The Bouncer tells the story of three bouncers on a rescue mission to save their young friend from a megalomaniacal solar technology corporation. The game is structured like a "playable action movie" and the plot unfolds differently depending on which character the player chooses for specific gameplay sequences.
The game marks Squaresoft's first release on the PlayStation 2. Although the game received a healthy amount of press before its actual release, it was met with mild sales and mediocre reviews.
The Bouncer is structured as a series of short gameplay segments interspersed with cinematic sequences that tell the game's story. With the Active Character Selection (ACS) System, a story sequence concludes to give the player the choice between one of the three protagonists to control (Sion, Volt, or Kou) and proceed into the next gameplay segment. 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 to boost that character's statistics and unlock new fighting moves. Boosting a character's stats eventually causes that character to grow in rank, which is graded on a letter scale ranging from G to S.
Typical gameplay in The Bouncer consists of the player fighting against groups of enemies using hand-to-hand combat techniques. At some points, one of the computer controlled players will do a taunt, prompting a button press to activate a team attack on an enemy, although it is ineffective against some bosses. Occasionally, the player will also be tasked with other activities, such as running through a series of hallways to avoid being caught in a flood. In general, a gameplay segment ends when the player has either defeated all of the enemies in the area, or has defeated a boss enemy.
In addition to the main Story Mode, there is also a single-player Survival Mode in which the player must fight off as many enemies as possible.
The story revolves around three bouncers, Sion, Volt and Kou, and their friend, Dominique. On the night of Sion's first anniversary as a bouncer, special forces from the Mikado corporation attack the bar they work at and kidnap Dominique. With each bouncer having their own personal motive, the three of them set out to Mikado to rescue her. During the story, they encounter fearsome enemies, old figures of the past and discover the true reason why Dominique was captured. How the story is revealed depends on which characters are selected during each level. For example selecting Kou on certain levels reveals phone conversations that are unheard when playing as other characters.
A bouncer and kenpō fighter who works in Bar Fate and has vowed to stop Dauragon to avenge his master and save Dominique.
The true epitome of a professional wrestler and a former employee of the Mikado corporation prior to Dauragon's ownership who now works in Bar Fate
An undercover agent and Tae Kwon Do master posing as a bouncer in Bar Fate to keep tabs on Dominique.
The current CEO of the company who is well-trained in academics (i.e. solar technology) as well as martial arts.
A covert ninja and unstable psychopath with cybernetic modifications working for Dauragon who loves to kill his enemies regardless of the situation.
An associate/lover of Volt who betrayed him when Dauragon seized control of Mikado Corporation. She is skilled in the art of capoeira.
A woman from Sion's past who is a result of a genetic experiment performed by Mikado Corporation.
The sister of Dauragon and friend of the workers of Bar Fate who is kidnapped at the game's start.
The wise kenpo master of Sion and Dauragon who is advanced in years but possesses massive power nonetheless.
Kou's superior who is closely watching the whereabouts of both Mikado and Dominique.
Dauragon's honorable foster father, who is deceased by the time the game starts and appears only in flashbacks.
The Bouncer is the first PlayStation 2 game to feature Dolby 5.1 sound, 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 on 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 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 not received as well as many had hoped, and was largely perceived as mediocre. Numerous aspects from its original E3 trailer, such as destructible scenery was removed in the final game. Much of the criticism it garnered fell on its gameplay. IGN found the controls to be average and that the camera becomes a major issue in the later portions of the game, where the player is confined to tight spaces. The game is also seen as having an excessive amount of cutscenes and load screens. GameCritics.com condemns this notion, saying that its actual gameplay constitutes less than one third its length. The Bouncer currently holds a 22% ("Rotten") rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Nevertheless, the game's graphics and sound were common points of praise. GameSpot noted "Everything, from the characters to the backgrounds, looks absolutely incredible." PSXExtreme.com found perfection in the game's voice acting, while AllRPG.com said the score "set the mood of the scene and introduced the person in song, much like Star Wars.
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