Strider was a true classic when released in arcades by Capcom and thanks to well-received follow-ups ( the ones Capcom made anyways), developed into a decent franchise. But what happens when the director of the original game, Kouichi “Isuke” Yotsui, and many other developers of the original game create a spiritual sequel inspired by their time working on the game? The result is Cannon Dancer, also known as Osman, a game that has never received a home release, until now that is.

But what is Cannon Dancer/Osman exactly? Well, the answer to that question is….a very weird take on Strider. The game very clearly shows its inspiration, while going for a Middle Eastern flavour, but still feeling familiar to those who played Strider.  You take control of Kirin, whose adventure is patterned after Strider Hiryu’s but diverges in interesting ways.

As Kirin, you will find numerous power-ups along the way that will give abilities like creating body doubles of Kirin to attack enemies more, and also find more health for yourself. Kirin is more acrobatic than Strider Hiryu but still functions in a similar manner. What may throw you off though is the method of jumping to higher areas by hitting certain objects. This is simple to catch onto but can be a little frustrating at first glance.

Cannon Dancer/Osman is definitely fun, but wow is it weird. A lot of the game’s narrative is slightly changed from the Japanese version ( also included here), but both versions are a bit strange in terms of storytelling. This is not a bad thing though, as the game really takes advantage of the video game medium to tell a story that is out there.

No spoilers will be given for the plot of the game ( for what plot is mentioned within), but those who are aware of what Kouichi “Isuke” Yotsui and the rest of the team went through when making Strider, will notice a few instances of the developers using the story to take shots at their former employer.  This is not a complaint by any means and the bonkers nature of the game makes it an extremely enjoyable experience. One minute you will be doing acrobatics while taking out enemy soldiers, the next you will be taking on massive mechs. There is even a surfing level of sorts, that will see you fighting off enemies in a very Strider-esque take on the levels from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time and The Manhattan Project.

Cannon Dancer/Osman has some very inventive boss fights and while you can breeze through by pumping in credits and spamming your special move, this release does something interesting. There are two modes available, including a casual mode which is how the game was originally played, and a challenge mode. Challenge mode gives you a limited number of lives and continues, and forces you to play much more strategically, which is a very nice addition.

As with many modern retro game releases that Ratalaika worked on, this release comes with a number of bonus options including a rewind feature and optional cheats to use. But while you can use as many cheats as you want in casual mode, challenge mode limits you to two. And this limitation includes two increases of lives and continues, which means that if you choose those, you can not choose any other ways of making the game easier.

I found myself confused a bit with Cannon Dancer/Osman due to how weird the game can be, but overall, the game lived up to its reputation as an amazing arcade game. It is good to see this get a wide release finally, as this is a game that has long deserved a bigger audience. Who knows, maybe we will see modern sequels to this sometime soon?

Disclaimer: A review key was provided