Gamestyle Archive intro: a visually stunning game the Bouncer promised so much and well, no one is talking about it these days. Writer JJ, published June 2001.
VERSION: Pal PS2
GENRE: Fighting Adventure
ACCESSORIES: Dolby Digital.
RELEASE: Out Now
Well it’s taken its time to reach our shores and word of mouth certainly has preceded its release in Europe. The Bouncer is perhaps the most graphically stunning game available for the PS2 – until Final Fantasy X is released later this month. Yet while Square have pulled out all the stops with their usual high quality presentation, designs and graphical treats they’ve overlooked the most fundamental aspect of any game. No matter how great it looks, if it plays like a dog, no amount of eye candy is going to save it and oh boy, does it play like an old worn out mongrel!
Square has tried to tag this game as an interactive movie, due no doubt to the amount of video footage that is included and the story, which unfolds. The plot revolves around the tiny and perfectly formed Dominique Cross who is taken by the sinister Mikado Group. She is the missing key in a major solar power project which if successful will supply the whole world with power. That of course equals power to the CEO of Mikado, Dauragon C. Mikado. Three bouncers from the bar Fate where Dominique works decide to rescue her from the Mikado Building. Normally three unarmed guys against a whole corporation of men, robots and weaponry wouldn’t stand a chance yet these three are a unique bunch. Kou Leifoh is the joker of the bunch with some interesting connections and a bad choice in tattoos. Sion Barzahd is the quiet reserved member of the trio but is fortunately Dominique’s boyfriend, lucky sod. Finally Volt Krueger, the tough one, is very mysterious and has a history with the fantastic Echidna. Whichever character you select you will find out their background and secrets while trying to rescue Dominique and stop Mikado. Of course to see all the different side stories you’ll need to play the game three times.
The fighting itself is very much three dimensional with some wonderful backgrounds but no interaction is offered. No matter which character you select, your two buddies will be onscreen with you throughout trying to help. During the fighting I felt no sense of urgency, panic or involvement and this is because of a variety of reasons. The PS2 can only put 4-5 baddies on screen against you at any one time. The fighting is one paced throughout and you never feel in danger or under pressure. Your opponents are so predictable and easily beaten that I could perform the same move over and over again while reading a magazine and complete the section! Bosses are also easily defeated which makes you wonder how Echidna managed to beat Volt in the first place. Occasionally the odd challenging section may arise forcing you to think very hard and push those gaming skills to new extremes. For instance a corridor of automatic doors closing and you need to reach the other end of the corridor before they trap you. The solution is fairly easy, just push forward on the analogue stick but watch out for the odd crate put in your path! An insult to anyone who stumped up £40 for this expecting something new. The more successful you are in the fighting sections the more Bouncer Points you will receive. This is very much based on the experience points that Square uses in Final Fantasy but here you can spend them and improve health, power and defensive levels or purchase more powerful attacks. Once you have acquired one of the more lethal combinations you won’t need to use another move.
The story is good and the voice acting is passable throughout but the whole structure and style of gameplay is very much of an afterthought. The pattern will become increasingly familiar to anyone playing The Bouncer. A nice bit of FMV, select your character, fight (anything from 30 seconds to 3 minutes), brief FMV, collect your Bouncer points, spend them, save, confirm save then onto the next section. Most of the time you’ll spend watching the FMV or navigating the menus rather than actually fighting. These delays as also seen in Red Faction reduce the level of interest and snap any concentration you once had. The game camera can prove difficult at times especially in the sections that involve running around the Mikado building – it is too near your character resulting in a limited field of vision. Also during these running sections you’ll notice how bad the animation is and how everyone runs exactly the same – as if they were on ice. Gamestyle hopes that the animation department get their act together for Final Fantasy X fast.
The Bouncer takes advantage of the pressure sensitive buttons on the PS2 Dual Shock Controller. If you tap a button your character will perform a weak attack, while a firm press will result in a stronger attack. I’ve always felt that when most people fight they punch to the hardest of their abilities, weak attacks? Don’t think so. You can see the point of Sony introducing such a feature for racing or puzzle games but a beat ‘em up?
The Bouncer will only take around 90 minutes to complete and as your characters get stronger, this will continue to come down. As mentioned previously you can play it again to experience the story from another viewpoint but the differences are minor at best. You may play it again to open up new moves and characters that you can select in the multiplayer option but really do you want to? If you want four player beat ‘em up action try Powerstone on the Dreamcast, its far more superior.
One of the reasons why I wanted to play The Bouncer was that it is the first PS2 title to make use of the optical output i.e. Dolby Digital. So how good was the sound? Firstly we we’re not using some tiny out of the box solution but a fully-fledged home cinema set up. The Dolby Digital sound is only offered during certain FMV sequences while others are in standard stereo. The sound during these moments is excellent if a little bit shallow and lacking the depth and dynamic sounds of the latest blockbuster. If anything it detracted my enjoyment from the sequences that did not support Dolby Digital and the fighting sections. As you expect from Square the presentation and soundtrack are excellent but jumping from stereo to Dolby Digital and back again isn’t good. It’s a nice attempt but really the whole game should have offered the 5.1 mix for those of us who could use it however it does hint at the possibilities offered by this format. This aspect is very indicative of The Bouncer, a missed opportunity from start to finish.
Gamestyle Score: 4/10