As a big fan of retro games, I always keep an eye out for titles from the past that Rataliaka Games may be porting to the newer consoles. I have found a lot of cool games that I missed out on when I was younger or haven’t been able to play in years. I was excited to see that Cannon Dancer: Osman, the spiritual successor to Strider, was going to be ported. It was originally released under the name Osman in 1989 for the Sega Master System (Genesis) and the Turbografx-16, then more recently, it was released on the Nintendo Online Expansion Pack under the name Strider. Strider’s creator, Kouchi Yotsui, upon leaving Capcom, made a game that had a similar feel, but instead of using a sword, the hero used martial arts attacks to defeat the enemy.
The world in Cannon Dancer is controlled by a corrupt government that is being threatened by the sorceress, Abdullah, and the members of her cult. The story is quite confusing, and I think translating it from Japanese to English didn’t help to make it more clear. We do see that Kirin — a top agent for hire — is betrayed by Jack Layzon, the Judicial Affairs Director who he originally worked for. So it is his goal to get revenge against Jack and take down Abdullah and her followers. Kirin travels through six different stages that are set in exotic locations, such as the desert, a futuristic city, or even riding a surfboard on the ocean. Between each stage, you are treated to a great looking cinematic before you are whisked off to the next location. Though for an arcade title, the story isn’t the most important thing, action, cool music, and vibrant visuals go a long way to keep your attention. They want you to keep plugging quarters or tokens and lure you into coming back for more.
The visuals in Cannon Dancer: Osman are crisp and vibrant, plus the gameplay has a solid framerate. No matter how much action was happening on the screen, the game never slowed down. The title features a huge amount of enemies, ranging from soldiers to robots, and even wild animals like tigers that try to attack you; there was never a lull in the action. If that wasn’t enough, there are semi-bosses and a more powerful final boss in each stage to defeat — in order to progress to the next area. The accompanying music is exciting and upbeat, while the battle music was tense, adding to the pressure you already felt from the combat. This is exactly what you would expect to hear in an arcade. It keeps your adrenaline pumping as you fight your way through the swarms of enemies.
Both the Osman and Cannon Dancer games are available here to play. The only difference that I found between the two was that Cannon Dancer’s text was in its original Japanese, whereas Osman was in English. Both titles offer Standard and Challenge Modes. Standard mode lets you explore the game and have fun using cheats, and enhancements, but you can’t earn any Trophies or Achievements, as they are disabled. Challenge mode is played just like it did in the arcade, the game lets you select two enhancements from multiple options. Double Jump, Invincible Jump, Invincible Slide, Invincible Attack, Auto-Attack, or receive four or eight extra credits to give you more continues, all of which can be selected before you begin.
In Rataliaka Game fashion, you have the ability to rewind your game and replay areas you previously visited, but this is only available in the Standard mode. It’s a handy feature for if you made a move that caused you to lose a life like miss a jump or die to an enemy. There is also the ability to save your progress at any time with a Save State. You aren’t required to use this, but if you need to step away from the game for any reason, it’s a nice option to have. This mode also lets you activate a variety of cheats like making Kirin invincible, freeze time, unlimited fatal attack, unlimited HP, and full power.
The action in the game is essentially Strider with no blades, you can still slide, teleport, and bar-climb. Kirin can do crazy flips and even run upside-down on loops in the environment and like Ryu in Ninja Gaiden, he has clones of himself that will help attack the enemy. The speed of the game is fast, there are sections where you are being chased by cars going down a slope while other vehicles are coming at you. This will test your reflexes and reaction time, making for a section full of tension. The controls shown on screen during the quick tutorial don’t match modern controllers (like a C button), but they work well, and you can easily be changed if there is anything that you want to tweak. I found the controls and action to be fluid and smooth, and I loved having an attack that has the power to clear the screen. No matter what mode you are playing, you can even attack enemies that are behind a wall. This is super handy, but remember that they can also hit you, so beware. If you are playing on the Standard mode, watch out for the “rewind” feature button. I found at the beginning when I started playing, my character was going backwards, and enemies I defeated were showing up again. I was apparently accidentally hitting the left trigger on my PlayStation controller, rewinding my game. Once I realised that, I had no control issues at all.
Throughout the level, there are power-ups available to collect to increase Kirin’s abilities, give extra lives, or increase health. Keep an eye out for them as they are very useful, especially when you are playing on Challenge mode where you don’t have any cheats enabled. If you die during the battle, but still have lives remaining, you will appear right on that spot but if you are out of lives, you will need to use one of your credits to continue playing.
Cannon Dancer: Osman offers a great time and I’m so glad that I get to check out the “sequel” that the original creator of Strider made. The game that was released for the SNES — Strider II or in America as Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns — with a different developer just wasn’t as good. If you love side-scrolling, and arcade games full of action and martial arts, this is a title that should be on your radar! I am so happy to see that there is still interest in these cool pixel-style games that I got to play as a child!
Cannon Dancer (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Cannon Dancer: Osman is a game that can be completed in a short amount of time. It is action-packed, with tons of martial arts attacks and enemies to take on. The story doesn’t make much sense, so if a good story is important to you, you won’t find that here.