Squaresoft is one of the greatest videogame companies of all time, having virtually redefined the entire RPG genre. With the release of Driving Emotion Type-S and now The Bouncer, it appears that they are taking the steps necessary to ensure that they are not labeled a one-trick pony. The good news is that The Bouncer is a step in the right direction. The bad news is that it could have been so much more than it ended up.
The storyline has a very Squaresoft theme to it, taking place in a futuristic setting. It seems the Mikado Corporation has created a satellite system that will convert harmful space energy into useful energy on the planet. Meanwhile, Mikado's special forces kidnap a girl at a local bar and it is up to the three bouncers of the bar to rescue her and foil the evil plot. Along the way, you will discover why Mikado is so interested in this girl. You will fight your way through evil dogs, robots, special agents, and other enemies until you get your chance to fight the head of the Mikado corporation and stop him from unleashing his true plans.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
After watching a lengthy cut-scene setting up the story, the game begins with Mikado's special agents kidnapping the girl and leaving behind a few minions of evil to try to take out the three bouncers. You have the choice of which bouncer you want to control and use to fight the sequence. After dispatching the relatively easy bad guys, you'll watch another lengthy cut-scene furthering the story. Enter another area, pick a bouncer, fight a few more bad guys, then watch a lengthy cut-scene. So goes the Story mode of The Bouncer. Basically, as I've outlined, this mode can be broken up into two very distinct categories: fight scenes and cut-scenes. The fight scenes are reminiscent of the old classic games like Final Fight or Double Dragon. The cut-scenes are movies that are used to drive the story forward.
As each fight scene starts, you are given the option to pick which of the three bouncers you want to use in that particular fight. Each of them has different moves, attack power, amount of life, and defensive abilities. One of the best features of the game was the ability to advance your character's core stats (life, power, and defense) as well as learn new moves. During the fights, as you kill enemies, you are awarded Bouncer points. These Bouncer points are accumulated until you have the required amount to advance your core stats or learn new moves. The required amount of Bouncer points goes up each time you raise a core stat requiring more points to raise the skill the next time. This character growth added an RPG element to the game, which was a very welcome addition.
The majority of the fights have all three bouncers involved. You control the bouncer you select and the computer controls the other two. As you progress through the game, the story does branch out for a short time where you are the only bouncer playing. These branches were actually the best part of the game because they tended to be more action and fewer cut-scenes. Unfortunately, they were only a minor detour and you join up with the other bouncers in short order.
This is all great but I have yet to answer the question of how the fighting actually plays. Like I mentioned above, the fighting is very reminiscent of Final Fight or Double Dragon. There are a number of bad guys on the screen and you engage them in hand-to-hand combat. Each of the three bouncers has a different set of moves but they all have standard punch and kick attacks. I was really impressed with the variety of moves available and loved the RPG element of opening up new moves as well. My only complaint with the fight sequences was that there was no way to lock onto a particular enemy. The game would choose which enemy to attack for you, which could be troublesome from time to time.
The fighting portion of the game was pretty fun but here is my knock on The Bouncer: the cut-scenes. Cut-scenes are okay if they are used sparingly; however, The Bouncer is more cut-scenes than fighting. It is very difficult to get into the flow of the game when you have a two to three minute fight sequence and then stop and watch a five minute cut scene before another two to three minute fight sequence. Granted, the cut-scenes were very well done and were an integral piece in moving the story along but I just found my attention drifting away. I guess if you really enjoy spending more time watching cut-scenes than playing the game, you should add 15 points to the score because you will love this game.
Squaresoft did a great job of adding replay value to this game. For one, playing through the game as one specific bouncer takes you off on a mini-story about the bouncer you are playing. It was enjoyable to go through with each of the three characters and learn their stories. The second reason for replaying The Bouncer is to continue building the characters. I was never able to learn all of the moves with each character the first time through. You had to go through the game at least twice. Thankfully you can skip over the cut-scenes but it is a bit of an annoyance. The last reason to play through as other characters is that it unlocks new areas and characters that you can use in the Versus mode (see multiplayer section).
The Bouncer also contains a Survival mode, which was decent to play a few times but ends up a bit stale. It is your basic Survival mode in that you battle waves of enemies and your heath never replenishes. You try to get as far as you can before dying. I just wish the Story mode had action like this.
There were a couple of other minor issues that I would have liked to have seen fixed or more time spent on. First, the computer AI of both the enemies and the computer-controlled bouncers was a bit on the dumb side. There were numerous times where I would engage an enemy only to have the two computer controlled bouncers stand and watch when they had an open shot at the back of the enemy. I would like to have seen more interactive environments. If I see a chair, I want to pick it up and hit someone with it but this type of environmental interaction was just not available. My final minor gripe was that I would have liked to see more branching of the story dependent on your actions. As it stands, there are only a couple of minor branches that happen. It would have been more exciting to effect the outcome of the story.
The multiplayer aspect of the game is actually pretty fun once you beat the Story mode and start opening things up. You basically use the fighting engine of the game to fight against your buddies or other computer controlled enemies. in the Versus mode. If you have a multi-tap, you can play up to a four person last-man-standing battle to see who is the ultimate bouncer.
The second multiplayer mode is the Team Battle mode. In this mode, one person is selected as the leader and the goal is to kill the leader of the other team. There are a total of three players on each team. There is a bit of strategy involved in protecting the leader of the team. This mode is particularly fun when you play the team leader on one team and a friend plays the team leader on the other.
The best part of the multiplayer experience is that you can use your bouncers that have been built up during the Story Mode to fight in the multiplayer. This also adds another reason to play through the Story Mode a few times. The multiplayer should help you get a few more hours of enjoyment out of your $50.
The PS2 is finally starting to have some games hit the shelves that actually reflect the power of the system. Everything from the cut-scenes to the fighting scenes are beautiful in this game. The cut-scenes have that Squaresoft look to them but I can only imagine how happy the programmers were to get away from the PlayStation and program for the muscle of the PS2. Even though I complained about the cut-scenes interrupting the gameplay, I can't complain about the beauty and quality of them. They were amazing to say the least.
As for the graphics during the fighting sequences, the attention to detail was apparent as well. The fighters would react in a realistic manner when hit. The character animation was also very well done. If they decide to make a Bouncer 2, they will not have to make any wholesale changes in this department.
To sum it all up, The Bouncer was just not my type of game. It had all the makings to be something that I could really enjoy but I was never able to get over the cut-scene interruptions. When I am playing a game, I want to play, not watch. I seriously feel that if you are the type of gamer who feels the opposite, you will love this game because it is well done, if not a bit short. The graphics will wow your friends but when they go home and you are left alone with The Bouncer, you will go to bed unfulfilled.
Download The Bouncer
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Square EA just sent us these screens from The Bouncer and they look fantastic! Having incorporated at least two modes, story and versus, Dream Factory promises 20+ hours of gameplay on the former if you want to acquire all of the characters and moves (and you will). Multiplayer capability will also be included for the versus matches. Based on what we've seen from the PS2 and its ability to smoothly handle multiple characters on-screen at once, it's pretty exciting to see what Square might cook up for some of the fights in this game. The three main characters will each have easy-to-perform special moves and will also respond to the analog sticks for greater control. Square EA has set a Winter release for The Bouncer, so keep your eyes glued to EGM for updates on a playable version in the next couple months.