The Bouncer was created by Square Enix and Dreamfactory at the beginning of the PS2s lifecycle and for its time, was considered quite revolutionary. The game is about 3 bouncers who work for a bar called Fate located in the fictional city of Edge. They have to work together to save their friend Dominque who was kidnapped by the Mikkado Corporation, which specializes in solar energy. The game’s story is riveting and somewhat similar to Final Fantasy 7 but with added elements like Martial arts movies.
Edge City is corrupt and infested with street gangs and it is hoped that Mikkado Corporation’s presence there can help revitalize the city with their resources and technology. Mikkado Corp is deeply involved in the corruption of Edge City as the company has ties to organized crime. Now the city is worse off than before as Mikkado Corporation has their own priorities.
Fate is located in Dog Street and the bouncers who work in Fate are all connected through their past horrible experiences with Mikkado. Sion one of the bouncers who lost his girlfriend due to a freak accident involving Mikkado and since then has been seeking to avenge her death. Volt is another bouncer who used to be a street gang leader and worked for Mikkado as a security member but was betrayed by one of the high ranking members. Kuo is a very skilled martial arts fighter who works for LUKIS, a spy group who has assigned him to work undercover to investigate Mikkado activities. The bouncers share a good friendship with one another despite their contrasting backgrounds and they all have the same goal of stopping Mikkado.
The characters were quite mulit-layered and they all have their own motivations as to why they are after Mikkado. It was fun to play as each bouncer.
As their goal of saving Dominque goes by, the bouncers learn about Mikkado’s real intent. Dauragon, Mikkado’s CEO plans on using a Solar Laser Satellite to spread chaos and anarchy in the world. Sion dated Dauragon’s sister and he blames Sion for not protecting her and now he is out for revenge and wants to destroy the bouncers.
The game is broken down into multiple parts. Some sections are cutscenes and others are short gameplay segments with you being able to choose the character you want to fight as. You fight multiple groups of enemies in the game. The AI was helpful and everyone had a part to play in combat.
Each of the 3 characters has their own fighting style, personality and background. The game is a beat em up and it uses a real time fast paced combat system. The beat em up gameplay comes from Tobal, a beat em up created by Square Enix and Dreamfactory. Sion uses kenpo and streetfighting and he is well balanced fighter. Kou uses long range attacks and uses Tae Kwon Do and while he is not as powerful as Volt or Sion, he is very agile and fast. Volt uses wrestling and considering his bulky appearance, he’s slow but extremely powerful in his attacks and endurance.
The control system is straightforward and easy to learn. Each button is for jumping, kicking, low, middle and high attacks. The other buttons are used for blocking and performing special moves. Keep in mind you can only block for a certain period of time and when the guard points drop, you are no longer able to block.
There is a variety of enemies and bosses to fight. Sometimes in combat, one of the bouncers will taunt enemies and this enables the fighter to use trinity attacks which critically damages all enemies in the area but it is not always effective as certain bosses can be immune to such attacks. The game has other objectives such as escaping rooms, finding keycards, escorting and the occasional stealth.
Defeating enemies gives you bp or bouncer points and defeating enemies in a streak gives you multiple amounts of bouncer points. After each fight, you have the option to choose the upgrade. You can select having more health, defense, attack power or you can use it for new combos. As you level up you increase in rank from “g” to “s”
In comparison to Square Enix’s fantasy and sci fi settings, the game uses an urban gritty environment setting. The game has special visual blur effect and the graphics are very detailed for a PS2 game. This is the first game to use a depth of field effect that causes the blurriness which is now a staple in action games. I also liked the bloom effect for the lighting. The Ragdoll physics implementation that allows you to throw enemies into the air and you can attack them repeatedly is especially neat. You can even throw down multiple enemies and knock them down all at once with each sustaining damages.
The cutscenes were very well animated. The atmosphere is gruff and hardcore and this is reflected on the level design of the game. The character designs by Tetsuya Nomura are nicely made. As a side note, Sion’s character model was the body model recycled from Sora in Kingdom Hearts. Many of the characters were based off physical appearances for Final Fantasy characters and were used in later games. Kuo bears a resemblance to Sho, a reaper from The World Ends With You. Similarly, Edge city was also the name for Advent Children Final Fantasy 7.
There is a good amount of replay value in the game. Playing through the story as different characters will allow you to see other aspects that were left out in the first playthrough and this helps to clear things up. It has multiple endings depending on which character you have chosen. If you have the multilap accessory for the PS2, you and a group of friends can fight each other or AI controlled opponents. There is also a survival mode where the player goes through 10 rounds as any of the characters you have unlocked during the course of the story and as each round pass, it gets more challenging.
The musical score fits in well with the setting of the game. The audio quality was the first game to implement Dolby 5.1 sound and its used quite extensively with the cutscenes. The game also has a dual audio feature with Japanese and English subtitles. The voice acting is ok and the dialogue heavily inspired by martial arts films, is entertainingly cheesy. There were no destructible environments as the game originally advertised and this could have been very useful in combat and it would have provided more variety.
There were a few shortcomings. The playtime is really short It took me just about 46 minutes to beat the game on my first playthrough. The only reason why the game is so long artificially is because of the amount of cutscenes in it. Besides that, there was also an excessive amount of cutscenes in the game.
Kingdom Hearts 1 on the PS2 did not have skippable cutscenes and neither did Crisis Core Final Fantasy 7 on the PSP but this game thankfully has skippable cutscenes. The camera can be really annoying in cramped areas. Sometimes you fight the same bosses you had already defeated.
For Square Enix doing an edgy and gritty JRPG, this really helped paved the way for the foundations of future fighting games to come.
It gets 4 stars out of 5.
If you enjoy beat em ups and Square Enix JRPGs, you are going to find plenty of enjoyment with The Bouncer.