obviously have a huge role, because normal punches and kicks do little damage in comparison. It’s important to be able to land some damaging grabs if you hope to win a match.
Also, in order to find the optimal distance at which your attacks can land, you’d have to keep attacking into thin air while inching your way towards the opponent, which occasionally can feel a little awkward.
Typically, in order to win a match, you must first beat your opponent senseless – i.e. emptying his health bar with punches, kicks, combos, throws and grabs – and then make the final pinning- or submission hold.
The game can be played in three different game modes. If you play alone, you’ll get to fight one-on-one matches in an attempt to win the “SWF Championship”. In order to get the grand prize you must be victorious in two different tournaments which both consist of five matches for a total of ten matches.
If you play with two players, the game opens up a bit more; there are VS matches and Tag Team matches. Tag Team matches allow you to play cooperatively with a friend against AI wrestlers in a special tag team championship, while VS matches are regular one-on-one matches against another human player.
What sets this game apart from other wrestling games is, as mentioned above, the fact that it disregards most of the standard wrestling rules. In practice this means that characters use dirty and even supernatural fighting moves such as fire-breathing, knives, chains, clubs and even tasers.
Matches are fought with three different basic rule sets; Regular Matches, Street Matches and Death Matches. Regular Matches take place in a normal wrestling arena. However, as some characters use weapons and dirty tricks as their fighting style, the matches aren’t necessarily clean and fair.
Street Matches take place in a parking garage or an alley, which means that you can use the objects in the environment to inflict some extra damage to your opponent. Here you’ll also find various weapons (and even innocent bystanders!) that you can use to your advantage.
Death Matches take place in a special arena enclosed with an electric fence. Touching the fence will shave off a formidable amount of your health bar, so matches tend to be very tense and quickly come to a conclusion.
Even though the game is 2D, it does allow you to move in and out in relation to the screen (often referred to as 2.5D). This freedom of movement can be used to avoid all kinds of attacks.
3 Count Bout is a hard game. The difficulty setting can of course be adjusted, but in its core this game is hard. Opponents can react to and counter your moves with ease. Thus you have to be very foreseeing when approaching an opponent. This forces you to apply some standard tactics whether you’re aware of it or not.
When playing Tag Team matches it’s important to be able to tag your buddy in when the situation calls for it. This is pretty unreliable however, because the game is pretty picky in how it registers the tag move. Naturally this can have dire consequences, and it feels cheap every time you lose because of it.
Using weapons may sound like an unfair advantage but in this game it really is not. It’s hard to land a swing with a weapon, and you’ll constantly drop the weapon if you’re hit by something. The recovery time after each swing is also very slow compared to regular attacks, which gives the opponent plenty of chances to knock that weapon right out of your hands.
The best part in the whole game is, without a doubt, beating the shit out of a punk AI wrestler in co-op mode. It’s madly satisfying, and it’s always a huge adrenaline rush. This excitement will only last for a short while though, because you’ll eventually get tired from pounding buttons like a maniac. But on a brighter note, you can return to this game over and over again. Playing all the different characters will take some time, and winning the championship will require devotion and serious concentration. So even though the game is quite limited in scope, it is very durable in terms of replay value – even after beating it.
Obviously this game is best played with two players. The single-player mode can be daunting and sometimes even harsh but playing co-op with a buddy is a total blast.
The graphics in 3 Count Bout are very good. All characters are relatively well animated, and there are a lot of details to be seen at any given time, such as facial expressions, scenery details and the outfits of the wrestlers.
The colors are bright, almost saturated, which makes for a distinct lush arcade style look. Seeing these huge and detailed wrestlers duke it out in the ring is quite impressive and entertaining.
Certainly, not all animations are great however – some throws and grabs look somewhat choppy, but it’s really not anything that will disturb the flow of the game. What’s more, the game runs without any notable frame rate issues.
The music is quite hysteric most of the time. It certainly tries to capture that “big wrestling show” atmosphere, and it does so quite well. There are some catchy songs in there and the fake electric guitars make for a rocky soundtrack overall.
The sound effects mostly consist of bashing and smacking noises, and it all sounds just about right.
To top it off, there is some voice acting thrown into the mix as well, such the wrestlers grunts and moans. The match announcer voice is a nice touch as well even if it does sound a little muffled.
3 Count Bout is, in many ways underrated. It provides all-out mindless over-the-top wrestling in a pretty solid package. Sure, it has some annoying quirks but the fun factor of it all overcomes most of it – at least until the novelty of the game has worn off.
This game should satisfy anyone looking for some pure arcade wrestling (or fighting for that matter!) for a good while, especially when played in the co-op mode. This is a game that is sure to leave you sweaty and sore – for better or for worse. Either way, you’ll have a fun time beating, smacking, pounding and crushing one big bad-ass wrestler after another.