Back in the 90s, arcade action games were a big hit among gamers who frequently visited an arcade. Nowadays this kind of experience has gone nearly extinct, but many of the classic games from that era have received ports to modern-day hardware. Some have fared much better than others, with a select few going on to become beloved classics from the era, such as Strider from Capcom. But others haven’t aged, as is the case with Cannon Dancer, also known as Osman in the West. The recent port to the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox brings both versions of the game together for the first time, along with some extra features that retro game enthusiasts might appreciate. Though it might not be enough to make up for many of the archaic aspects of this forgotten action game.
Cannon Dancer is a game that is very similar to games like Strider since some of the team members that worked on that game also worked on this one. There are a lot of familiar characteristics here, from the setting and timeframe to the gameplay itself. The story of Cannon Dancer takes place in a dystopian future, where a martial arts specialist battles against an evil sorceress who wants to take over the world. With his fists and high kicks, he’ll have to smash his way through legions of bad guys to bring down a corrupt government and fend off assassins who want him dead. It’s about as 90s a plot as you can get for a video game made in that era, for better or worse.
Gameplay is pretty standard here. You move left to right on the screen, punching and kicking enemies that appear in your way. Your attacks aren’t as powerful as you think, so you’ll need to pick up power-ups that give you an attack boost and allow you to project a duplicate of yourself in areas you have passed through on the screen. All of this is fine, but the difficulty of the game is very frustrating. You can only take a few hits before losing a life, and you’re only allowed a small number of continues. You’ll definitely struggle to avoid attacks and do very little damage in return, only to get demolished by groups of enemies or super-powered bosses that take up much of the screen. None of this would be that bad if you could continue endlessly and keep trying to overcome each stage. But at some point things will get too overbearing and you’ll be sent back to the beginning of the game.
While the core gameplay of Cannon Dancer is what you expect, a straight-up arcade brawler with a very tilted difficulty, the release of the game is an entirely different package. Like most other retro game collections that revive old releases, Cannon Dancer comes with various enhancements that you can play around with. There’s the ability to use save states, a rewind feature, and various cheats and customization options for your controls and display. All of this helps immensely when you’re trying to get through to the end of the game and you’re not use to the difficulty curve of arcade titles. Many of these games were meant to eat up quarters, so their challenge can be very harsh. While having infinite credits and all of these features can give an edge to overcome this, many games like this don’t always age as well as they should.
The unfortunate part of this is rather confusing, however. All of the new features you can use come with the cost of disabling trophies and achievements. The only way to earn them is to play through the game’s Challenge Mode which sets things up as if you were playing in an arcade. You’re allowed to have two enhancements to use, such as a double jump and other kinds of perks, but everything else is off-limits.
While this helps with keeping the challenge of Cannon Dancer intact to some degree, it’s a real drag for anyone just playing the game for personal enjoyment. Many other retro collections or rereleases of classic games do not do this, and they allow you to still earn trophies and achievements. For some, this might seem like a way of preserving the true essence of what arcade games like this did back in the day, but in reality, it’s an archaic way of thinking for a rerelease on modern consoles.
What’s also disappointing is the lack of any other bonus features that come with Cannon Dancer. There are various wallpapers and display options to tinker with how the game looks, but there are no other features beyond that. No gallery to showcase any artwork or development notes, no look into the original arcade machine for Cannon Dancer, or anything else related. This is something this rerelease could have really benefitted from. As is, this is a meager package with a slim offering.
Cannon Dancer will only resonate with those who knew of this game’s existence beforehand. Its extra features aren’t enough to make the game more fun or interesting to play, and the lack of any other extra content is a big letdown. This is a very lean port of an arcade game, with not much for anyone that’s never heard of it before. If you didn’t play it back then, you probably won’t gain much if you skip over it now.
Did you get to play Cannon Dancer in arcades back in the day? Have you gotten to check out this rerelease of the game? Let us know in the comments and share your thoughts about it!
This game can be very difficult, enough to be very frustrating for some players. The overall package for this rerelease is very meager, lacking any extra content beyond the basic retro features. Trophies and achievements can be disabled if you decide to play outside the Challenge Mode, where you can use any of the new features. As is, this is only really for big fans of the original game.
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