North American cover art
NA Square EA
|Director(s)||Takashi Tokita (Director)
Seiichi Ishii (Game Director)
|Release date(s)||JP December 23, 2000
NA March 6, 2001
PAL June 22, 2001
|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 produced by Shinji Hashimoto, co-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 considerable press coverage before its release, and was greatly anticipated as one of the marquee titles in the first batch of PS2 games, it was met with poor sales and mixed 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, which, if depleted, means the player dies. Players also have a limited amount of guard points available to them, although this is not represented by an onscreen meter. As the player blocks, the amount of guard points diminish. When they are gone completely, the player can no longer block.
The game's combat uses 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 onto the next gameplay segment. The player then controls this character for the duration of the level, whilst the other two characters are controlled by the AI. 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 the character's statistics (health, power and guard) and unlock new fighting moves. Spending BPs allows the character to level up, with their rank graded on a letter scale 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 AI 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, and the game's multiplayer Versus Mode supports up to four players simultaneously in the "Battle Royal" mode. Battle Royal can also be played by a single player against three AI controlled opponents, or by two players against two AI opponents.
- Sion Barzahd
Voiced by: Takahiro Sakurai (Japanese), Paul Stephen (English)
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.
- Volt Krueger
- Kou Leifoh
- Dominique Cross
- Dauragon C. Mikado
Voiced by: Norio Wakamoto (Japanese), Richard Hayworth (English)
The 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: Yūji Ueda (Japanese), Bob Marx (English)
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.
- Kaldea Orchid
Voiced by: Gara Takashima (Japanese), Anne Sherman (English)
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.
- Wong Leung
Voiced by: Kiyoshi Kawakubo (Japanese), Simon Isaacson (English)
Sion and Dauragon's martial arts instructor and servant of the late Master Mikado, to whom he was fiercely loyal. He distrusts Dauragon.
- Leann Caldwell
Voiced by: Miho Kunori (Japanese), Wendee Lee (English)
A humanoid robot developed by Mikado for combat situations, using illegal bionoid technology. Because they are prototypes, there are very few operational units.
- Master Mikado
Voiced by: Yuu Shimaka (Japanese), Michael Forest (English)
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.
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 Mikado'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. Meanwhile, Leann receives a message that Mikado have located Dominique. She expresses surprise that "they beat us to it," and rushes out.
At Fate, Dominique celebrates Sion's one year anniversary as a bouncer by giving him a pendant. However, Mikado Special Forces led by Mugetsu storm the bar and abduct her. 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 her ship, 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 fight and defeat her, and she jumps from the train into a river.
Meanwhile, the Orage attacks the train, causing the breaks to malfunction. The trio detach the car containing the rocket fuel and jump from the train, which crashes into the station underneath the Mikado Building. They work their way up the building and find Dominique in a dome structure. 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 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 at Mikado, Sion realizes Dauragon 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. 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 defeated. The trio escape with Dominique but are soon 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 arrives and once more takes Dominique, heading to the Galeos. Volt reveals he knew Dominique was a robot, explaining she was created in the image of Dauragon's dead sister. He 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. The Galeos takes off, but as it leaves, 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 the Galeos is designed to split into two after leaving Earth. 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 safely to Earth.
Several weeks later, 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. Echidna then arrives, wondering if Fate 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. She warns him to keep his mind on the job.
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 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 2 launch titles.
An non-playable demo was shown at the Fall Tokyo Game Show in September. IGN reported "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 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 was underwhelmed with the new material, feeling there appeared to be too many cutscenes in relation to actual gameplay. On July 13, GameSpot revealed 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 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 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.
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 the most difficult aspect of the game's creation was working with the PlayStation 2's hardware. The team also said the gameplay was partially derived from DreamFactory's Ehrgeiz and Tobal games, 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 of 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. Takashi Tokita has commented that the lyrics of "Love Is the Gift", 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 FMV 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 PlayStation 2 release, The Bouncer was highly anticipated. 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 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' Brad Galloway, for example, argued actual gameplay constitutes less than one third of the game's length.
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 cutscenes. He was also impressed with the "glowing" effect used throughout the game; "DreamFactory 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." 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. [...] 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," although he praised multiplayer mode. He concluded "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 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."
Game Revolution's Brian Gee awarded the game a C+. He wrote, "It's easy to tell what the developers focused on, because The Bouncer is obviously one of the best-looking games on a console to date. Near flawless animations and picture perfect visuals make it a great choice to show off the sleek Sony super machine to your friends. Once the game begins, though, The Bouncer sheds it's pretty boy image and gets down and dirty." He was critical of the controls and the absence of a lock-on feature. Like other critics, he also had problems with the camera and the ratio of cutscenes to gameplay. He concluded "Though many will undoubtedly be disappointed by The Bouncer 's inability to live up to the hype, others will find a fancy beat 'em up to pass a few hours. Its flashy graphics are at least worth taking a look at, but its many problems just might keep it from a place in the collection."
The Bouncer was not a commercial success. In its debut week in Japan, it sold 158,727 units, debuting as the fifth highest selling game across all systems. It went on to sell 219,858 units by the end of 2000, finishing as the 53rd highest selling game of the year, across all systems, and the 9th highest selling PlayStation 2 game of the year. It sold an additional 126,123 units in 2001, for a total of 345,981 units sold.
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A bouncer at the bar known as Fate. He lost his love two years ago, which has caused him to distance himself from others. However, Dominique's innocence is slowly helping him to open up again.
- "Character Profiles". The Bouncer Instruction Manual (UK). Squaresoft. 2001. p. 16. SCES-50241.
A bouncer at Fate. For some reason, he is very well-informed about the Mikado Group.
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Before Sion rescued her, she was just a girl lost in the city, with nowhere to go. A cheerful, simple, and innocent girl, Dominique has become a sort of a mascot for the bar Fate.
- "Character Profiles". The Bouncer Instruction Manual (UK). Squaresoft. 2001. p. 20. SCES-50241.
The young CEO of the Mikado Group international megacorporation. Dauragon has risen to his present position because he is the adopted son of the previous CEO. He has been trained since childhood to succeed as head of the Mikado Group and is capable of handling any situation calmly. He is responsible for Dominique's abduction, but his motives for such an action are unknown.
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Project M Special Forces: A project modifying the subject through lobotomy surgery. The nervous system has been enhanced to assist in the completion of assigned missions. However, this stimulation of the fighting instincts tends to cause the subject's mind to degrade.
- "Character Profiles". The Bouncer Instruction Manual. Squaresoft. 2001. p. 19.
A supervisor in the Mikado Group. She is arrogant, and hates to lose. She boasts a flamboyant outfit and a very unique hairstyle. Echidna has some sort of history with Volt.
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Space Solar Power Project: A major solar power project led by Mikado Corporation, in joint development with high-tech corporations from around the world. The general operation policies of the project announced by Mikado CEO, Dauragon C. Mikado, are as follows: (1) Launch a satellite capable of converting solar rays into a form of microwave energy. (2) The satellite, controlled from the surface, will collect solar rays and transmit the energy, in the form of microwaves, to ground collection stations. (3) These stations convert the microwaves into electricity and then distribute that energy around the world through power grids. While numerous attempts have been made to find alternate energy sources to oil and nuclear power, only Mikado's new technology is capable of providing enough solar power to supply the whole world with energy. However, as journalists have pointed out, many people are concerned about the possibility that these intense microwave transmissions may produce harmful side-effects in both humans and livestock. The high projected cost of providing such energy raises concerns about energy availability. It is uncertain whether countries will be able to purchase enough energy as a result of these high costs. However, with no specific evidence of any harmful effects, either physical or financial, Mikado Corp remains unconcerned.
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