Cannon Dancer: Osman Review – Super Dynamite Action, But Only a Bit Over Priced

    Title: Cannon Dancer: Osman
    Developer: Mitchell Corporation
    Release Date: April 13, 2023
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: ININ Games
    Genre: Arcade Action

Strider is considered to be an all-time classic, up there as one of the best action platformers ever made, and it was the brainchild of Kouichi Yotsui. Surprisingly, he had no further involvement with the franchise after this groundbreaking release, and he would go on to other ventures. One of these was an arcade game called Cannon Dancer, which was released in some regions under the title of Osman, and it was essentially his vision for a Strider sequel. Left in the arcades without a home release for nearly three decades, this forgotten spiritual successor to Strider is finally available as Cannon Dancer: Osman.

Cannon Dancer: Osman on console is essentially two games, the original Japanese release of Cannon Dancer and its Western localization, Osman. They’re pretty much the same game, with some changes to character names, but it’s cool to have both versions included. However, as a package, the release does feel bare bones, with its minimalistic menu presentation and no extras included. It does have all the necessary display filters, as well as the option to rewind, fast forward, and use save states, which is typical of any retro port we see these days. What’s most notable here are the various gameplay modifiers, and these come in the form of various enhancements and even cheats.

That aside, this feels like a pretty expensive home version of what is essentially an arcade game you can complete while in a waiting room in 30 minutes or even less. This is no fault of the game itself because that’s how arcade games were back in the day. These challenging games are created to consume quarters, with the level design being precise and engaging. It’s no doubt a fun game to jump into time and time again, but it feels far too expensive for what it is.

Cannon Dancer Osman 1

Cannon Dancer: Osman more than lives up to its moniker of Super Dynamite Action, taking everything that made Strider such a timeless classic and dialing it all up to 11. Just the presentation alone demonstrates the best of the ’90s, where you play as an Arabian ninja who takes on a doomsday cult in a futuristic Arabic setting. You battle everything from mechs to tigers to all sorts of demigods, complete with the silliness that lends itself nicely to the various stage set pieces and challenging boss battles.

The stages are a mix of platforming and intense combat, and the protagonist is well-equipped for both. He has the familiar cartwheel jump and is able to climb walls and platforms with ease. Hand-to-hand combat is surprisingly versatile, as in addition to various combo attacks, players can also execute grapple attacks on human-sized foes. The real magic lies in the shorts, where collecting powerups doesn’t just change the color of our hero’s attire, but it also grants additional powers where shadows can be summoned to extend combos and even extend the range of kicks. It can all feel like a button-mashing blur, but there’s surprising technique and nuance to the combat system.

Cannon Dancer Osman 2

The entire experience can be summed up as a short and challenging game with a time limit that rivals all of the enemies and boss encounters. Each stage is broken up into strictly timed segments, causing a Game Over if you can’t complete a segment before the countdown. This makes the adventure a speedrunner’s dream, and being able to blitz through stages after enough practice can feel quite satisfying.

The optional cheats do come in handy for newer players who want to learn the stages, but counter to that is the challenge mode that has achievements where save states can’t be used. Here, players choose two enhancements to bring with them through the stage. A word of advice would be to equip the double jump and attack invincibility for a smoother gameplay experience.

Cannon Dancer Osman 3

Cannon Dancer: Osman is a wild ride with high replay value, showing off some of the best of the 90s’ in its outlandish presentation and precise 2D action gameplay. It’s a great game to have restored and preserved for a new audience and is a fascinating missing piece in the Strider continuity. That being said, it’s a short and sweet gameplay experience that feels far too expensive as a home release, especially given the lack of meaningful extra content. This is one definitely worth picking up on sale.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!