Uppercutting dudes eight feet into the air should be more fun than this.

User Rating: 6.5 | The Bouncer PS2
Oh Square, when will you learn to just stick with RPG's. Einhander was a fun experiment, yeah I'll give you that, but The Bouncer? Not so much. I guess making a 3D brawler is kind of hard, especially if all you've been making since Abraham Lincoln became president were RPG's… but it can't be this hard right?

The Bouncer's plot is sort of weird. Stuff just happens on the screen; I mean there are obviously momentous events going on in the really nice looking cutscenes, but it's just a bunch of head scratching material. You play as one of three bouncers who work for a bar doing bouncer-y stuff, you know, lanyard, crochet, all that good stuff. The game opens up with some girl, whose name I conveniently forget every time I try to remember, and she is kidnapped by some cyberpunk spandex wearing group of thugs. They work for the Mikado Corporation, headed by Dauragon (who also has a pet panther), some evil megalithic business model that specializes in solar power and cybernetic modifications. The strange kidnapping of Useless Girl #576 is explained later on, and quite well actually. In fact the story isn't all that bad in The Bouncer, it's just that you won't really care so much. It does touch on some themes with certain flair, some of the parts feel really action-movie-ey, and overall there's enough narrative motivation to keep you playing albeit you'll still be confused.

There are some totally forgettable characters, even with their decadent costumes that look like something you'd see at a Harajuku-Renaissance fair. The plot does get some brownie-points by changing depending on what character you play as in each section though. It also will alter if you fail/succeed to do certain tasks. For example, if you fail to find the key card in a runaway train that unlocks the door in one of the early parts of the game, it's not game over. The train will crash into the station but you'll survive and as you fight further into the station it will be crumbling around you instead of being in pristine shape had you of successfully found the key card and stopped the train. Sure pseudo-different pathways have been done before already in games, but The Bouncer does it really well.
However the overall flow of the game is very awkward. The game is heavy on cutscenes, loading screens, and non-interactive conversation text-holding screens. It's a short game as well and when gameplay only takes up like 40% of the running time it can feel a bit dry.

As mentioned earlier, this is a 3D brawler. Unfortunately, it's merely an adequate brawler. The controls are a bit stiff and some moves just don't feel right. Hit detection and the physics are spot on but the fisticuffs have this slight herky-jerky feel to them. It's far too hard to pull off lengthy combos as enemies will be easily knocked down and there is not much stun time and enemies just love to block. To make matters worse there is a terrible camera that would rather give you a prime view of the posters on the wall instead of the thug whose about to introduce his feet to your face.

Also your AI teammates, and the AI in general, are pretty poor. Your teammates will get in a hit here and there but they are nowhere near as aggressive as they should be. They'd rather just defend themselves and let you do all the damage. Against bosses it's best if you just use them to distract the boss; all I did was let the boss wail on them while I snuck around and got in some cheap hits from behind.

If The Bouncer had some more gameplay variety then it would have been more enjoyable, but it's just 3-5 hours of fighting. There is a local multiplayer mode, but you need a multi-tap to get any fun out of it, since two player battles aren't such a rage. I did find myself just fighting bots though to kill time, it can be kind of fun to mess around if you're really bored.

At least The Bouncer excels in its visuals and audio departments. The real-time rendered graphics are very impressive and the gorgeous CG cutscenes even more so. There are few jagged lines, only a few ugly animations, and the framerate is solid. On the audio side the musical score is appropriate and fits the tone with a certain action-movie vibe. Voice acting is for the most part very well done, although some lines just come out poorly. Whether it's the dialogue itself or the voice actor I can't really tell, but the cringe worthy lines are few and far.

Character models are especially noteworthy; they have the trademark Japanese trendy look typical of Square characters. That means lots of chains, zippers, tribal tattoos, stylish hoodies, and of course, spiky hair. Naturally with almost any brawler the enemies look good, but the same models repeat a tad too much. There are some really cool vehicle designs though with a funky sleek techno-retro feel to them.

The Bouncer has a lot of eye-candy and a decent plot, but the mediocre gameplay really holds it back. Some more crazy combos and flashier moves in lieu of the slow and methodical block-heavy battles would have been much appreciated. Perhaps what bothers me the most about The Bouncer is that it has the potential to be a phenomenal 3D brawler, it just didn't deliver. If the combat was a bit more smooth and satisfying, and the controls and camera were tweaked a little more it would be a must play. But it's just worth picking up if you see it for cheap anywhere or if you're creating a digital entertainment library of all Square software, then The Bouncer is not the worst purchase you could do. In fact, it's not all that bad; it's not great, nor terrible, merely slightly above average.