Cannon Dancer - Osman

A game by Mitchell Corporation and ININ Games for Arcade, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox X/S, originally released in the arcade in 1996, with the enhanced version released in 2023.
Cannon Dancer - Osman is an enhanced version of the 1996 arcade game Osman, which was known in Japan as Cannon-Dancer (キャノンダンサー). While the original arcade game was fairly obscure, it was mostly known for its similarities to Strider, which released in arcades several years before. Both games feature melee combat, lots of angled platforms, and an agile hero who can climb walls and walk hand-over-hand across ceilings. These similarities can be traced to Kouichi Yotsui, who worked on Strider and was the designer on Osman.
The game takes place in a futuristic Middle Eastern setting filled with neon lights, expansive cityscapes, and gigantic mechanized constructions. You take on the role of a Cannon Dancer known as Kirin (he was named Osman in the game of that name), a martial arts master and member of a mercenary group called Teki. He is summoned by the director of the world government to battle the forces of Abdullah the Slaver, an evil sorceress bent on world domination… or so it seems.
The story is actually pretty difficult to follow, and the shaky English translation does little to help you make sense of things. Abdullah is presented as the main baddie, and you encounter her a couple of times, but she seems to be helping you. You soon discover that the true bad guy is the one who sent you out on your mission to begin with (he has a golden toilet, so no surprise there).
Despite the serious themes of corrupt government and a world in chaos, there are some humorous elements here and there. For instance, the bad guys decide chain you to a statue in the desert instead of executing you, and some dudes in a submarine have run a line to dry their laundry.
From the main menu, you are able to select between the English or Japanese versions of the game, and both versions offer Standard mode or Challenge mode. Standard mode grants you infinite continues (you still need to press the “add coin” button), the ability to fast forward and rewind time, save states, and numerous optional enhancements to make the experience easier on yourself. These enhancements include a double jump, the ability to auto-attack and greatly increase your attack speed, and invincibility while jumping, sliding, and/or attacking.
If you play in the Challenge mode, you have limited lives and can only select two of the available enhancements, or give yourself up to eight extra lives instead. You cannot fast forward or rewind in this mode, nor can you use save states or add credits, so once you die, it’s game over. You are free to customize the controls in all modes, and you can enable the ability to auto-grab ledges above you, which normally can only be done by pressing UP.
Kirin has 2x nonvariable jump with a lot of midair direction control (a major departure from Strider), which is important since environments feature a lot of verticality, and enemies often appear above and below you. You have a 2-kick combo with no downtime in between, so you can kick quickly and continuously. The same is true when attacking while ducking, and you can perform multiple attacks while jumping as well. By pressing DOWN and ATTACK, you perform a ground slide that doubles as an attack. Finally, you have a special attack, which you may execute three times per life, and this attack sends you flying into the air in multiple directions, causing heavy damage to all nearby enemies, and taking out a healthy slice of bosses' health bars.
Floating around each level are canisters that can be broken to reveal pickups. Green pickups restore a single unit of health, blue pickups fully restore your health, and yellow pickups increase your maximum health from three units to four. Finally, there are red pickups that give you additional attack power by creating after-images of Kirin, and these stack up to a maximum of four – as indicated by the color of your zesty Zubaz – although you lose one each time you take damage.
With the red powerup, performing an attack leaves behind an image of Kirin, which mimics your attacks for a few seconds before disappearing. You can move around a bit to spread out your ghostly selves, or get up close to a boss and drop all of your copies for extra damage while you evade incoming attacks. If you grab a red powerup while you are already at your max, you’ll earn a damage and range bonus that lasts for several seconds, letting you deliver a quick death to any enemy you encounter.
The game features some impressive enemy and boss designs with lots of color and detail (but minimal animation), along with unique themes for each area, giving the game a lot of visual variety. You’ll encounter several cool spectacle enemies, including some towering mechanoids, segmented serpents, and rampaging vehicles. The game isn’t terribly fair with its onslaught of enemies that attack you from every direction, which is a stark reminder that it was originally designed to take as many quarters from you as possible. This is offset by the fact that you respawn on the spot (except in the final area), and you can spam your special attack to take out enemies and bosses in a pinch.
There are a few setpiece moments that evoke memories of Strider, including a couple of downhill chases where you gain momentum and perform a huge jump at the end. Several boss and miniboss encounters take place in enclosed spaces that you clamber around, and one even spins you around the room like the antigravity boss in Strider. While Strider was visually impressive for its time, the level of bombast on display here in terms of visuals, setpieces, and explosions-per-second outshines Capcom’s classic in every way.
Boss and miniboss encounters are spectacular overall, with lots of cool-looking contraptions to fight, and often requiring that you climb the walls – or climb the bosses themselves – in order to defeat them. There are some boss fights against regular people as well, and these take place in environments where you must move around a lot to chase them down while avoiding environmental hazards or mechanized defense systems. Boss encounters can be pretty tough, and while they don’t have overlong health bars, you do have to stay on your toes to avoid incoming attacks and projectiles, leading to a lot of strike-and-retreat fights.
With the updated version of the game, you have two options: play through with enhancements, rewinds, and save states to see what the whole game has to offer, or try to tough it out with limited lives (and a couple of enhancements to keep things from being completely unfair). Without enhancements, only the most hardcore players can expect to 1cc this game. For everyone else, it’s more of a historical tour of a game that they probably never played. For as cool as it is to see all the great enemy, boss, and environmental designs, the fact remains that this is very much a quarter muncher, so it’s not terribly compelling to replay once you’ve witnessed the spectacle and reached the end.

The original arcade game, known as Osman in the US and Cannon-Dancer in Japan, was developed by Mitchell Corporation, a company founded in 1960 and based in Suginami, Tokyo, Japan. The company went defunct in 2012.
Mitchell Corporation got into the video game business in the late 1980’s under the leadership of Roy Ozaki, acting as an overseas agent for other game companies, and also producing games of its own. The company originally focused on arcade releases before moving into development for Nintendo platforms, with the Puzz Loop and Buster Bros. series being their most recognizable works.
An updated version of the game, entitled Cannon Dancer - Osman, features numerous optional enhancements, including a double jump, invincibility modes, attack speed increases, save states, a rewind feature, and several display options. The game was published by ININ Games, who partnered with Osman game designer Kouichi Yotsui (Strider) and artist Utata Kiyoshi (Metal Storm, Little Samson) on this release. The studio previously published Ultracore, CrossCode, Turrican Flashback, Turrican Anthology Vol. I & II, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors, Jitsu Squad, and Pocky & Rocky Reshrined.