Osman, known as Cannon-Dancer (キャノンダンサー) in Japanese, is a 2D side-scrolling game developed by Mitchell Corp. and designed by Kouichi "Isuke" Yotsui. As Isuke's second action platform title it was heavily inspired by Strider, to the point it was called "Strider Hiryu Part 2" among some of its staff. Yotsui himself considers it an "irregular" sequel and has called it "[his] Strider 2".
The player controls a martial arts mercenary named Kirin as he travels and journeys through six stages set in exotic locations, facing obstacles and a large number of enemies in order to reach the end of the stage and defeat a boss character.
Osman is set in the near future in a world governed by a single ruling entity known as the "Federation" or "Federal Government", an overbearing capitalist government who oppresses its people in the name of "freedom". The game stars Kirin, a top class agent in a mercenary unit known as "Teki", whose members train and offer their skills as "weapons" for hire.
Kirin is hired by Federal attorney general Jack Layzon to rid and save one of his cities from a terrorist-leaning cult named "Slaver", who worships a "God without Shape". Kirin infiltrates the city in the midst of the night and makes his way across until he reaches the cult's main temple. Once inside, however, Layzon suddenly appears with a huge police force and, using all the disturbance caused by Kirin as a legal excuse, has the cultists arrested. Having no further use for Kirin, Layzon betrays him via the police force suddenly attacking Kirin without any warning and leaves him to die in a scorching desert by way of Kirin being chained to a large rock formation.
Kirin, however, manages to survive by using his inner strength to break free from his chained imprisonment and starts moving with a single goal in mind: getting revenge against Layzon. As he travels toward the Federal Capital in Prague, he has to face not only the government forces, but also the other three members of the Teki who want him dead for personal reasons. Kirin also attracts the attention of the goddess Slaver, who shows special interest in him and his quest for revenge for her own mysterious reasons.
The gameplay is directly inspired by the original Strider, featuring the same freedom of movement and agility, ability to climb through any surface and attack methods, while introducing new elements and offensive options.
Osman features an eight-way joystick and three buttons, "A" to attack, "B" to jump and "C" to activate a screen-clearing attack. Kirin moves and controls very much like Hiryu, being able to jump and perform long somersaults at any angle and direction. He's capable of sticking and climbing through any surface just like Hiryu, although without the need of a climbing tool. Kirin can move freely across any surface and by pressing up while under a platform, flip himself up onto its top. Kirin can also start sprinting then running by holding forward, required during certain areas where he must outrun an obstacle or jump across distances.
Kirin's health, much like Hiryu's, is represented as a three-unit lifebar positioned at the top left of the screen, with each unit taking one instance of damage. Above the bar stands the player's score, while the number of lives are marked below next to a "P". Time remaining to complete the current section of a stage is shown at the top center of the screen. Finally, three red squares with a white "S" at the bottom left indicate the stock for Kirin's special attack.
Unlike Hiryu, Kirin fights entirely barehanded. Pressing the attack button makes him perform both roundhouse kicks and punches in rapid succession. Kirin can strike while standing, crouching, jumping or even climbing as well. Besides his basic attack, Kirin has access to a variety of melee techniques:
- Sliding (スライディング): Indentical to Hiryu's slide, Kirin can also perform a sliding kick by holding down and pressing the jump button. This technique is harmless to enemies unless the attack button is pressed while sliding, allowing it to damage or kill enemies on contact.
- Throws: Kirin can perform throw techniques only on human-sized characters. He has two throws, for ground and air-based enemies:
- Gleaning (落ち穂拾い): Pressing the jump button while sliding into an enemy makes Kirin grab them, spin around and then violently throw them forward. This can also kill anyone in the thrown enemy's path.
- Crocodile Body Drop (鰐掛け): Pressing the jump button while jumping into an enemy makes Kirin grab them, push them down with him and land head-first into the ground.
- Shredding Dance (キザミ舞い): Pressing down, up or back while mashing the attack button makes Kirin perform a three-punch combination. The attack is stronger than the basic kicks but is difficult to use properly.
- Kirin Star Festival (麒麟星祭り): Kirin's special attack which kills all enemies on-screen and severely damages bosses. Once activated, Kirin performs several attacks while drawing a five-pointed star and leaving a copy of himself at each tip, then all images fly at the center of the screen for a final strike. Kirin has only three uses and they can only be restored after dying and respawning.
Osman features a total of six stages set in different, exotic locations. Stages 1 and 2 are set in the "Gulf City of Gran" (Agadan in English), a futuristic middle-eastern city under terrorist control. The third stage is set in the "Fire Desert of Bafua" (Cabil) and its underground mining complex. Fourth stage happens across the "Ruthless Indian Ocean" as Kirin sinks an enemy warship. Fifth stage is divided in two parts: first in the "Forest of Memory" (woods near Aleppo), a mysterious place where the past and present intertwine; then in the "Federal Capital City of Prague", seat of the government. Most of the final stage happens in a hellish location around the Arctic and ends in the Heliosphere where the final boss is fought.
The third stage features two instances where the path branches out in 3 and 2 choices, respectively. The choices here determine in which order the three members of Teki are faced as the 3rd, 4th and 5th bosses. In the Japanese original each Teki have unique dialogues for each scenario, but the English version changed them to a single line for each Teki to say when faced in the 3rd and 4th stages and the same shared line for the 5th.
Unlike Strider, all stages but the final have no checkpoint areas and Kirin respawns on the spot where he was last killed. For the final stage this is altered so Kirin is send to predetermined checkpoints when killed, noticeably amping up the difficulty for the game's last stretch.
There are four colored capsules spread throughout the stages, encased in flying containers: Yellow increases Kirin's health by one unit (for a max of 4), Green restores a single unit of health, Blue restores all units of health and Red increases Kirin's abilities up to 4 times, indicated by the color of his pants (with blue being the initial/no upgrades color):
|First power-up changes his pants to purple, allowing Kirin to generate an energy double of himself when he attacks. This double is set in the exact spot Kirin does the attack, and it performs non-upgraded attacks in synchrony with Kirin. After a short time, the double flies back and merges with Kirin.|
|Second power-up changes his pants to red and allows him to place two doubles in quick succession.|
|Third power-up changes his pants to white and allows him to place four doubles in quick succession.|
|Fourth and final power-up changes his pants to black and allows him to create blades of energy with each kick, extending his melee range. Unlike the other power-ups, this one lasts a limited set of time before Kirin reverts to white.|
Each time Kirin is hit he reverts to the previous power-up. An important element of gameplay is to know how and where to position the doubles to better strike at difficult enemies and large bosses.
Connections to Strider
As a direct follow-up action game by Yotsui, Osman carries plenty of similar concepts and ideas in its backstory and gameplay to Strider, creating subtle connections between them. Such connections to both games would be further expanded up in Yotsui's third action game, Moon Diver.
- Kirin looks similar and shares many background elements with Hiryu. Most notably, his long ponytail and colorful uniform makes him resemble Hiryu's appearance at the beginning of the manga.
- Kirin's final power-up lets him create blades of energy with each kick he performs, an ability very similar to the one used by Tong Pooh and her sisters. This was intentional according to Isuke, who designed Kirin as being actually related to the "Tong Pooh Tribe" as either a member of their tribe or a neighboring one, making an indirect connection between the two games.
- Tianon is also able to create blades of energy, although much larger than Kirin's and with any of her limbs. It's unknown if she has any actual connection with either Kirin or his "tribe".
- Final boss Slaver is thematically the opposite of Grandmaster Meio: Meio is a male god-like being with a moon motif, capable of creating life on the spot, who wants to exterminate humanity and create a new race that'd worship him as their Creator. Slaver is a female self-proclaimed goddess with a sun motif, the ability to grant life to the deceased, and has followers and a whole cult worshipping her already.
- The purple eye-like symbol on Slaver's chest resembles a similar purple half-open eye symbol featured in Novo's room in the final stage.
- Kirin's mercenary unit "Teki" is stated to have inherited the mystic arts of the ninja, mirroring a similar statement done about the Striders being descendants of the ninja.
- The basic enemy soldiers look similar to the Balrog Marine Corps and attack like the Russian Infantryman, shooting from afar and hitting with their guns up-close. In some instances, some of these soldiers will crouch down and cover themselves in fear of Kirin, similar to how some infantrymen would fall back and crawl away when in front of Hiryu.
- One early enemy machine is a small robot with spider legs and a laser beam weapon, making him a nimbler version of the clunky Mosqueman robots.
- Another early enemy is a set of small, round flying turrets that come in large numbers, making them very similar to the Hit Mouse enemy.
- The "T-Tank", a stationary turret enemy found in the Prague stage, behaves identical to the Shadow Tag Bullets Soldier, constantly shooting at Kirin's direction in a straight line as soon as he enters its range. As an upgrade of the original enemy, however, the T-Tank features two lines of fire instead of one.
- According to concept art, an "Anti-Gravity Device" is located on the bottom half of the "Guardian" enemy (large floating heads), allowing them to float. This device is named identical to the Anti-Gravity Device from Strider, which allows the Balrog to fly.
- The basic story setting for Osman was seemingly adapted from an early scenario draft written by Isuke for Strider. The draft very briefly touches on events following Meio’s defeat, including Western powers taking over the world and establishing a more ruthless operation, the advent of a “fake god” called “Slave Driver” infiltrating a city and the secret feud of the Teki group. The Teki are also referenced early on as a clan from ancient China theorized to have branched off the Striders' ancestors at some point.
- The setting of the first two stages is a futuristic middle-eastern city with a similar atmosphere to the futuristic Russian city featured in Strider.
- Near the end of the first stage Kirin ascends the oval-shaped rooftop of the "Nozawa Bank" and is confronted by two flying robots, mirroring a similar event near the end of St. Petersburg where Hiryu climbs the oval-shaped rooftop of the Grand Mosque and is ambushed by several flying robots.
- The oft-remembered "big run" scene from Siberia is recreated during the 2nd stage, which sees Kirin running down a steep incline while pursued by a large truck and having to do a last second jump in the end to avoid dying.
- The end of the 4th stage has Kirin fighting one of the Teki atop a bizarre flying machine not unlike the Sky Thunder Mk-II at the end of Siberia where he faces the Kuniang sisters.
- The 3rd and 5th stages feature a large mineral rock called "Flying Ore" (飛鉱石), a special ore capable of creating a gravity force which forces Kirin to orbit around them. This is done in identical fashion to how the Anti-Gravity Device captures Hiryu in its own orbit.
- Cannon-Dancer is actually the second Strider-like video game licensed to Atlus for its Japanese release: three years prior in 1993 Atlus published Run Saber, an action platform video game best known for its strong resemblance to Strider, although its Japanese release was ultimately cancelled.
- As said by director Takayuki Nakayama, in addition to all the nods and references to Hiryu and the Strider series, the Street Fighter V newcomer Zeku also adopts references to Osman as a way to "pay respect" to the game, recognizing it as a spiritual successor of Strider. This includes nods in Zeku's young appearance and in techniques named after Kirin and Teki, among others.
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