18/07/2014

CRAZY FIGHT (ARCADE)

 Today's article is about Subsino's 1996 arcade game Crazy Fight, which isn't a fighting game. Is it crazy? That depends on where weird cartoon faces and extremely simplistic gameplay fall on your personal insanity meter.


Even by the standards of some of the games I write about, Crazy Fight is very obscure. I couldn't find much out about Subsino other than they're a Taiwanese outfit who mostly make video slot machines and kid's rides. The only other videogame I've seen from them is a Bubble Bobble / Snow Bros riff called Penguin Brothers, so I don't think crafting fantastic gameplay experiences is going to be their forte and just looking at the title screen is only amplifying that feeling: considering it's from 1996, that is not an attractive title screen.


Just to let you know that I do attempt some research before inevitably flying into these articles half-cocked, I tried to find out what information, if any, the subtitle revealed. I managed to figure out that the first symbol is an alternate way of writing "crazy" in Chinese, but I couldn't get the rest, although if it ends up just saying "Crazy Fight" I won't feel too bad about giving up.


Here's our hero. It's Cyber Beavis! Cyber Beavis' mission is to save the world from evil and score with some babes. The naive fool, he'll never score with anyone wearing those shoes. He's also got a massive gun sticking out of his shoulder, right next to his ear, so he's presumably deaf as well as looking like an unused Power Rangers villain.


There's a stage select screen, for selecting your stage. How exciting. You'll notice that the stages are displayed as two rows of three: remember that, it'll come up again in a minute.
So, what stages are available? It looks like there's a dockyard, an airport, an indistinct jumble of pixels, the factory where they make the oil drums for all those side-scrolling beat-em-ups, a space station and a graveyard. That graveyard is offering the strongest impetus yet to overcome my usual inability to play stages in anything other than the "correct" order, but I managed to resist its charms and I'm heading down to the docks.


Yep, that's definitely a harbour of some sort. A big boat, some crates - I can practically smell the sea air.


A man with a rocket launcher jumps up from behind a box. Who is he? What does he want? Is it wise to be firing a rocket launcher at a target that's so close to you? I'm afraid I have no answers to these questions. Well, except the last one, the answer to that is "no, you dope". As to Crazy Fight's plot (there isn't one) and setting (generic) I have no information. All I know is that I'm going to have to shoot this rocket launcher man before he blows me up.


Aww, I made him cry. Wait, not "aww", the guy was going to kill me. I'd say he got off pretty lightly.
That's the gameplay, then: Crazy Fight is a shooting gallery where targets pop up in the background and you have to shoot them before they shoot you. The thing is, it's a shooting game without physical gun, or even a joystick / cursor set-up. You have six buttons, each one corresponding to one of the six areas of the screen where enemies can appear, the areas being laid out in the two-rows-of-three grid that I told you to remember from the stage select screen. This enemy was in the top-left zone, so pressing the top-left button shoots him. Simple!


Very simple, in fact. Once you've shot a bad guy, you've experienced the sum total of Crazy Fight's gameplay. There are no power-ups, no weapon upgrades, no secret bonuses that I could find, just a one-dimensional test of reflexes that has the feel of a minigame that's been stretched out way, way too thin. The only other thing you need to pay attention to is that hostages pop up, like the nerd pictured above, and you're not supposed to shoot them. You lose health if you do. Shooting hostages accounted for roughly 90% of the health I lost while playing this game, but in my defence the hostages don't so much "pop up" as they constantly pour onto the screen making loud, attention-grabbing noises. I know you're scared, buddy - we'd all be scared if we were kidnapped by terrorists - but jumping out into the middle of a gunfight and waving your arms around like there's a swarm of wasps in your hair isn't helping anyone. You get shot, I lose health and the terrorists have one less hostage to distract me with, it's a lose-lose-lose scenario.


"No," says Crazy Fight, "bad Cyber Beavis. Stop shooting the innocents." Hey, if they're so innocent why are they hanging around this shady port, a known gathering place for terrorists, hmm? Case closed. That's Crazy Fight. We can all go home now.
Okay, so I'm not going to end the article there, because if this game has only one thing going for it - and honestly it does only have one thing going for it - it's that it features a good selection of characters, all of whom pull comically exaggerated faces of agony when shot. I'd like to show you some of them. Plus, there's a graveyard stage, and I can't leave without seeing that.


Whoever's in charge of this evil organisation can be commended for their commitment to gender equality: I'd say there's a roughly 50/50 split between male and female villains. Sure, all the women tend to be glamorous, "attractive" types - although the one in the top-right of the above screenshot looks as though she could do with a good night's sleep to really look her best - but it's a step in the right direction. The men don't score so highly on the good looks front. Take the fellow at the front here - a muscular body honed through an admirable dedication to physical betterment, but with a haircut that could have belonged to Heihachi Mishima in the punk rock years of his youth and a severe lazy eye that requires urgent ophthalmic attention.


After shooting enough enemies, the stage ends and you're shown some statistics. I thought hitting 78% of the enemies was pretty good, but Cyber Beavis disagrees and he's broken down into floods of tears. There's rather a lot of crying in this game, much of it from Cyber Beavis, who I'm really starting to dislike. I think it's his horrible gurning face.


Stage two is the airport, which is a lot like the docks only with an aeroplane instead of a ship. The enemies are different too, in appearance if not in form. This screenshot neatly captures my worrying tendency to subconsciously target the innocent. I  hit the ninja / ski-mask-wearing terrorist, which is fine, but I also blasted that Clark-Kent-looking son-of-a-bitch down at the bottom of the screen while managing to avoid the smiling assassin hiding in the tyres, 1920's Lady Gaga in the middle and Tank Girl over on the right.


For whatever reason - he's actually a robot, a sudden lightning strike, he was smuggling a car battery down his trousers - the ski mask ninja becomes electrified when you shoot him. You also have to shoot him twice to get rid of him where every other enemy only takes one hit to kill: I'm putting this down to the fact he isn't human. That is not a human skull.
Also worth calling attention to: middle-aged, uzi-wielding anime pirate on the left. What beautiful eyes he has!


My accuracy was a lot better in this stage, and Cyber Beavis is so pleased that his head has swollen and engulfed his whole body, leaving only his tiny legs to prop him up like a grotesque, bionic Mr. Potato Head. God knows what'll happen if I ever score 100% on a stage, he'll probably turn into nothing but a seven-foot-wide grinning mouth.


Stage three is the one I couldn't make out on the stage select screen, but now I'm here it's clearly a dilapidated, graffiti-covered building. And what a happy place it is! Everybody's smiling: beefy heavy weapons man, generic thug, generic thug (female ver.), they're all having the time of their lives. The lady at the bottom right isn't happy, because she's a hostage who just got an explosion to the face rather than the rescue she was hoping for. She shouts "I hate you!" when you shoot her, which is quite forgiving of her, given the circumstances.


None of the enemies in Crazy Fight are allowed to die with dignity, but the heavy weapons guy suffers an more ignominious fate than most because his clothes fall off when you shoot him. Like everything else in the game, the reason for this is never explained. Cyber Beavis must have just liked the look of him.



There's not much to say about stage four's factory environment and the villains hiding within. It's mostly beefy, well-armed chaps with large guns, plus that bearded fellow on the right who looks like the dad from an early eighties sitcom. Normally I'd question the developer's decision to show a flash of underwear on the recently-defeated female villain, but enemies fly off screen so quickly when you shoot them that I never saw it with the naked eye, so it's something the developers included for their own enjoyment.


Of all the hostages in the game, the only one that they bothered to tie up was the woman in the red blouse. I guess they realised that securing her arms wasn't going to stop her jumping out in front of the first bullet that came along and so they decided to leave everyone else unbound, saving time, energy and money on the rope budget.


Oddly, when you finish this stage there's a brief animation of someone chasing Cyber Beavis and throwing balls at his head. Have I mentioned that I have no idea what the hell is going on? I mean, our hero looks the type who deserves things being thrown at his head - perhaps that's how he got injured enough to need cybernetics in the first place - but this is a mystery to me. I think it happens when you shoot a lost of civilians during the stage, but if that was the case I'd expect it to appear after every bloody level.


Crazy Fight makes more of an effort to live up to its name with stage five, where you take on aliens aboard a space station. Nice Predator / Xenomorph hybrid on the left there. I think there's some mop DNA in his genetic code, too.
Something I did realise here was that there's more information about the evil mastermind behind Crazy Fight's shenanigans than I first though, because I'm pretty sure that's a picture of him next to the health bar in the top-right of the screen. I was so busy concentrating on the action that I ignored it at first, assuming it was a player two icon, but that bar goes down as you defeat enemies and once it's empty the stage is over, so there you go: all this madness is the work of someone with a massive facial scar and eyes so far apart he looks more goldfish than man.


Nice alien designs, though. Snakeoid is a bit bland, but otherwise a decent effort if somewhat constrained by the humanoid shape. I think my favourite is the purple robot dude in the middle. Is that thing sticking out of the metal part of his head another eye? I hope so, it means he can keep an eye on his comrade with the tentacle-mouthed torso-face. You can't trust anything with more than one mouth.
Despite this level having "DIFFICULT" written over it on the stage select screen, I think it's actually easier than the one preceding it because the aliens are so visually different from the human hostages, meaning you can identify and shoot them much faster. I know I got my highest accuracy rating yet on this stage.


"Ninety-nine percent," says Cyber Beavis, "A perfect score!" He's as bad at maths as he is at not making me want to punch his stupid face every time I see it.


Then, suddenly, the entire game is redeemed and justified. Vampire Frankensteins! Skull-headed jiangshi! Quavering priests poking out of abandoned wells! The final graveyard stage is exactly what I was hoping it would be and then some. Just check out this pistol-toting ghoul/witch:


Even the nun behind him looks like she's gazing upon his magnificent Halloween-iness with barely-restrained adoration, and I can't say I blame her. Actually, while we're on the subject of nuns, there's nothing in the bible about the divine punishment for accidentally fake-shooting a cartoon nun, right? I'm, uh, asking for a friend.


However, my very favourite thing about this stage is the expression the mummies make when you shoot them. Look at that poor sod, he didn't expect it to end like this when he crawled out of his sarcophagus this morning, and the look of complete surprise of his bandage mush made me laugh and laugh.
Alas, my trip to the cemetery was all too brief, and after a couple of minutes spent shooting monsters the stage ended and so did Crazy Fight.


Hey, what do you know: in the end Cyber Beavis did score.
Crazy Fight isn't a bad game, but then it's not much of a game at all: it works well, but the gameplay is so lacking in ambition that it would be almost impossible to get it wrong. Still, as a (very) short little reflex tester it's enjoyable enough, even if I wish it had put a greater emphasis on the craziness its title promised, with more stages like the last two. Then I look at that mummy's face again and, for a moment at least, I have to revise my opinion to ten out of ten, best game ever.

P.S. Did I mention VGJunk has a Patreon now?

17/07/2014

VGJUNK PATREON

Just a quick note to say I set up a Patreon for VGJunk, so if you want to sponsor the site then hey, you can do that here! You can start as low as $1 and you can cancel your pledge at any time. If you're not interested, you can just ignore this message. Right, that's it, normal service will be resumed tomorrow with an article "starring" a character I've christened Cyber Beavis.

16/07/2014

3 COUNT BOUT (NEO GEO)

3 Count Bout: a rarely-witnessed demonic event where a trio of Draculas try to beat the crap out of each other. It's also the name of SNK's 1993 Neo Geo wrestling game, erm, 3 Count Bout (known in Japan as Fire Suplex)!


I'm looking forward to this one, because the manic, over-the-top antics of pro wrestling and the sprite-wrangling, colour-packed power of the Neo Geo seem like a match made in heaven. It also promises to be entertainingly bizarre, with underwear-clad slabs of meaty manliness brought to life by a developer who named one of their most famous villains "Geese" surely providing fertile ground from which something even more insane than the regular WWE can flourish.


Because 3 Count Bout is an arcade experience about big men picking each other up and then putting each other back down really hard, there's no messing about and the only delay between the player inserting their coin and the action getting underway is choosing your wrestler. As I walk you through the thrills and spills of 3 Count Bout I'll be controlling Terry Rogers. I chose Terry because he's an all-American hero with the patriotic tights to prove it, a hungry young kid who looks the most likely to be a wrestler with average stats all around. I have unconfirmed reports that he fights for the rights of every man. You might think I chose Terry because as he's the first character highlighted I accidentally picked him when I was impatiently tapping the buttons, or that I chose him because he's one of the characters with a name I felt I could reliably spell, but no, it's definitely that first reason. Don't worry about all the other wrestlers I ignored, either - we'll meet each and every one of them soon enough.


My first rookie match and the prize money is already set at $10,000! Amateur wrestling is a career with an earning potential only rivalled by Multiple Lottery Winner, and as Terry strides to the ring his head is filled with visions not of gladiatorial glory or the adulation of the crowd but of earning enough money in one night to pay off the rest of his student loan (Terry studied for four year at Oxford to gain his BSc in Slamology).
I assume "SWF" stands for SNK Wrestling Federation. Can you have an acronym inside another acronym? Is that allowed, or should it be "Shin Nihon Kikaku Wrestling Federation"? I'm rambling, but only because I'm trying to avoid talking about that ring announcer. He demands attention, but what can you say about him, other than that he misheard "wrestling ring" as "centre ring" and arrived for work dressed as a circus ringmaster?


Speaking of sartorial choices, Terry makes his entrance while wearing a cape. I don't think you ever get a clear shot of it, but if the reverse of that cape isn't an American flag I will be shocked to my very core.
If you look at the bottom-left of the above screenshot, you might notice a member of the crowd wearing a red baseball cap and a red jacket who appears to have long blonde hair. Could this be a cameo appearance by SNK's other, more famous Terry - Terry Bogard himself? I kind of hope it isn't, because if it was Terry Bogard I'd want to play as him in this game. I know how all his moves work, for starters.


A terrifying vision of what the Batman movies would have become had Joel Schumacher been allowed to continue making them!


Not really: it's just The Gandhara, Terry's first opponent. The Gandhara's bio states that he's from India despite looking like a Muay Thai fighter and being named after an ancient Buddhist kingdom located in what is now Pakistan. Not that there's anything to stop an Indian learning Muay Thai and picking a new name for himself. This is wrestling, after all. I don't think Yokozuna was actually Japanese, nor is the Undertaker undead.


The battle begins with Terry giving The Gandhara a big slap in the chops. Start as you mean to go on, that's what I say.
The gameplay in 3 Count Bout feels like it's been assembled from three different pugilistic genres. There's the one-on-one combat and quick-step moves of a fighting game, the multi-plane, light attack combo, separate-button-to-jump systems found in side-scrolling brawlers and elements that are very much in the wrestling game tradition, like grappling and the basic concept of reducing your opponent's energy before going for the pin. The first two of these styles work well, and combat flows intuitively - there's a button each for punch and kick, a jump button and one that either pins your opponent or makes you taunt, depending on the situation. Climbing onto the turnbuckle, bouncing off the ropes and launching jumping attacks all comes naturally, with the only move you might need to make an effort to remember is the quick dash, an extremely useful technique performed by pressing the A and B buttons together that will feel very familiar if you've ever played a King of Fighters game.
So, the punching and kicking parts work well, which leaves only one question, the question that hovers over every wrestling videogame and which in some cases seems to have no answer - how the hell does the grappling work?


To my great relief, for 3 Count Bout I have a definitive answer, even if it's not as clear-cut as you might expect. Step one is simple enough, mind you: just hammer the A button. Hit that button as though each press resulted in a member of the English Defence League getting an electric shock to the groin. Wail on the controls like they just suggested a remake of A Matter of Life and Death starring Justin Bieber. Hit it until your fingers cry out in agony, and then stop, because that's only half the procedure. The button-mashing doesn't last long, and if you win the contest (as indicated by the blue section of the bar being longer than the orange part) then it's time for action.


"Use Wrestling Techniques," it says. Really? I was going to read him some Shakespeare sonnets, maybe offer The Gandhara a foot massage, but if you insist...
What this really means is that upon winning the grapple, you get a choice of what move to unleash. Pressing A results in a flurry of strikes or in you throwing your opponent across the ring, while the B button breaks out the big wrestling moves: powerbombs, piledrivers and the like. However, these more damaging moves only seem to work if you won the button-bash by a considerable margin.


Terry's main wrestling move is to pick up his foe and throw 'em at the canvas as hard as he can, which is simple but effective.
That's most 3 Count Bout's gameplay covered. Damage your enemy with strikes while avoiding their special moves, such as The Gandhara's ability to spit fire. Grapples are started by simply getting close to the other wrestler, but here's a very important thing to remember about 3 Count Bout: if you hit your opponent a few times before grappling them, you'll start with a big advantage during the button mashing. It works the other way, too, so if you're taking a battering then try to keep your distance for a while because it's nigh-impossible to overcome the advantage your opponent will have if they've been knocking you around.


Fights are ended in the usual wrestling ways. You can be counted out if you stay outside the ring for too long, so there's no time for schmoozing with the crowd. If you can get a foe who's been weakened enough in a submission hold you can make them give up, which is what Terry's trying to do in the screenshot above, utilising the kind of chokehold than anyone who grew up with brothers around their own age will recognise. In the end I had to settle for beating The Gandhara using the basic method of pinning him to the canvas with my bulk, our sweat-slicked torsos pressed together as Terry's hot breath tickled The Gandhara's ear. It was all terribly romantic.


Just when I thought I had 3 Count Bout all figured out, the second bout starts with a twist: it's a no rules, no-holds-barred street wrestling match! "Street Wrestling" is short for "Off Street Parking Wrestling", because this battle will take place half-way up a multi-storey car park. And who will I be challenging today?


It's Canadian street punk and chain enthusiast Leo Bradlay! He's dedicated his life to changing the stereotypical view of Canadians as decent, polite people one brutal chain bashing at a time, and today it's Terry Rogers' preconceptions that are going to be thoroughly challenged.
As I might have mentioned, Leo Bradlay has a chain and he likes to use it, swinging it around in a highly damaging attack that covers a wide area. If only I had a weapon of my own to counteract Leo's clear advantage, something like a baseball bat with barbed wire wrapped around it or a taser.


Yeah, a taser will do. Wrestling definitely isn't fake here in the SWF. I put so many volts into Leo that he started floating. You can't fake that.
Because there's no rules and no referee, to win a street wrestling match you have to reduce the other wrestler's health to zero and then hit them with a big attack to knock them unconscious for ten seconds. I fared much better in this fight than I did in the first, mostly because I realised early on that I could grapple Leo and throw him head-first into the cars that make up the edge of the "ring". Also, the taser. Leo is defeated, slinking away to lick his wounds and wonder why he ever thought that combining Guile and Sephiroth's haircuts into one super-do was a good idea. Terry, meanwhile, gets back to the safe and responsible world of professionally sanctioned sports entertainment.


Then a Japanese man spat poison in his face. I think I'd rather get whipped by the chains. This unhygienic fellow is The Red Dragon. Yes, I know he's wearing blue. It's his alternate colour scheme. I have no idea why he's wearing it during this single-player game, though. Perhaps he thought the red would clash with Terry's tights.


It might not look like it here, but I'm starting to get a handle on how to succeed at 3 Count Bout. It's mostly about positioning, and knowing that each wrestler has essentially the same set of moves: a special attack that hits right in front of them, like Red Dragon's poison mist, and a dashing attack. The key to victory is to keep moving, trying to spend as little time as possible on the same plane as your opponent and striking while they're recovering after attempting a move. For instance, Red Dragon kept trying to hit me with a running windmill kick that was easily sidestepped, allowing me to kick him while he was lying on the floor afterwards.


As a Japanese wrestler who spits poison and wears facepaint, it seems likely that Red Dragon is inspired by the real-life wrestler Great Muta. Aside from Red Dragon, however, 3 Count Bout is rather lacking in the really obvious, barely-altered parodies of famous wrestlers that you usually see in wrestling games of this vintage. They almost always have a Hulk Hogan copycat, usually defined by encroaching baldness and a big moustache, but not in 3 Count Bout. In fact, I can't spot any other likely contenders for real-life inspiration amongst this game's cast, but then I don't know that much about wrestling. If you think you've noticed a famous face amongst 3 Count Bout's cast of freaks, then let me know in the comments.


The next bout sees Terry facing a fat masked Spaniard by the name of Gochack Bigbomb. Gochack "accidentally" put on his wife's sports bra this morning. The graphics in 3 Count Bout are excellent throughout, with big, smooth sprites that are packed with colour, but the game reaches an aesthetic zenith with Gochack's exquisitely rendered gut. Someone at SNK put a lot of love and attention into getting that pot belly just right.
Speaking of graphics, you might have noticed that this wrestling ring looks different to the other one. That's because this is an Electricity Match. What, like, it's so exciting it's going to electrify the crowd?


Nope, it means that the ropes are electrified, as Gochack has just discovered. I'm doing so much better in these brutal gimmick matches than I do in the regular bouts. Does that mean I'm a bad wrestler, or just that I'm good at improvising with whatever tools are at my disposal? I think it's the former. I don't seem to be winning many grapples, that's for sure, because SNK don't just want you to mash that button, they want you to pound it into its constituent molecules.


It's Terry Rogers vs. Terry Rogers, and there's not much to say about this one, folks. Clone Terry's distinctly un-American tights are making me wonder if he's a fighter for Catalan independence. A trainer watches from the edge of the ring, confused as to which Terry is the one he's rooting for. To my eyes, the trainer has the looks of an anime Kyle MacLachlan.


Next up, another street match, this time between Terry and Blues Hablam. Blues Hablam is a very large man with a Satanic pentagram painted on his torso and surprisingly dainty little frills at the top of his boots. He's a man of deep contradictions, this one, but the most confusing thing about him is his hands. Is he wearing gloves, or has he just painted his fingers white? Maybe he finger-painted that pentagram onto himself.


Whoa whoa whoa, what the hell are you doing, Blues? 3 Count Bout has taken a really dark turn here, I'd better get over there and kick Blues in the head before he can proceed with his planned self-mutilation.


Never mind, Blues was just taking a knife out of his trunks so he could stab me with it. Keeping a knife inside you skin-tight briefs as another man throws you around seems like a recipe for disaster, frankly. I'll be doing the world of wrestling a favour by defeating Blues Hablam, protecting his opponents and saving him from himself.


Well, this could be going better. Instead of going for the coup de grace as Terry lies wounded on the concrete, Blues saunters off-screen. Where the hell are you going, Blues? This is a wrestling match, not a boring conversation with an insufferable work colleague, you can't just walk away!


Oh, you're back, and you brought a friend. Yes, Blues wandered into the audience, picked up an understandably terrified businessman and threw him at Terry. For this, I have no reservations about awarding 3 Count Bout ten out of ten, full marks, a perfect score. Just look at the human missile's face. That's art, that is.


Terry is set upon by a straggly-haired, hairy-chested wild man! A wild man called Roy Wilson. Roy Wilson? That's the name of a septuagenarian greengrocer, not a pro wrestler. Couldn't he have named himself something more appropriate like The Beast or Killer Caveman or, given his tendency to bite his opponents, Luis Suarez?


3 Count Bout is starting to get difficult, mostly because winning grapples now requires a level of high-speed button-mashing technique that I don't possess. Hit-and-run tactics have become my only option, making this a wrestling game where I'm actively avoiding any wrestling, but because it's fast-paced and exciting it's still plenty of fun. It's not exactly fair, but if I wanted a fair game I wouldn't be playing an SNK fighter.


Another electricity match now, this time against Big Bomberder. Big Bomberder is just Gochack Bigbomb without a mask. I guess he had a face turn somewhere along the way.
The hit-and-run tactics continue in this fight, as I get plenty of use out of Terry's jumping kick. He's quite good at jumping kicks, or at least the first two-thirds of them: his take-off and execution are great but his landing needs work, especially when you miss and have to spend several seconds lying on the mat looking slightly embarrassed.


My god, look at this exquisite specimen. A tomato in a massive sombrero. My word. His name -get this - is Blubber Man. Ha ha, Blubber Man. The thing is, his weight is listed as 352lbs. Big Bomberder weighs 441 pounds. How in the hell is the character called "Blubber Man" not the heaviest wrestler in this game? It beggars belief, it really does.


So yeah, Blubber Man is another headswap, this time of Blues Hablam, and he's just as keen on knives as his identical predecessor. He also likes flying headbutts a lot. Hey, when you look like that people don't expect you to be launching yourself at them face-first. I can appreciate that level of tactical thought. If I hadn't made an infernal pact with Satan Goat, Blubber Man might well have become the new VGJunk mascot.


Here it is: after all the blood, sweat and tasers, Terry has reached the final match against the world heavyweight champion: Master Barnes. Master Barnes is Dutch. I'll be honest, I'm struggling with the concept of a huge wrestling champ being from The Netherlands. My stereotyped view of the Dutch as laid-back, friendly people is stopping me from taking Master Barnes seriously.


For a final encounter, it's pretty underwhelming. It's still the same old 3 Count Bout fun, but that's all it is. Master Barnes is just another wrestler, one who doesn't have any incredible new moves (beside the ability to win almost any grapple easily) or exciting tricks up his sleeves. He's hard to beat, nigh-impossible to pick up and he can break out of pins even when his health bar is completely empty, but mostly he's just a bit dull.


The most notable thing about him is that he likes to taunt, far more often than any of the other wrestlers. I suppose that's your prerogative if you're the champion, but when he stands around posing that's your chance to get a hit in. Keep chipping away and eventually even the mighty Master Barnes will fall... unless you run out of time, which is what happened to me the first time I fought him. If the timer reaches zero then you lose, no matter who has more health. The second time I kept using dash attacks. That seemed to work, and Terry Rogers claims the belt!


It's a good job I'm playing as Terry, I don't think that belt would fit around Blubber Man's prodigious girth.
My button-mashing finger feels like it's been run through an industrial mangle, but aside from that I've got a lot of love for 3 Count Bout. It doesn't have the depth or finesse of SNK's dedicated one-on-one fighting games, but that's okay: it's still unabashedly fun, with just the right balance of complexity, a nice cast of weirdos, excellent graphics and good music.


3 Count Bout's biggest flaw is the gradually increasing imbalance in the computer-controlled characters' grappling abilities, but even that is mitigated by the more unorthodox match types and the ability to play against a second human player. 3 Count Bout is definitely a game to be played against a friend, where there's more balance, more emphasis on skill and more opportunities to swear at them when they roll out of the way of your big off-the-top-rope body splash. In conclusion, if you like your wrestling games big, bold and filled with Blubber Man, and you don't mind not playing as real WWE superstars, then I can give 3 Count Bout my firm recommendation. Just make sure you do some warm-ups with your button-mashing hand before you play it.

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