I was pretty excited for The Bouncer when I was younger. A new Squaresoft game (that’s right, SquareSOFT), their first for Playstation 2, and a beat ’em up at that? Hell yeah man, I was sold! It had great visuals, had a lot of good ideas going for it, and got a decent amount of hype before its release.
Then…we got The Bouncer. We got something that was a shadow of what it was supposed to be. I shelled out the full $50 for this sucker when it came out, and even though I enjoyed it when I first got it, that regret hit hard later on. There was supposed to be some intense fighting through destructible environments with buttery smooth transitions between gameplay and cinematics, but instead we got a clunky fighter with light RPG elements that could be beaten in just over an hour. Gamespot’s original preview of the game really built it up and mentioned how fluid the game looked in the demo they were shown, with fighters able to use anything in the area at their disposal and the whole thing seeming like an interactive movie. Heck the box even says “Play the Action Movie”. That didn’t turn out so well did it? (Poor Xenosaga)
What The Bouncer DID have was crazy good graphics, especially for the time. Honestly they aren’t too shabby now. The character animations were smooth and the lip-sync was pretty accurate, even though it might look wonky if you watched it today. Characters moved fluidly through battle even without the destructible or interactable environments, although the ragdoll physics got pretty silly at times. The character designs are typical over the top Nomura style, with one of the main characters, Sion, looking like an older version of Sora from Kingdom Hearts, and the villains are all sorts of crazy. The colors were bright and varied, avoiding the typical browns and grays of today, and the environments looked good as you smacked ninjas or security guards around.
Overall the setting itself was one of my favorites. It was similar to the more modern settings of Midgar, Midgar Kalm, and Junon from Final Fantasy 7. I’d really like to see Square-Enix revisit a setting like The Bouncer’s in an RPG, more FF7 and FF8 than FF9. Hell I’d even like to see them give The Bouncer another go and do it right, there was a lot of potential in there.
During the game you have three different characters to choose from at each stage during the main campaign. You see the story scenes following each battle from their individual perspectives, which provides a slightly different side of the story depending on who you chose for that fight. Since you could only choose one character per sequence it promoted replayability, and with how short the main campaign ended up being it was more than welcome. There was even a multiplayer mode that allowed up to 4 people to fight it out against one another, assuming you had a PS2 Multitap adapter. In this mode you could use the three main characters as well as others from the main game, each one unlocked under different circumstances. Although usually those circumstances were just play through each battle stage with each of the three main characters.
What is the story? Three bouncers try to rescue their friend from an evil energy corporation. She gets kidnapped by ninjas right off the bat by the way, no joke. Said bouncers beat up all sorts of people along the way because well, they were in the way. It gets a lot more complicated than that but why spoil it?
So there you have it. Come on over Thursday and see a game that could have been so much more. A game that is usually met with groans or wistful sighs, or some strange combination of both.
At least Sion’s theme is badass.