Column: "Natestalgia!" -- Playing "The Bouncer"

Unfortunately, we are not going to show photos of Nate lighting his copy of The Bouncer on fire

2001 was kind of a weird year for gaming. While the Dreamcast had an insanely good library for a system that had only been out for a year and a half, people's attention was turning to Sony's PlayStation 2 and Metal Gear Solid 2, which promised to be the greatest thing ever.

 

It was in that first year of the PS2's life that Squaresoft put out The Bouncer, its first title on Sony's new system. From various screenshots and a promo trailer, we got the impression that The Bouncer would be a stylized, modern update to classics like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, giving us the freedom and flexibility of a Jackie Chan fight, and all the chaotic combat that implies. I mean, look at the trailer for it!

Imagine gamers' surprise when they spent $50, popped The Bouncer in their then-gigantic PS2s, expecting this:

and instead getting this:

Yeah, that's about the long and short of it. After promising dynamic and fast-paced combat, we got sluggish and stilted combat that's about as dynamic as the fight scenes I shot for my MacBeth senior project. In a weird throwback with a burning need to use every possible new feature of the PS2, The Bouncer worked like the original 1987 Street Fighter, using the PS2's pressure-sensitive buttons to differentiate between light and strong low, middle, high, and jumping attacks.

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I mean, sure, it sounded like a good idea, but it was terrible in its execution. I ended up having to jam on my controller whenever I wanted to do a strong attack, and you weren't able to link attacks together--you pick an attack, hope it works, and then try again on the next enemy, unless you love your three-hit "light high attack" combo--you'll be seeing that one a lot. Another idea that sounded good was the addition of RPG elements to the game, specifically earning EXP--sorry, BP (Bouncer Points)--from battles and using them to increase stats and learn moves.

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But here's the real problem: you don't get BP until you land the final blow on an enemy. This means that you can fight a boss, do tons of damage to him, and then one of your jerkass teammates runs up and kicks him in the shin and takes out his last bit of health, and all your hard work is for nothing. You won't be able to level up after the boss fight, and you're screwed for the next level.

 

Storywise, at least, The Bouncer has its moments. While I would have much preferred

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a Road House-esque brawler where you fight progressively stronger drunks and punks, Square and Dream Factory (Tobal, Ehrgeiz) went for an "interactive action movie" where the story would change depending on which of the three main characters you chose for an action sequence.

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While it quickly goes from "video game plot" (three bouncers ditch their jobs to rescue their kidnapped friend) to "completely ludicrous" (something about an evil corporation, weapons manufacturing and a solar energy satellite) in the span of about twenty minutes, it follows the tropes of a martial arts movie (or a fighting anime) and is probably the best part of what's otherwise a really, really bad game.

 

High points? Maybe the main antagonist, Dauragon C. Mikado (no wonder he's such a badass, he probably got beat up a lot as a kid) who is like a terrifying cross between Chris Hemsworth and Cyril Raffaelli--he fights you one-handed, then does the whole "let me show you my true strength" thing, uses both hands, and ROFLstomps you! Everything else, though... main character Sion's stupid outfit with his kenpo gloves and bling--the guy freakin' jingles while he walks! Volt has enough facial piercings that if anybody hit him once, he'd look like a Saw victim! And Kou, well... okay, I can't make that much fun of Kou, but he still looks like a douchebag with his sick tribal tats, Scott Stapp hair and disdain for real shirts.

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Pain don't hurt, but my God, this game does. I'm wondering... if you hated something when you first experienced it, can you feel nostalgic for that hate? If you pick it up ten years later and you still hate it, is it nostalgic hate? Hatestalgia? Okay, I'll stop now, but my point is that this game hasn't aged at all. It sucks as much as when I first bought it in 2001... then traded it in... then saw it like six months ago at a Gamestop and bought it again because I'm a moron.

 

Oh crap. This means that I've spent $53 on The Bouncer. Seeing titles like this, it's absolutely criminal that the PS2 killed the Dreamcast when it did. I mean, sure, the PS2 ended up being one of the best systems of all time and having one of the best libraries for a single video game system ever, but that doesn't change the fact that its first year was full of very pretty disappointments. Did any of you pick this up for your brand-new PS2s?

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