A number of recent reviews have explored titles previously lost to the annals of time. NIS America finally let a new generation of players experience Makai Kingdom, Square Enix keeps bringing back their hits, to even Capcom giving us Red Earth. ININ Games is following this trend by giving a brand new generation of players the opportunity to experience Osman: Cannon Dancer.
Unlike a lot of other games lost to time, Osman, or as it was known in Japan, Cannon Dancer, has a fascinating history. Contrary to the name, many players consider Osman: Cannon Dancer to be Strider 2 due to various former Capcom employees, including Strider’s Director and Designer, Kouichi Yotsui, working on it. Not only are their similarities immediately obvious, several elements from the beloved classic appear here as well. Given the history of Osman: Cannon Dancer, is it an absolute must for players, or was it better left in the past?
Since Osman: Cannon Dancer was originally an arcade game there isn’t much of a story. Basically, an evil sorceress known as Slaver threatens the world who you need to put a stop to. There is a bit more to it, though the whole narrative is maybe 10 sentences. Most of the story is told through random interactions, or fascinating visuals.
In this sense Osman: Cannon Dancer holds up extremely well. It’s very reminiscent of games of the era, though there are enough details that look impressive even today. All of these things help the experience, though the actual title is in an unusual place.
Arcade games, especially in their heyday, were notoriously cheap. Elements of this can be seen in Osman: Cannon Dancer, though ININ Games was nice enough to include some quality of life improvements.
There is a save system, rewind/fast forward functions, cheats, and other mechanics to help you survive. I also appreciate these features disabling trophy/achievements. Those who do “challenge mode” are still given an edge, but it won’t be so easy anyone can do it. However, even two enhancements are surprisingly powerful.
With invincible attack, and 4 extra credits, I was able to beat challenge mode without breaking a sweat. I think the same would hold true for 8 extra credits, though not so much with double jump, invincible jump or slide, and absolutely not with auto attack. I bring this up because it places Osman: Cannon Dancer in a rough spot.
The core gameplay loop is surprisingly deep for something shockingly simple. Players have three HP and three special attacks to finish a stage. Specific collectibles can increase your health, heal you, and so forth too further aid you. This makes the margin of error pretty high, with power ups making a substantial difference.
Every power up Kirin gains an additional after image, which caps at four. The trick is to put yourself in harms way, leave an after image, and then use that copy to deal damage for a couple seconds. When used correctly, some of the hardest sections are quite manageable. Where things fall short are special attacks.
Specials Pack a Powerful Punch
When used Kirin will kill everything on the screen. It’s perfect for tricky sections, or places where avoiding damage is incredibly difficult. These can also be used on bosses, though using one does not instantly kill them. However, the amount of damage it does is quite substantial. The image above shows what one special attack does to the second boss, so it goes without saying I could kill them with two. I think the only enemies that can withstand two are the first and last bosses.
Normally such a mechanic would be fine, it’s how Osman: Cannon Dancer is set up that it becomes a problem. On average a stage is only two to three minutes. In fact, my first attempt to beat Osman: Cannon Dancer was successful, with my trophies suggesting that run was 24 minutes. Not only are stages short, there are frequent checkpoints that can be abused to further lower the difficulty.
For example, I generally started before a boss if I had to continue against one. Not only did this give me three special attacks I could instantly burn to defeat said boss, the extra life continues the fight with three more special attacks. As a result, most sections can be brute forced if you’re determined to get it done.
Now, this tactic won’t work if you don’t have additional credits, though you seemingly gain some along the way, but it’s to the point where I don’t see the point in the distinction. When the experience is so easy it feels like you’re cheating, it makes some of the choices harder to understand. At that point you might as well just enable invincibility outright, let people get trophy/achievements however they want, or perhaps add in some modifiers to further increase difficulty.
I bring this up because I am not exactly sure how much long term value Osman: Cannon Dancer offers. Not only did I fail to discover any secrets, a Google search suggest none exist. Even if maximizing points is your thing, the only thing that consistently gave me more was defeating enemies with a grab. If I punch, or supered them it was the same amount. So, point runs would come down to speed, and grabs, which is not really the most engaging experience.
Osman: Cannon Dancer Review Verdict
Osman: Cannon Dancer: Regardless of the criticism, it's always great to see beloved titles find second life on a newer platform. Even if Osman: Cannon Dancer is not the deepest experience around, it is engaging enough to warrant a play through. Provided you go in expecting this to be a quick, and simple run you'll likely have a good time. – Grant