Thanks to ININ Games for the review code
Title: Cannon Dancer – OSMAN
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 04/13/2023
Playing as the hired assassin Kirin, things get off the rails when you’re betrayed, and must fight your way back to discover the true desires of the man who hired you, and a strange, spiritual figure guiding you on your quest. For an arcade game, there’s a decent amount of plot crammed into such a short adventure, and while most of it doesn’t make too much sense, it at least manages to be pretty memorable during the time you spend with it. This game had contributions by some of the staff on Strider, and the game definitely has a lot of similar vibes.
Per the usual norm from ININ, this is a Ratalaika port, with the same handy screen size options and CRT filter as usual, plus the option of toggling a border on or off. There’s no bonus content, gallery, art, or anything of that nature, so it’s just the usual wrapper and the core game.
Despite being a mid 90’s Arcade game, Osman looks like a typical 16-bit title. There’s next to nothing in terms of impressive effects or visuals, and the stages, while taking place in various locales, are all pretty cookie cutter visually. Some of the bosses are pretty neat looking, but a good chunk of them are just generic henchmen for the main antagonist, and outside of one cool moment where you’re taken back in time by one of them, they don’t do anything to impress either.
Even the soundtrack is lackluster, but not due to bad porting or anything. No, it’s emulated properly, the audio is just incredibly tinny and dull sounding, with a lot of the stage themes giving me vibes of a Galeco game, of all things. On the bright side, the boss theme excels with the limited sound hardware, and is a pretty awesome song to accompany the fights.
In terms of modes or bonuses available outside of the core game, you have hardly any to speak of; you get the two regional versions of the game, and menus to toggle on enhancements (features such as invincibility while attacking/jumping/etc, and a rapid fire attack) cheats (invincibility from all but pits, infinite super moves, etc) and a “challenge mode” we’ll get into a bit later. There are no other modes or options outside of control rebindings, meaning you cannot adjust the dip switches in any way. Like recent Ratalaika ports, you also have rewind/fast forward to mess with, along with save states.
Starting up the game, and you get thrown right into the action. You have a simple jump and attack combo, with an extra button for using one of your limited amount of super techniques, a powerful attack that clears every normal enemy on screen and shreds through boss HP, and you start off with three per life. Like Strider, you move fast and attack swiftly, even sporting a cool slide, and it really feels great in the first few stages, for you’ll be able to tear through the levels in no time at all, even with little practice. If you have the rapid fire on, it becomes pretty ridiculous how much of a killing machine Kirin can become, for he devastates foes with ease.
Once clearing the first few stages, you’ll then be tossed into a pretty simple loop: the day advances, Kirin wanders to another location, fights foes, and then moves onto the next day to repeat until he’s back to his master for a final encounter. The stages are all super short, and in fact the entire game is just around 20 minutes long, with it being able to get cut down once you know what you’re doing.
Of course, this wouldn’t be an Arcade game without attempts to roadblock you and take more quarters, so those final two stages get ludicrous with enemy attack patterns, with the final stage even putting in some harsh checkpoints that force you to redo part of a small boss rush if you mess up near the end. Still, credit feeding or not, once you know how to counter and speed through the stages, Osman can be a fun breezy romp, and the sense of speed really makes me wish there was some sort of speedrun leaderboard mode for this game, as I can absolutely see this title being a perfect fit for Caravan purposes.
Sadly, there are no bonus modes outside of the challenge mode, and that includes the total lack of any sort of online leaderboard, a huge shame considering this game does have scorechasing aspects to it, but at least you can still save on the local scoreboard via save states. The lack of DIP Switches doesn’t help this port either. So, what is the Challenge Mode, and does it make up for feature omissions? Well, like in some other Ratalaika ports like Turrican and Cotton 100%, this is basically the 1CC mode where you play the game raw without states or rewinds, except for some bizarre reason, you are allowed to turn on two enhancements before starting this mode, meaning you can just enable a 9 credit mode or rapid fire + invincible attack and completely change the difficulty of this mode, with no real incentive or reward for doing so outside of trophies on the PS4 version. Here on Switch, without achievements? Yeah, there’s no point to playing this mode even if you go for a true 1CC attempt, since there’s not any sort of leaderboards or tracking to indicate how well you did. The only real incentive to playing Osman again after beating the game, is to fool with cheats or challenge yourself.
So… You get a fine emulation of a fun, niche arcade gem, and a worthless challenge mode only really valuable if you’re a trophy hunter on PS4. Compared to other recent ports like anything Arcade Archives puts out, or even the recent Valken port, this is beyond pitiful considering how this port of Osman is at a $30 MSRP, even on the eShop! With not even so much as a bonus gallery or extra games/DIP Switches, (this could have easily been a Mitchell Collection for this value) the 20 minute experience is what you’ll get, and well, that’s a pretty sad state of affairs considering how Ratalaika’s own Avenging Spirit port even got DIP Switches right for far less money.
Ultimately, Osman is yet another basic Ratalaika port, and yet another that isn’t consistent to the sort of quality from their other releases, made for a terrible value. You have a decent arcade title here that’s a quick, fun play, but for an obscene $30 pricetag, the lack of DIP Switches, bonus material, leaderboards, or really anything besides a basic challenge mode and some cheat toggles makes this such a shallow experience I’m still in shock that they went through with such a high price point, especially with more packed offerings being put out for way less, even from Ratalaika themselves!
If at the end of the day, your main goal is to play Osman on Switch with no hassle, then this port will do that fine with great accuracy, and it’s a solid way to celebrate the game finally coming home But compared to the Arcade Archives series, the Avenging Spirit reissue, or the recent bonus-packed port of Valken, Osman is an abysmal value, and I can only assume the crazy price is for semi-parity with the physical release made for collector bait purposes, and while Osman may be an enticing pickup in that format, here on Switch it just is a brief game you’ll blaze through, with little replay value.
Not a bad port job, but horrible in value, so much so to the point I can only in earnest recommend this at a steep discount or if you are that desperate for a physical edition. The fact they couldn’t even throw in as much as a scanned flyer in-game speaks volumes.
I give Cannon Dancer – OSMAN a 4 out of 10.