3 COUNT BOUT / SNK / Neo Geo Arcade
3 Count Bout is a very good looking game for an early '90s release. The sprites are large, pretty well articulated, and there's a good range of slams and moves so there's quite a bit of unique animation to see per character. The music is also reminiscent of the stuff from the King of Fighters games, probably sharing a lot of that sound team. The trouble with the game is that the designers seemed to be relying on appearance to sell it, and didn't do much of a job of tuning the gameplay.
The biggest problem with the game is one endemic of SNK fighting games - the default CPU difficulty is cranked up too high, making it too hard to learn the ropes as a newcomer. It's worse here than it is in other games, though, as it seems that somehow the computer-controlled foes get increased priority and ability to win grapples right from the first match.
The action is more fighting-wrestling than pure wrestling, in the vein of Capcom's Saturday Night Slam Masters. Grappling consists of no more than holding the stick in a direction while mashing the button of your choice as fast as humanly possible, and as mentioned the computer usually auto-wins anyway regardless of how hard you mash, so much of the offense in the game revolves around punches, kicks and dash attacks to slowly wear the foe down for a pin. The game becomes even less like wrestling in later levels, where the action moves out to an alleyway, and then later to a ring with electrified ropes. These levels also see the crowd tossing random weapons to you, which you can use to simply bash away for big damage in beat-em-up style.
The character selection consists of ten dudes kind of loosely copied from the WWF, Japanese wrestling, and other fighting games. In true SNK style, many of the names are hilariously Engrishy, such as Big Bomberder, Blubber Man and Gochack Bigbomb. Unfortunately, with the focus off of grappling due to it simply not working in your favor most of the time, the bigger doods are rendered nearly useless and the field belongs to the speedier little martial arts guys like The Gandhara and The Red Dragon.
The simplistic gameplay, the high difficulty, and the lack of depth due to really being more of a brawler than a wrestler add up to make this one more of a disappointment than anything, especially considering that the Neo-Geo was a platform over-saturated with fighting games but somehow severely lacking in wrestling games. This could have come out a lot better with just a little more work.
* Gameplay Video