The Bouncer Review
Ever since the Playstation 2's revealing back in September '99, the press and gamers alike were always on the case of this one Squaresoft game which was developed by Dream Factory. Both kinds quickly rushed to think that since it was a Dream Factory game it must be an Ehrgeiz sequel, but Square reps said it isn't. So now we all were left to think that this game is something completely new and original, and even Square was behind those two thoughts "new and original". In a couple of months, Square would make it official that the game everybody has been drooling over was "The Bouncer", a "cinematic adventure", and that it is folks. It is no secret that Square's first PS2 titles have been less than stellar (Driving Emotion- Japanese version, and All Star Pro Wrestling), but with this new game, Square seems to have rekindled the hearts of PS2 owners and the press worldwide, as The Bouncer is quickly becoming one of the PS2's most anticipated videogames yet (Metal Gear 2 of course holding the prize at one). As trade shows and game shows and electronic shows went on, we were all treated to a little bit more of The Bouncer, and never the less our mouths couldn't be more wet. Finally Square announces the day The Bouncer's release date will be in the US, although Japanese gamers were lucky because for them, the game would be released right before Christmas. But the US was only three months away from getting The Bouncer, and here is a review just for you! Check out this review of The Bouncer, along with 126 frigin' screenshots that I took just for you out there.
Wow, talk about your Emotion Engine! Mine is running high because of the visuals I'm witnessing here, I could swear that Dream Factory has used the same technology that created Toy Story, and have implemented it on the PS2. These visuals blow any game out of the water, and I mean 'any' game, be it Shenmue, some PC title, or anything else that you can think of, this game would steal the visual sector hands down. When I popped the DVD disk into the tray, I knew I was going to be greeted with some friendly artistic visuals, but I got a whole more than that. First of all not only is the games character detail so high that you couldn't help but think it was an FMV or CG of some sort, but the dialogue all progresses through real-time cinemas, with artistic flare similar to that of both Toy Story movies, and that's no joke. Many may think I'm over exaggerating, but I really am not, you can look at the screenshots for your self, but that will do little since they are only a few inches in perimeter, just take my word for it, the graphics are damn near perfect.
When the game's story begins you are treated to a very pleasing real-time cinema, one that can actually be mistaken for an FMV, but make note of it that it is not. The character detail that Dream Factory has been able to achieve in this game is breathtaking, I would estimate roughly 5-6000 thousand polygons per character, if not even more, it is just phenomenal that Dream Factory is able to achieve such high standards on a console barely a year of age. With each main hero and villain character sporting as many polygons as they do, the body definition is incredibly good, I like that every single main character, be it a villain or hero, has his/her own body definition. Sion is a somewhat thin teenager, but is incredibly fast and strong, Volt is a big physical guy, who isn't too fast but is by far the strongest of the trio, and Kou is a middleweight, who is the all around fighting character. The fact that each characters fighting is somewhat reflected by his/her outward physical appearance is pretty cool, and it shows that Dream Factory went through a lot of trouble to develop a beautiful videogame. Basically the character detail looks just as good as a Toy Story movie, even the facial animations have been created so that the dramatic areas of the game are more 'cinematic'.
After your done looking and snarling at the gorgeous and may I add anti-aliased and flicker free graphics, you will then have to focus on the real-time environmental detail, by real-time I mean none of those pre-renders that we're so used to seeing in Square's previous 32-bit products. The structures look downright amazing, while the environments aren't interactive, though I feel they should have been, the backgrounds hold a magnitude of detail, everything from trees, chairs, tables, computers, plants and etc., looks amazing, almost as if these structures were pre-rendered. While this game may not have a lot of eye-candy special effects, it really does have some of the cleanest CG compression in a game to date, and when a CG comes on, you'd better prepare yourself for some amazing sound and special effects, you'll be in for a real treat in every single CG. With up to 10 characters on one screen, you'd think that the frame rate would at least slow down a little bit, right? Wrong! I don't know how, but this game runs at what seems to be a constant speed of 60 frames per second, and I really must applaud Dream Factory for creating what may very well be, the best looking game of 2001 period.
This of course being a "cinematic adventure", you do little in terms of movement, finding objects, or anything in a Final Fantasy or Shenmue kind of fashion. Instead the game takes you through it all, throughout the cut-scenes the characters will do all of the walking, planning, and talking, all you have to do is fight. It may seem plain and simple, but in some cases it isn't, if you are one of those people who plays and finishes a game once, not caring how he/she even finished, and puts it away, then this game is not for you. The Bouncer is somewhat of a twisted game, in the sense that it will get a hold of you and always keep you coming back for more, no matter how short the game is. If you play through the game by skipping every cut-scene, then you will pretty much beat the game in about 50 minutes, if you don't, then it will take you about 2 hours to beat, which is about the average duration of a movie these days. This brings me to my next point. Those who will purchase The Bouncer better not wine and moan because of its short story mode, after all you better remember the fact that it is a "cinematic adventure". The word 'cinematic' is of course deprived from the word "cinema" which is defined as: 'a motion picture'. And there you have it folks, The Bouncer is in other words an interactive movie.
Even though the game can be beaten in less than an hour, you will be forced to come back to the game in a four-player slug-fest, in where you can pick up to four characters (AI or human controlled) and have a little free for all, through a dozen of stages, taken from the story mode. Besides the fact that there is an up to four player VS mode in The Bouncer, the game also features a Survival mode (self-explanatory, all should know what this is) and an Extra Game option that lets you start a new game with an already upgraded and powered-up character that you used from your very first New Game save. So after you have beaten the whole game the first time with say, Sion and he was the one character you played with the most, you can take that completed file, and re-start the game from the beginning with the very same Sion that you finished the game with and keep on upgrading him until you can't anymore, get the picture? Bouncer Points is what you use to upgrade your characters, defense, power and life attributes, or you can use them to purchase extra skills, this can be done every time a battle is completed, so there are no special shops to go to. Every time you enter a battle, you will be asked to choose one of the three characters who you want to fight as, and around the middle of the game, all three fighters will split up and assume new roles for a period of time, so in essence there are three different story lines to go through, which is very cool. If of course you are a perfectionist like many people out there, you will go for the gold, by maxing out all three fighters which can take roughly ten hours, and if you ask me, that isn't very shabby. Don't let the replay value keep you from buying this game, it frigin' rocks.
The story of The Bouncer is incredibly similar to that from Final Fantasy VII, in-fact now that I think about it, it is freakishly similar, but Square was involved in both so it figures. POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD TURN AWAY! The plot unfolds pretty much in the beginning of the game, as Mugetsu, a Mikado henchman, kidnaps a girl named Dominique. Mikado is a huge industrial company who is about to go through some real changes, and its owner Douragon C. Mikado is one evil sadistic, almost Sephiroth like guy, who has plans on using Dominique for evil. Her three friends Volt, Kou and especially Sion love Dominique, as she is treated like a sister. With her kidnapping happening in front of their eyes, and Volt once being a commander for Mikado knowing all of the strings with the company, he quickly leads the team to where he believes the girl lies. If you think that that's it, you're dead wrong, that's barely half of the game. If you are out there reading this, then by all means I suggest getting a copy of The Bouncer, this game may be short-lived if you only play it once, but the four-player mode, Survival mode and the Extra Game mode is a sure fire hit. Here once again comes the term "cinematic adventure", as it is perfectly defined in the sound category. Throughout your two hour journey, roughly 45 to 60 minutes of that time is voice acting, and looking at that 10.0 I slapped on the board it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this game's sound is downright perfect! Not a single hint of hesitation in voice acting can be found, and this is no joke, this baby just streams everything as if I was watching a movie straight through a T3 cable connection. The voice acting is top-notch, the characters are perfectly fit for their ideal voice, it is almost as if those characters are human and use their own voice, it's splendid, brilliant job Dream Factory A little soundtrack is also present here at tense moments, which I thought added even more flavor and should be notified, overall this is just a dream come true for me. Did I mention that The Bouncer is Dolby Digital 5.1 compatible, so if you've got the hook-up, then by all means hook-it up to your TV and enjoy the ride of your life.
It is great the way the controls work, instead of just using the four face buttons, Dream Factory used them as if they were eight different buttons. We all know that the Dual Shock 2 has sensitive buttons right? Well the developer utilized that feature in The Bouncer. The button layout is very nicely done, a spread of uppercuts, low kicks, sweeps, punches and round houses can all be done by using the face buttons, the harder you push on them the more powerful an attack will be, and also you won't get the same but more powerful move, you will get a totally new maneuver, so depending on how hard you press down will affect your move, cool huh? The analog has a decent amount of sensitivity in it, enough to let me let it slip. Although my one gripe is that Dream Factory should have made a run button, so if there is an enemy around you, you don't have to slow down and side-step away from him then keep on running again, just hold a certain button until you are far enough away from him and run. Other than that, The Bouncer features great camera work in the cut-scenes, even though it can't be controlled, and some incredibly good Dual Shock vibrations.
In the end, you may have heard that The Bouncer isn't worth a purchase because it is too short, but you shouldn't really take that into thought since there are a lot of other things to do, playing the four-player mode being one of them. If the damn near perfect visuals aren't enough to satisfy you, the very 'cinematic' gameplay will and to add to that the perfect audio will make you think you were in a movie theater. Do yourself a favor, you must quickly rush out to your store and pick up The Bouncer. It can very well turn out that The Bouncer may be the prettiest game of the year. I definitely recommend it!
3/6/2001 Arnold Katayev