Overview – originally developed by Mitchell Corp and ported by Ratalaika Games, with publishing handed by ININ Games, Cannon Dancer: Osman is an arcade title coming to console for the first time. As the Mercenary Kirin, the player will travel through a dystopian future where they must battle wave after wave of enemies and monsters. This title is available on all console platforms, with a link to each version of the game and the physical version from SLG at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Cannon Dancer that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the story and going straight into the gameplay, this is because I want players to experience the full package for themselves first hand.
Gameplay – Cannon Dancer is a classic side scrolling action title, developed as a spiritual successor to the Capcom title Strider, with intense platforming, action packed combat and challenging boss battles. The player has three actions that they can use, there are standard combo attacks, a jump/slide and a special fatal attack that can damage several enemies at once.
The attacks can be used in the air and powered up, with special items that can be collected that add more power through “afterimages” of the player. When the attacks are powered up fully, there is even more damage that can be done with an air blade attack. However, when the player takes damage they will lose one of the power up levels they have collected, with all levels lost if the player loses a life.
The player starts each credit with a three hit points, a single extra life and three uses of the special fatal attack. As the game progresses a fourth point can be added to give the player a little more durability in battle, which is important as this is a very difficult game. If the player loses both lives, they will need to use a credit to continue which will be limited depending on the mode chosen (discussed further below).
This game is made up of six stages, with some having different phases to them. At key points in a stage, there are scripted events that the player will encounter, such as mini boss battles and a chase that needs speed and precision to survive. These events are difficult and can lead to repeated death, which can be a frustration for players but the casual mode has unlimited credits which helps with this.
While short, this game is very challenging and can be very difficult. This is made even tougher as there is a lack of access to the game settings, not allowing players to change the difficulty or increase the number of lives per credit. To compensate for this, the game offers settings known as “enhancements” which can add a double jump and invincibility to different actions.
There are also cheats that the player can add to the game, which include infinite health, full invincibility and permanent full power ups. These cheats and the enhancements are just a few features, as there is also the ability to rewind the game and make save states freely, letting players stop and resume when they want. All together these features can make the game much easier for players who may be struggling.
When playing the game, players have access to the international version of the game as Osman and the Japanese domestic version as Cannon Dancer. There is no difference between these two versions aside from the text language/title screen. There is also the option for two different game mode that players can play, with a causal mode where the player can freely add cheats/enhnacemnets, as well as a challenge mode with limited options.
Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – as an arcade title, there are limited inputs in this game with only movement and three actions. The different additional inputs like credits are laid out in a way that is comfortable, but if players need to reset the controls, the button layout can be altered. This is perfect for those who want to play the game with a different controller, like a classic game pad or arcade stick that lacks thumbsticks.
Difficulty – this game is incredibly difficult with only a single preset difficulty setting. The challenge can be punishing for players who aren’t used to games that are similar to its inspiration Strider. The enhancements and cheats can make the game more bearable for players who struggle, but it may be too much for others. I would recommend checking this game out via gameplay video, as that can give players an idea of what to expect.
Presentation – this title is a 2D side scroller with excellent pixel based sprite work, which look very good for the time. The music for this also adds to the atmosphere of an intense dystopian adventure, with crisp audio throughout. Since it is an emulation port, there are additional settings for players to add to the visuals. The additional options include screen size changes and filters that can alter the overall look of the game.
Final Thoughts – I always enjoy a good classic arcade game being brought to modern platforms, with this being no different. However, there are some flaws to this release that negatively impact the experience. While the developer added the additional features to the title via enhancements, the lack of access to the games dipswitch settings gives players less flexibility and freedom to enjoy the game.
The high difficulty level of the game can cause extended frustration to players, potentially putting them off from persisting with the player. This is a shame as the overall gameplay experience can be fun, as well as giving players a chance to play a title that was long forgotten many years ago. I am unsure if I can recommend this title to anyone other than those who enjoy brutal challenges, as the steep difficulty curve can likely hinder most players.
In the end, I give Cannon Dancer: Osman a final score of 3.5/5. This is a very challenging arcade title that has finally had a release after over 25 years of being stuck in arcades, which is really tough and can be a lot of fun. However, the high level of difficulty can be off putting for players who may lack experience with this type of game. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below.
Link Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation version (HERE)
Link to Xbox version (HERE)
Link to Physical versions (HERE)