Cannon Dancer: Osman is a port of a title originally released in arcades back in 1996. Back then it was called Cannon Dancer in Japan and Osman Outside of the Land of the Rising Sun.
Having never seen a console release, ININ Games and Ratalaika Games have taken this personally and brought the baggy pants sporting assassin to consoles finally. Is it worth the wait or a dance that leaves you with regret?
Cannon Dancer: Osman puts you in control of Kirin, an expert assassin who doesn’t use weapons but instead kicks injustice to death and suplexes it from great heights to boot! Jack Layzon hires Kirin to take on a new threat to the world called Abdullah the Slaver, an easy task for our Arabian-styled hero.
Kirin promptly does what he is best at and dispatches this threat only to be betrayed by his allies and left to die in the desert. Not happy to sit and wait for death, he escapes impending doom and aims to hunt down Jack and his former partners.
Cannon Dancer: Osman has a surprising amount of story for an arcade title and this is all shown through brief cutscenes or during gameplay. It’s not exactly Final Fantasy levels of plot development but does offer a reason for all the death-dealing and makes Kirin look like a grade-A badass.
Clash of Clones
Cannon Dancer: Osman is a 2D hack-and-slash platformer designed for the arcade. Much like its peers, it’s over the top, relentless, and instantly gratifying in its gameplay.
The game is set across 6 short stages which with skill and memorization (or the handy cheats that have been included) clock in at under an hour to complete. These are simple affairs that involve a heavy dose of platforming and combat to enjoy as you make your way to the boss or bosses of that stage.
The controls are simple with an attack button, a jump button, and a “magic” attack button, but there is more to it than that. You can cling and climb on surfaces and there are several attacks such as a slide, a combo, and a diving suplex. The magic attack is your traditional screen-clearing “bomb” and you get 3 per life.
Kirin’s most unique ability is to create clones of himself that mimic his attacks. You get this by collecting power-ups that not only strengthen his power but the duration and amount of clones. This is ideal for dealing huge damage to the insane bosses or dealing with hordes of popcorn enemies.
Due to its nature as an arcade title, Cannon Dancer: Osman is a tough little cookie. Fortunately for those who don’t want to practice, you can “credit dump” through most of the game, though the last stage requires a little more perfection than the rest. As mentioned, there are “enhancements” you can pick to help even the odds such as invincibility frames. Not enough? You can venture into the “Cheat” menu and bestow invulnerability on yourself so you can soon see the credits scrolling.
Old and New
For those of you who’ve played the original, you’ll find additions to this package. Osman and Cannon Dancer are both playable here. It offers minimal differences outside of in-game dialogue language, but it’s nice to have the option. On that topic, there are plenty of display options to get your Cannon/Osman experience “just” right here.
One major thing to help you decide if this title is for you lies within its history. This is an “unofficial” sequel to 1989’s Strider by Capcom. Cannon Dancer: Osman has a lot of the same staff including the director, and plays like that original game on steroids. If you played Strider, take that initial wow factor from your first experience and double it. Imagine that and you’ll understand what seeing and playing this title feels like for the first time.
Pixels and Beeps
Visually Cannon Dancer: Osman looks fantastic for a title from 1996, even managing to stand toe to toe with current “throwback pixel” games. It’s vibrant, it’s loud and boy does it love an explosion with a side of the red stuff to drive the presentation home.
Each stage features a different theme and the art direction has a unique style mixing Japanese art with Arabian themes and locales. The attention to detail in the stages is outstanding and the character animations are so fluid and well done it’s no wonder this title didn’t get a console release back in the day. I think even the Sega Saturn would have struggled to keep up with its pace and visuals without sacrifice.
The sound effects are wonderfully punchy and give you that gratification that can only come from an arcade title. It may be nostalgia talking but the sound effects manage to smack of a good time instantly.
The lack of concept art and extras do damage the presentation, as does the bare-bones menus for each of the games. It’s less love and affection, and more stability and an “it’ll do” attitude. I’d have been more pleased with a staff interview or two thrown in.
Cannon Dancer: Osman should feel like a celebration of unearthing a lost gem. Instead, the lack of extras and personality in its presentation outside of the game gives it more of a “shop-bought replica” feel.
It’s a fantastic way to spend an hour and longer should you want to challenge it to the one-credit clear, but I don’t think there is enough there for people who aren’t retro enthusiasts or have a history with the “Strider” games.
I love Cannon Dancer: Osman, but it’s a tough one to suggest outside of its niche. If you fall within that niche you’re guaranteed to have a smile from ear to ear. Outside of it, it feels like an overpriced, flash in the pan.
WAIT FOR SALE ON CANNON DANCER: OSMAN
Many thanks go to Ratalaika Games for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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