Review: Cannon Dancer: Osmon
Game preservation has been a hot topic lately. The blurry line between emulation and piracy has caused many a heated discussion between those who who believe we should have access to
games no longer produced, and those who feel that downloading these games are guilty of theft. No matter which argument you side with, we can all agree that there HAS to be some kind of option that allows everyone to play these games of yesteryear. I mean, it would be a travesty if future generations were unable to play some of these classic games.
Thankfully, we have made some strides (yes, pun intended) when it comes to making older games more available to the general public. We've seen a lot of titles in the Arcade Archive series, multiple retro game compilation packages, and even remakes that contain the original game as a bonus. It's a step in the right direction, and we need to see more of it. And Cannon Dancer: Osman, the latest addition to the list of retro resurrections, does a great job of bringing you back to the arcades of old.
Cannon Dancer: Osman is a little-known arcade game, but its predecessor should sound familiar to any gamer. The classic arcade game Strider was a huge success, and millions have played this title either at the arcade, or at home on their Sega Genesis console. Kouichi Yotsui, the mind behind Strider, moved on after he completed the original game. One of his next games was Cannon Dancer (Osman, in other countries). Cannon Dancer was essentially a spiritual successor to Strider – in fact, members of the development team started calling it “Strider Hiryu Part 2” while they were programming it. The game released in 1996 – right around the time arcades started to fizzle out – and didn't get a whole lot of attention, let alone a console port. But thanks to the fine folks at Mitchell Corporation and ININ Games, we are able to finally play this hidden gem.
Cannon Dancer takes place in a world under the rule of an government known as “The Federation.” Like any typical government, it oppresses its people and keeps them down – you know, the usual story. You play as Kirin, a mercenary who is employed by the government to infiltrate a cult. And surprise, surprise – you are betrayed by the Federation and left for dead. Kirin survives this attempt on his life and swears revenge against The Federation. .
So that's about it – there isn't much of a story aside from that. Look, it's an arcade game - don't expect any major plot twists or character development. We didn't have time for that back in the day. Just pop in your quarter and get going. Having said that, there is a bit more of a story here than in many other arcade games, but again a game like this is all about the gameplay.
And speaking of which...
While the game is called Cannon Dancer: Osman, it's still pretty much the same game. Cannon Dancer is the original Japanese release, and Osman is the version released in the west. It's pretty much the exact same game, with some minor changes. If you've played Strider, then you'll know what to expect: Cannon Dancer is a 2D action-platformer. You'll tackle stages with some strong platforming and combat, fight an onslaught of enemies and gigantic bosses, and perform acrobatic super moves that will make any Cirque du Soleil performer jealous.
As you traverse each stage, you can grab onto walls, climb up surfaces, and flip up to reach higher levels. Your moves include an attack button, a jump button, and a button that executes the aforementioned super move that clears the entire screen. Littered across each stage are different power-ups that can restore health and unlock stronger power-ups. They also change the color of Kirin's pants – so that's real snazzy!
The gameplay is fast and frenetic. You're constantly on the move, attacking enemies, dodging bullets and being chased by unstoppable vehicles. There's mini-bosses and end-of-stage bosses, and different paths to take in some of the later levels. Each level also has a time limit, which only adds to the heart-racing nature of Cannon Dancer. Controls are on point, and I never had an issue with input lag. This is a great conversion that works perfectly at home with no notable difference between this and the arcade original. Just be prepared for a challenge – this is one tough game. This makes sense though, as arcade games were never designed to be easy; they were designed to take your quarters.
This updated version isn't just a straight port of the arcade game - Cannon Dancer arrives home with a few additions as well. Aside from being able to play either the Japanese version or the Western version, you can change your screen display and size, apply filters, and utilize different wallpapers. Also par for the course are save states and rewind features. All this is very common for retro ports to modern consoles, but appreciated nonetheless. Some of the best additions, however, are the additional “enhancements” and “cheats.” The enhancements allow you to give Kirin some moves not featured in the original game: a double-jump, an auto-attack, and additional invincibility frames. Cheats on the other hand gives you full invincibility, maximum power, and the ability to disable the in-game timer. These additions are fantastic if you're just looking to get a feel for the game or give yourself a quick playthrough. Be advised though, if you want to earn achievements, you'll have to play the game in Challenge Mode, which disables the cheat and rewind features.
Cannon Dancer looks very nice – you just need to understand that this is a product of its time. Having said that, the game looks great. It moves smooth, the characters look great and the levels are detailed. There isn't much to say, other than it's very “1996.” Great graphics for a pixel-based arcade game, but don't expect anything mind-blowing.
The music, though. Wow. I am loving every bit of the music in Cannon Dancer. This is also indicative of the time period, and in the best possible way. There's something about the music and sound effects in an arcade game that just draws you in. Cannon Dancer's music and sound effects have that arcade “crispness” to it and are just so pleasing to the ears.
Overall, Cannon Dancer is a very enjoyable game. It's a great artifact from the 90s arcade, and does exactly what it sets out to do. The additions to the game do a great job of making it less frustrating and more accessible. And although it's short (the entire game lasts about 45 minutes), it's got a lot of charm and replayability. At thirty dollars though, it could be considered a bit overpriced, but that's up to you and how much you're going to play it. But any fan of Strider should definitely jump into Cannon Dancer.
Final Grade: B+