It’s fair to say that back in the day gaming was something of an expensive, and selective hobby. Heading down to the arcade with a pocket full of coins was a day out in itself, but those pesky developers worked on numerous titles which were designed to swallow your stash of credits one by one.
You may not have heard of Cannon Dancer (or Osman as it was known on American shores), and are forgiven because I hadn’t either. Released in 1996, it could be argued the title missed the boat when it came to the arcade fighting craze, and given the timing, arcades in general were fading out as gamers could increasingly replicate the experience at home.
Still, rejoice readers as the title has finally made it to your living room courtesy of ININ games and a couple of key members from the original development team. But (yes you better believe I’m going to ask it) should you go back?
Cannon Dancer is a run and jump platformer with some bullet-hell elements chucked in for good measure. It’s set in a dystopian 21st century where an evil sorceress, Abdullah the Slaver, is looking to take control of the planet. You play as Kirin, who is something of a badass and sets out to eliminate the threat.
For a game which is knocking on the door of its 30th birthday, it still holds up pretty well. Visually it’s bright, bold and shows off variety from level to level. But what has impressed me more is the soundtrack, it’s brilliant. The punchy, emotive beats prove to be catchy, but in a good way. Despite playing it several times through, I never once tired of hearing them.
You can tackle Cannon Dancer – Osman in one of two ways. Standard Mode is the more forgiving option and it’s here where you can activate cheats (although you don’t have to unlock them which feels a bit of a missed opportunity) and load up plenty of credits. The catch here, however, is that all achievements are disabled.
In comparison, Challenge Mode plunges you into the arcade experience. The only saving grace is that you can choose two enhancements to make life a little easier, such as double jumping or becoming invincible when busting out certain moves. Or if you prefer, you can take some extra credits along with you which I found the most useful. Your efforts in this mode will be rewarded with Xbox Gamerscore, mostly by suplexing every entity that comes within touching distance.
Jumping, sliding and attacking basically make up Kirin’s wheelhouse and combining the different moves is crucial to avoiding a quick death. He also has another ability up his sleeve, that being his special attack. I found this absolutely crucial to beating Cannon Dancer, but you only start out with three so choosing wisely when to use them is key.
This is because stronger enemies and bosses don’t just appear at the end of each level. At any time they may pop up to battle you, accompanied by a usually chunky health bar. Observing their move patterns and choosing the right time to strike is the only way to beat them, rushing in all fists blazing will only end one way. This is the same for the entirety of the game really, so Kirin’s agility helps when it comes to things such as wall climbing.
As you may expect for an arcade game, Cannon Dancer doesn’t actually take much time to beat. In fact, if you allow for a few deaths you’ll likely take no longer than half an hour to reach the end. Unfortunately, the last level falls into the old cliche of making you fight all of the previous bosses again and feels like a lazy way to round off the game. Still, it provides a worthy challenge and a high score to beat.
There’s a questionable amount of replay value with this release of the game too. Cannon Dancer and Osman are included, but aside from a language difference they are literally the same game. Apart from save states, the ability to fast forward and rewind and some visual filters, the game is pretty much untouched from the original. Okay, it runs at 60fps and is apparently optimised for Xbox Series X|S, but it’s hardly a remake or remaster.
This means that the asking price of £24.99 is sheer lunacy. I just can’t fathom how a re-release of a game, given the minimal changes and updates that have been implemented, can cost this much. Strictly Limited Games have released a special physical edition which is surely just for the collectors out there. But otherwise, there is no justification for paying anything near the asking price. In all of my years of gaming I don’t think I have seen a release quite so overpriced, it’s borderline offensive.
It’s a real shame too, because Cannon Dancer – Osman holds its own. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to top any all-time classics lists but it’s a solidly designed, good looking action game, if a little short. It definitely deserves another showing for those who missed it the first time around, and I suspect there’s a lot of you out there. Alas, when you take off the rose tinted spectacles you’ll realise quickly that this is not the perfect way to do it, but it remains your only option.
Even though Cannon Dancer – Osman stands up well today, ultimately it’s not much more than a straight-up re-release. Although it will no doubt please a niche target audience, you’ll have to spend substantially more than your spare change for the pleasure of playing.