North American cover art
|Genre(s)||Beat 'em up|
The Bouncer (バウンサー Baunsā?) is a 2000 beat 'em up video game for the PlayStation 2 co-developed by Squaresoft and DreamFactory. It was published in Japan by Squaresoft in December 2000, in North America by Square EA in March 2001, and in Europe by SCEE in June 2001. The game was directed by Takashi Tokita and Seiichi Ishii, and features character designs by Tetsuya Nomura and music by Noriko Matsueda and Takahito Eguchi.
The game tells the story of three bouncers in the fictional city of Edge on a rescue mission to save their young friend from the Mikado Group, a solar technology megacorporation owned by the megalomaniacal Dauragon C. Mikado. The game is structured like a "playable action movie," with the plot unfolding differently depending on which character the player chooses for specific gameplay sequences.
The Bouncer was Square's first game on the PlayStation 2, and although it received a good deal of press coverage before its release, as one of the marquee titles in the first batch of PlayStation 2 games, it was met with mild sales and mediocre reviews.
Controls in The Bouncer are similar to those in the Tobal series. Certain buttons denote high, middle, and low attacks, whilst others are used for jumping attacks, blocking, and special moves. Players have a health meter during gameplay sequences, which, if depleted, means the player dies. Players also have a limited amount of guard available to them, although this is not represented by an onscreen meter. As the player guards, the amount of guard points diminish. When they are gone completely, the player can no longer block.
One aspect of the game's combat is the use of ragdoll physics which allows characters to be launched several feet into the air, making it possible to juggle enemies by striking them repeatedly. Enemies can also be thrown or otherwise knocked into one another, causing all of them to take damage at once.
The Bouncer is structured as a series of short gameplay segments interspersed with cinematic cutscenes that tell the game's story. With the Active Character Selection (ACS) System, when a cutscene concludes, the player is given the choice to control one of the three protagonists and proceed into the next gameplay segment. The player then controls this character for that level, whilst the other two characters are controlled by the computer. At the conclusion of each gameplay segment, the player is able to spend Bouncer Points (BP), the game's equivalent of experience points, using the Point Exchange System. BPs can be used to boost that character's statistics and unlock new fighting moves. Spending BPs allows the character to level up, with their rank graded on a letter scale ranging from G to A, and finally, an S-Rank.
Typical gameplay in The Bouncer consists of the player fighting groups of enemies using hand-to-hand combat techniques. Occasionally, one of the computer controlled bouncers will do a taunt, prompting a button-press to activate a team attack ("Trinity Rush") which damages all enemies on screen. However, the Trinity Rush is ineffective against some bosses. In some instances, the player will also be tasked with activities other than fighting, such as running through a series of hallways to avoid being caught in a flood, finding a keycard or fooling enemies into thinking the player is one of them. In general, a gameplay segment ends when the player has either defeated all of the enemies in the area, has defeated a boss enemy or has achieved a set goal.
In addition to the main Story Mode, there is also a single-player survival mode. Spanning ten stages and fifty enemies, every time the player survives a round, the gameplay gets progressively harder. At the start of each stage, the player's health bar does not return to full, but remains where it was at the end of the previous stage.
The Bouncer supports the PlayStation 2 multitap accessory, a device that makes it possible for more than two controllers to plug into the console. The game's multiplayer Versus Mode supports up to four players simultaneously in the "Battle Royal" option. Battle Royal can also be played by a single player against three computer controlled opponents.
- Sion Barzahd
- A bouncer at the bar Fate, Sion is the game's main protagonist. The death of his girlfriend two years previously caused him to close himself off emotionally, but Dominique is slowly getting him to open up again. Voiced by Paul Stephen.
- Volt Krueger
- A fellow bouncer at Fate, he is a large and quiet individual, who seems to know a lot about the Mikado Group. Voiced by Mike D'Gard.
- Kou Leifoh
- Another Fate bouncer, he is cocky and talkative, but is hiding a far more serious side. Voiced by David Lucas.
- Dominique Cross
- Found wandering on the city streets by Sion, she was taken in by the staff at Fate and has become the bar's unofficial mascot. Voiced by Ruby Marlowe.
- Dauragon C. Mikado
- The young CEO of the Mikado Group. The adopted son of the previous CEO, Master Mikado, Duaragon has trained since childhood to succeed as head of the organization. He is responsible for Dominique's abduction, but his motives are initially unknown. Voiced by Richard Hayworth.
- The head of the Mikado Special Forces Unit and the man who carries out the abduction of Dominique. Due to experiments on his prefrontal cortex, designed to give him superhuman speed and strength, he is going insane. Voiced by Bob Marx.
- A supervisor in the Mikado Group. She is arrogant, hates to lose, and has some sort of history with Volt. Voiced by Melissa Williamson.
- Kaldea Orchid
- A mysteriously sad young woman who is always by Dauragon's side. She has the ability to morph into a panther and seems to know Sion, although he is unsure as to how. Voiced by Anne Sherman.
- Wong Leung
- Sion and Dauragon's martial arts instructor and servant of Master Mikado, to whom he was fiercely loyal. Voiced by Simon Isaacson.
- Leann Caldwell
- Works for the anti-Mikado intelligence agency LUKIS as Kou's immediate supervisor. Voiced by Wendee Lee.
- A humanoid robot developed by Mikado for combat situations, using illegal bionoid technology. Because they are prototypes, there are very few operational units. Voiced by Wendee Lee.
- Master Mikado
- The previous CEO, and founder, of the Mikado Group. A kind man, he adopted Dauragon when he found him wandering the city streets in a storm. Voiced by Michael Forest.
As each bouncer has their own unique story, how the game develops depends on which characters are selected for each level. Only by playing through the game as all three characters can the complete story be revealed.
The game begins with a news report on the Mikado Group's new solar powered generator satellite, which uses a large mirror to generate electricity from solar rays. It then converts the electricity to microwave radiation, which it beams back to a ground station on Earth, which subsequently converts it back to electricity and distributes it around the planet. As the report plays on the TV, Leann receives a message that Mikado Special Forces have located Dominique. She expresses surprise that "they beat us to it," and rushes out.
Meanwhile, at Fate, Dominique wants to celebrate Sion's one year anniversary as a bouncer, and gives him a pendant. However, Mikado Special Forces led by Mugetsu storm the bar and abduct Dominique. Volt says they will have taken her to the Mikado Building, and Kou calls Leann, learning there is a train heading for the building in thirty minutes. Leann promises she will back him up in the Orage. Kou, Sion and Volt catch the train, which is carrying rocket fuel for the launch of the satellite. On board, they meet Echidna, who is shocked to see Volt. They defeat her, but she jumps from the train into a river.
Meanwhile, the Orage attacks the train, causing the breaks to malfunction. Inside, Kou curses Leann's use of overkill, and the trio detach the car containing the rocket fuel and jump from the train, which then crashes into the station underneath the Mikado Building. They work their way up the building and commandeer an airship. Whilst flying over a dome, they see Dominique lying on a bed. Nearby, Kaldea is playing the piano. After a moment, she gets up and morphs into a panther. Meanwhile, Dauragon orders Wong to transport Dominique to the shuttle Galeos. Wong protests, telling Dauragon he is using the Mikado Group for evil, something of which his father would not approve. Dauragon attacks Wong as the trio enter, and the dying Wong tells them that Dauragon must be stopped. Dauragon then reveals that Dominique is his sister. He and the panther attack the trio, defeating them, and the floor falls out underneath them.
The game then cuts to the past as a young Dauragon arrives at a hospital, telling them his sister is dying. However, they turn him away. As he walks though the rain, a limousine pulls up alongside him, and Master Mikado and Wong get out, taking Dauragon and Dominique with them. Later, Mikado adopts Dauragon as his heir. After Mikado dies, Dauragon takes over the company, with Wong praising him for the man he has become, saying he would have made his father proud.
Meanwhile, Sion wakes up in a storage room. Fighting his way through the building, he encounters the black panther, who leads him to a computer terminal, where he finds a file on Kaldea. Vaguely remembering her as childhood friend who was supposedly killed in an industrial accident whilse working for Mikado, Sion realizes that Mikado has been experimenting on humans. However, she is now older than him, with the file stating "the one drawback with our present technology is the treatment ages the subject cells approximately 10 biological years." Sion also finds a picture of Dominique under a locked file called "A2" ("Aggelos Anastasius"). Meanwhile, Volt wakes up strapped to a table. He breaks free and also fights his way through the building. Elsewhere, Kou wakes up in a locker room and steals a guard's uniform, sneaking through the corridors to the upper floors.
Sion soon finds Dominique, but is ambushed by Mugetsu. Volt and Kou arrive and Mugetsu is again defeated. The trio escape with Dominique by using the nearby rocket tower. At the base of the tower, they are confronted by a group of PD-4s. However, a signal is sent from an orbiting satellite, and Dominique is revealed to be a robot. She easily destroys the enemies and then collapses. Mugestsu then arrives and once more takes Dominique, heading to Galeos. Volt reveals he knew Dominique was a robot, explaining she was created in the image of Dauragon's dead sister. Volt also reveals that he was once the personal guard of Master Mikado.
As they head to the Galeos, they encounter Echidna. They fight and defeat her, but Volt spares her life as she admits killing Master Mikado and framing Volt for the murder. He tells her to leave Mikado and live a normal life. Meanwhile, the Galeos takes off. As it speeds away, it is attacked by a group of fighters led by Leann, who tells the trio to use an airship to catch up to it. They again confront Mugetsu, this time killing him by knocking him into the Galeos' engine. Meanwhile, on board the Galeos, Dominique is hooked up to a computer, with Dauragon using her circuitry to have the satellite fire massive lasers down onto the earth, beginning with the hospital that turned him away as a boy.
The trio make it inside the Galeos, where they again encounter the panther. They defeat it, and it transforms into Kaldea. Depending on character selection:
- Sion remembers Kaldea as his childhood friend. She tells him the Mikado Group staged her death to experiment on her, but as she speaks, Dauragon kills her.
- Sion does not remember who she is and she dies from the injuries sustained in the fight.
- Sion remembers who she is and she survives.
In the command center of the Galeos, Dauragon explains that he plans to provide unlimited energy to those who will follow him and destroy those who will not. The trio attack and kill him, releasing Dominique from the computer. If Kaldea survived the previous fight, she tells them that the Galeos is designed to split into two after leaving Earth orbit. She leads them to the back half of the ship, and sacrifices herself to save Sion and Dominique. The front half of the ship rams and destroys the satellite, with the back half returning to earth, safely carrying Sion, Volt, Kou and Dominique.
Several weeks later, at Fate, all has returned to normal. Sion says he will tell Dominique she is a robot when the time is right. Depending on character selection:
- Dominique finds that Sion is wearing the pendant she purchased for him at the start of the game and hugs him.
- Dominique tells Volt he looks kinder than he used to, and Echidna then arrives, wondering if the bar is hiring any more bouncers.
- Leann rings Kou telling him that although Dauragon has been defeated, Dominique must still be kept under surveillance. She then tells him to go to the central plaza. There, he meets Leann and they spar. Leann tells him to make sure he keeps his mind on the job as she walks away.
If Sion has been selected as the playable character in the final fight against Dauragon, the game ends with a scene showing his initial meeting with Dominique.
The game was first announced at the Spring Tokyo Game Show in March 1999, where it was revealed as Square's first PlayStation 2 title. On July 12, 1999, IGN reported that Square was working on three PlayStation 2 games; an unknown game, a Final Fantasy game and a fighting game, which was thought to be Ehrgeiz 2. Footage of the game was subsequently shown at the SIGGRAPH Convention in August, at which time the game was still thought to be Ehrgeiz 2. The footage showed the three main characters, which at that time were two men and one woman, fighting a group of ninjas in a café. However, on August 23, MagicBox.com reported that the game was not a sequel, but an original story. The title of the game was revealed on September 10 when Sony announced the PlayStation launch titles.
An unplayable demo of the game was then shown at the Fall Tokyo Game Show in September. IGN were extremely impressed with the demo, and reported that "Square's "Seamless Action Battle System" means that players will roam from adventure sequence to fighting sequence without intermittent FMVs or cutscenes that look out of place; the adventure aspects blend seamlessly into massive street brawls involving as many ten characters." GameSpot were also very enthusiastic about the early footage from the game, writing "The Bouncer is arguably one of the strongest visual demonstrations of the PlayStation 2 hardware thus far. Designed to appear as though you're controlling characters in a movie, The Bouncer's camera movements and special effects truly appear as though they're straight out of a Hollywood creation."
At the Spring Tokyo Game Show in March 2000, Square showed only a ten second clip of the game, and revealed no new screenshots or information. They also had no release date, leading some journalists to speculate that there may be problems behind the scenes. At E3 in May, Square showed some new footage from the game, although they still did not provide a playable demo. IGN were underwhelmed with the new material, feeling that there appeared to be too many cutscenes in relation to actual gameplay. On July 13, GameSpot revealed that the game's character designs were being handled by Tetsuya Nomura, and the game would receive a simultaneous North American/Japanese release in late 2000. However, on September 1, IGN reported that DreamFactory were having difficulty working with the PlayStation 2's hardware, and the game had been pushed back to January 2001.
On September 19, IGN revealed that the game would feature Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound for the FMV cutscenes, and Square were attempting to use 5.1 sound for the gameplay sections as well. GameSpot revealed more details about the game on September 20, including the three available modes of play: Story, Versus and Survival. They reported that Square expected the story mode to take players roughly seven to eight hours to complete thoroughly. The Point Exchange System was also revealed.
On September 21, IGN published a roundtable interview with members of the development team; character designer Tetsuya Nomura, composers Noriko Matsueda and Takahito Eguchi, and co-director Takashi Tokita. The developers outlined the gameplay mechanics, the branching story, the versus and survival modes, the music, the character design, and the challenges of working on the PlayStation 2 for the first time. Tokita claimed that the most difficult aspect of the game's creation was working with the PlayStation 2's hardware. The team also said that the gameplay was partially derived from DreamFactory's Ehrgeiz and Tobal series, while graphically, the atmosphere was developed with the use of filters and lighting.
On November 13, Square announced a Japanese release date of December 23. On December 18, they confirmed a North American release date on January 30, 2001, although this was quickly pushed back to March.
The Bouncer was scored by Noriko Matsueda and Takahito Eguchi. Two separate soundtracks were released; The Bouncer Original Soundtrack, a 2-disc, 29-track album was published on March 23, 2001 by DigiCube, and The Bouncer Original Video Game Soundtrack, a single disc, 21-track album was published on March 26, 2001 by Tokyopop Soundtrax. The game contains several vocal themes, including the original Japanese ending theme song "Forevermore" ("Owaranaimono"), performed by Reiko Noda, and English language theme song "Love Is The Gift", originally performed by Shanice Wilson. This song was never released on any audio CDs. Takashi Tokita has commented that the lyrics of the latter song, heard during the closing credits, signify the game's overall theme.
The Bouncer was the first PlayStation 2 game to feature Dolby 5.1 sound, which was used specifically for the title's full motion video sequences. In addition, it features voice acting with subtitles in both English and Japanese. Because the game was being considered for North American release early in production, the English voices were recorded first. The Japanese voices were recorded and incorporated later to "provide more of a DVD quality to the game." Facial animation was also created later to fit the voices.
With the consideration of its high-profile development team, as well as the fact that it was a front-runner in PlayStation 2 game releases, The Bouncer was highly anticipated in the months before its release. However, the game was perceived as a disappointment by many, and was largely seen as mediocre. Numerous aspects from the E3 trailer, such as destructible scenery, were removed in the final game, possibly in order to get the game out in time to be among the first batch of PlayStation 2 titles. Much of the criticism, however, fell on the gameplay. IGN found the controls to be average and the camera angles to become a major issue in the later portions of the game, where the player is confined to tight spaces. The game was also seen as having an excessive amount of cutscenes and load screens. GameCritics, for example, argued that the actual gameplay constitutes less than one third of the game's length, the rest is made up of cutscenes.
IGN's Douglass C. Perry reviewed an import version of the game prior to its release in North America, and was disappointed with the lack of depth, but impressed by other aspects. He praised the graphics, character design and CGI in the cutscenes. He was also impressed with the "glowing" effect used throughout the game; "Dream Factory employs a Playboy-like filter that smoothes out every single bit on the screen. The effect is consistent throughout the game, and rids the PS2 of aliasing or flickering, but also provides a unique gloss that's never been used before with such success." He was also impressed with the basic fighting mechanics. In his official review of the game upon its North American release, Perry scored it 7 out of 10, writing "The game is a letdown, but not a catastrophic one. In fact, The Bouncer is a decent fighting game that plays a lot like Ehrgeiz and enables players to choose through a story-driven section or to go head to head, via multitap, with three others. It's a good game, not a great one, and it's worth a look." He referred to Story Mode as a "mixed bag of good ideas executed ineffectively," and argued that the multiplayer mode was more enjoyable. He concluded that "The Bouncer is not the next messiah, it's not the next wave of fighting, and frankly, it's not the paradigm for anything really new, except perhaps incredible-looking graphics. These things said, The Bouncer is a decent game. It's not horrible, it's not brilliant. It's pretty average."
In his look at the import version, GameSpot's Miguel Lopez called the game "little more than a glorified and highly cinematic version of Final Fight using dated Tobal animations." He praised the controls, and called the graphics "quite competent", but was highly critical of the game's length, estimating a player could play thought the entire game in forty-five minutes or less, if they skipped cutscenes. In his full review, Jeff Gerstmann scored the game 6.7 out of 10. Of the graphics, he said "Everything, from the characters to the backgrounds, looks absolutely incredible." However, he concluded "The Bouncer makes a great showpiece for the PlayStation 2. It looks and sounds incredible. However, the ease and extremely short length of the game, matched with other problems like horrific camera angles and lack of a multiplayer story mode, make The Bouncer fair, at best."
In Japan, The Bouncer sold over 219,000 copies the year of its release, making it the 9th bestselling PlayStation 2 game of 2000. It sold an additional 132,000 units in 2001, making it the 86th bestselling game of that year.
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