Saturday, 6 September 2014

Osman (Arcade)

Osman arcade title screen
This week's game is... damn has it really been a entire week since my last article? Anyway this week's 'O' game is 1996 arcade platformer Osman (AKA. Cannon-Dancer in Japan).

It's a spiritual sequel to the legendary Strider created by the same director, Kouichi Yotsui, but without Capcom's involvement... and that's pretty much the sum total of what I know about the game, so I'm not entirely sure what to expect from it. I'm reasonably certain at least that I've never played it before (I've barely even played Strider), but this title screen is reminding me of Knuckles' Chaotix and I hate it when games do that.

(Warning, there's going to be a lot of animated gifs this time, and they're going to be massive. Well, they sure have a lot of frames anyway.)

Okay, that's how you do an arcade game attract screen.

It's got dramatic lightning, a submarine, swords turning into flaming horses, flaming horses turning into swords, random people sliding in from every direction, and a crying woman wearing CDs for earrings! How could anyone see that running and not want to dart over to the cabinet, throw in some coins, and hit start? If only to find out what it's actually about.

I love these little tutorials, especially when they save me from having to explain the game's controls.

I'm not sure if this guy is called Osman himself, but whoever he is, he's a well animated little protagonist. Better animated than he comes across here in fact, as I cut half the frames out to lower the file size; much like how he cut half his vest off to... I don't even know why. Maybe he just likes the backless look, combined with his baggy dragon pants and red sash.

In fact he really reminds of some other game character and I can't quite remember who. Gonna drive me crazy that is.

Okay, what we're apparently looking at here is our boss (Jack Layzon) giving us orders from his majestic bathroom, while a pair of mech troopers in shorts struggle to aim a plasma cannon at his head.
"Go! Save our people! Seek and destroy Abdulla the Slaver."
And with that our hero flies across the water to this gleaming futuristic metropolis, before splitting into five dudes and taking to the sky.


MONDAY. AGADAN---ON THE PERSIAN GULF.


The five clones land, reincorporate as one, and the mission is on.

Straight away I can tell you two things about the game: it looks fantastic and it's going to play a whole lot like Strider. Though Strider Hiryū carries a sword with him with the intent to murder everyone he sees, while this guy's apparently playing it Batman.

Seems like the armoured gentleman on the right has played enough video games to know how this is going to go down, as he's actually turned tail and ran away from me! His friends coming up behind on the other hand aren't so quick on the uptake; either that or they've got a ridiculous amount of guts.

Oh damn, that's a lot more spray than I expected! I can now officially confirm that yes, these two really did have a decent amount of guts.

These rapid fire kicks just obliterate anything in front of me; it really is Strider all over again.

I've only got three hit points though, so I'm playing it cautious: ducking under bullets and edging my way up to threats. I feel a bit guilty about what's about to happen to that guy cowering in the corner, but my kicks have a fair bit of range to them and there's no way I'm leaving that floating P container unopened.

Smashing open these P pods is getting me power ups like you'd expect, but not quite the power ups I expected. Every time I collect one of these red orbs my pants change colour, going from blue to purple to red to white etc. and each upgrade gets me a new shadow clone. These phantom doubles follow me around and mimic my moves, hopefully giving my attacks some extra kick.

Oh now I really do feel guilty; this poor guy is just trying to climb up the wall to get away from me. He makes it halfway up, slides back down, and then tries again. It must really suck to be a regular guy trapped in a surreal platformer level (on the other hand I bet Sonic the Hedgehog would love this place).

Me, I've got climbing gloves or hooks or whatever it is Slider uses, so I can get up curved walls and across ceilings with ease! I'm fully equipped to deal with whatever weird architecture this strange city can throw at me.

I can deal with it, but there's no way I'll ever understand it.

You can see my clones in action here, hanging around in the air long after I've surrendered to gravity to get a few extra hits in for me. You can also see magic butterflies, a six-wheeled limo straight out of Thunderbirds, and a really obvious cut near the end of the gif that I tried to hide. What you're watching here is 100% legit though, I really did beat this boss in a single try and I'm even more surprised about it than you are. I'm used to these things dragging on and on as I slowly erode their health bar, but this was over in seconds (and I've got a timer to prove it).


SOON.


Oh I see how it is. That easy fight was just a prelude to this next boss just a bit down the road. I walked onto the roof of a bank and suddenly these walls clamped into place around me and I was harassed by these four floating turrets. Lasers everywhere, from all directions! Even the diagonal ones!

Taking damage knocks me down to an earlier pants level, reducing my ability to inflict mayhem, but getting killed doesn't mean being kicked back to a previous checkpoint. In fact I lost a continue in this ambush and was still allowed to jump right back in mid-fight with my progress intact, so the challenge level seems pretty low unless you want to finish on a single credit.


AFTER THE FIGHT, A FEW STEPS DOWN THE ROAD:

Okay now the game's just taking the piss. It's put me against a gigantic mech with mining equipment duct taped to his arm right after the drone ambush! And I mean right after: these two screenshots are a screen's width apart.

Well I suppose I could learn his routine, discover his weak point and then masterfully and repeatedly dodge both his flamethrower and the fireballs he likes to spit out at me as I put my own plan into action...

...or I could hit the special attack button three times and take him down in 10 seconds.

I might as well, seeing I get all three 'fatal attacks' back whenever I lose a continue, and knowing me I'm likely going to be burning through the things.

STAGE CLEAR!

"Who dares to desecrate my sanctuary?"

Uh, what sanctuary? I was in a city 5 seconds ago, destroying security turrets and excavators. Who even ARE you? A goddess? A haunted statue? Abdulla the Slaver? The woman with the CD earrings in the intro?

Oh, oh, forget that crap... I just noticed that my guy's trousers are the same colour in these cutscenes as they were in gameplay. That's awesome. +500 points for attention to detail.

Stage two changes the gameplay a little, by bouncing me around these exploding platforms via diamond shaped jump pads. Fortunately the guy's nimble enough for air combat so frustration is kept to a minimum.

The game's definitely been made by people who understand that if you want a platformer to be fun, you've got to make the act of jumping around itself joyful.

Uh...

I've had the feeling this was meant to be kind of a parody game ever since I read a quote from the creator saying that it was, but this is the first time I've been certain of it. There's more text to just explain this short 'outrun the thing that's chasing you' sequence than they've given to the entire story so far. Thanks Osman, but I have played games from the 90s before, I understand the principles of a 'boulder chase' level.

Oh shit oh shit, the thing's chasing me!

I gotta stop trying to make sense of the artwork and focus on running! But the perspective on the truck so mesmerizingly weird...

Damn, that was such an awesome last-second somersault I did: I sailed right over the thing and let it slam into the wall next to me. There we go, it's wrecked now, I don't have to think about it anymore.

Oh shit, these are more those exploding platform blocks I'm standing on aren't they? I need to stop admiring the fireworks already and get my ass moving again.

Nope, too late, back to the truck chase.


A FEW PLATFORMS FURTHER:

Crap, this time I overshot a jump by the tiniest amount and couldn't pull him back in time. Now he's doomed to fall forever into an infinite abyss. Back to the truck chase again I guess.

Nope, the game has shown pity on me and put me back at the start of the exploding platform run this time. It really is surprisingly merciful, and I can't complain about the variety in gameplay either.

Well I can't complain about it having some variety anyway, but they've given me plenty of opportunities to whine about it being mostly a variety of different boss fights. Not that there's anything wrong with boss fights if you're into that kind of thing, I'm just... not.

Now, where did I put my special attack button?

Awesome, another great victory has earned me another cryptic cutscene. I've got my boss and his soldiers on one side, nuns on the other, and I'm not even sure which of them is talking any more.
"There is an uprising in our midst.
We must seek peace.
Get abdulla the Slaver.
Beware of his devout followers.
He has grown too strong.
Destroy him!"
And then Jack Layzon's soldiers go and blast me with their particle cannon. They shoot me, nuke me, then strand me in the desert. I'm feeling a little hurt and betrayed to be honest. But mostly confused.


TUESDAY. SOMEWHERE IN THE CABIL DESERT.

Alright then, that's that giant sand monster boss down. Next on my list is the treacherous git who put me here.

Though I'm starting to think I'm going to make room on my list for Donkey Kong as well. Spinning lightsaber laser traps and bouncing barrels? I didn't realise just how easy I had it earlier when the worst thing I had to worry about was a stray bullet or the platform exploding under my feet.

"You hinder my schemes.
I will teach you the proper manner of the deserts."
Man I wish I had any idea what Willf here is talking about. I hinder a lot of people's schemes, but I don't remember wrecking anything here in the desert besides a big ass sand monster and I'm pretty sure that thing was working alone.

Whatever, I'm just going to walk in there, hit the special attack button a few times, and then shove his Freddy Krueger glove up his ass.

Okay I'm just going to... I'm going to... ugh, where's Willf at? I want to throw up all over him.


EVENTUALLY.


I got him in the end, and then met up with my pirate buddies on their submarine!

The symbol on the conning tower is the same as on the banner in Jack Layzon's majestic bathroom, but that could mean anything at this point. I don't know who I am, who these guys are, who I'm fighting against, what I'm fighting for, who's good, who's evil...


WEDNESDAY. NEAR CHAGOS IN THE MIDST OF INDIAN OCEAN.

...but whatever, let's shoot, shoot, shoot while the shooting is good. These guys seem to know what they're doing at least.

AHA! They've changed the logo on the sub! I feel like I understand something for once. We're a band of daring rogues taking on the fleet of the faction that betrayed me, using one of their own submarines against them! Plus we're getting some clothes dry while we do it, because we're just that good.

Destroying ships with torpedoes is cool and everything, but I don't get why I have to be inside them while it happens. I'm being chased all around this sinking ship by this vindictive swarm of fire, across pits of fire, all the while being fired at by soldiers too dumb to abandon ship.

Not that all of them are sticking around to fight me. One guy was scrambling up the floor trying to reach an exit, but a 60 degree incline was more than the poor guy could manage. I felt like helping him out, but unfortunately I have only 'kill' buttons and no 'save' buttons. There is no special move for mercy.

Well look who I found hanging out next to the ship: it's glowing statue goddess woman, and her pet sword.
"Hey you, what are you doing here? Cast away like a rag? Do you want to kill?
Go ahead. I want to see the world destroyed."
I still don't know who she is, but I'm starting to get the feeling she's not on Jack's side. I didn't get a chance to answer her though, as the sword immediately carried me up into a fortress in the clouds.

Wow, I only just noticed how this shot makes it look like he's got a miniature version of himself perching on his shoulder like a pirate's parrot.
"Young man, how dare you fight without weapon!
Let's see you fight with your bare hands."
...says the guy who's clearly unarmed himself, which is a bit ironic considering his name. I'm not all that worried though; Cannons here may dress like the daytime version of Dracula, but I doubt I'll need a stake to finish him off.

Oh I see how it is: he brought a fucking mech to a fist fight! I suppose I should be grateful he's only sending it in two limbs at a time, but still this seems like cheating somehow. Not like I can talk, seeing as I'm just Fatal Attacking him to death without even trying.

There's really no good reason not to use the special move to skip boss fights like this, unless you're looking forward to fighting them fairly or you're just too good to lose continues and get them refilled.


THURSDAY. IN THE WOODS NEAR ALEPPO.

The character's standing on the ground, but her portrait comes down from the ceiling... okay then.
"You begged for your life, I see. You are already dead.
See if you remember where you got killed."
Uh? Is Tianon pulling some kind of Fist of the North Star style 'I killed you 20 seconds ago and you didn't even notice' thing on me here? Well I suppose our hero could also be a cyborg built using the body of a dead soldier... but that seems like a bit too much plot for this game.

Huh, she sucked me into a bronze sphere and turned everything sepia!

Oh hang on, I recognise this place now. This is where I fought Herio, the fire boss with his magic hands. You know, the place with the nuns where Jack Layzon betrayed me and sent me off to the desert. I'm still not 100% certain about what's going on here, but I reckon she's editing history somehow; she's retconning the boss fight so that she was in Herio's place and was able to defeat me.

Without any special attacks left I was forced to try to defeat her using skill, reflexes, and lots of a mid-air throw move that I do by hitting jump while off the ground. Sadly though she was able to catch my guy in her cape, spin him around and kick him to death.

I still had another life left though, and came right back with a full batch of specials to kill Tianon instead! Let's see how she likes that retcon.

No shit that wasn't in your scenario.

Unfortunately for Tianon this all means she's technically already dead, so time catches up to her and... boom.

At least that's my interpretation of what just happened here. I could of course be entirely wrong, and it's not like the game's going out of its way to explain anything at all. Seriously, I've been skipping through gameplay but I haven't missed out any dialogue or cutscenes; you're getting as much to work from as I am.

Speaking of time... check out that timer ticking down during dialogue.


FRIDAY. IN PRAGUE, THE CAPITAL OF THE FEDERATION.


Oh hey, look whose bathroom I've just broken into. Perhaps now I'll get some answers about what exactly is going on in this game.
"You----you have returned from the desert."
Yeah I noticed that too. Wait, that's all I get? I've made it all the way to the epic confrontation with the guy who betrayed me and left me chained up in a desert to die, and this is all I get? A fucking explanation would've been nice!

Come here you asshole! Come back here and get kicked in the face!

I... can't believe I just slipped off the balcony and let the floating sword steal my kill! This tragedy wouldn't have even happened if he'd hadn't cheaped out and only bought half a railing.

Well that's it, right? I've defeated the final boss and it's all over! Or not?

I guess not!

And now here I am in the street getting my ass kicked by a pair of pyromaniac twins, while assholes in futuristic sports cars try to bounce me off their hood. Seems like a good place to quit really, seeing as I've apparently run out of plot.

I feel like I really must be close to the end of the game now, but I never actually meant to finish the thing. I just wanted to show a bit of it off, but then all these animated gifs happened and I got carried away.

Osman continue screen
Oh wow, I was out of credits anyway. Such serendipity.

Here's another thing that I'm hoping is a joke: the helpful advice on the continue screen takes all 10 seconds to appear, so if you take the time to actually read it all you'll lose the game.

Osman game over screen
Like this!


CONCLUSION

Osman... makes no damn sense at all. The plot didn't quite survive the journey from Japan with its sanity intact, and even if it had the game still takes place in the world of 90s video games, where you can be fighting soldiers one second and tigers the next. And limos balanced on top of statues that fire off deadly energy butterflies the next.

The way the game respawns your character at the point where you died rather than kicking you back means that this is more of a ride than a challenge to overcome. I expect pretty much everyone has the skill needed to reach the final stage on this one as long as they keep feeding it credits, though I hear you're stuck with checkpoints from then on. On the other hand, a one credit run of this could kick anyone's ass. The game starts harsh and gets tougher, three hits and you're one life down, and those bosses aren't so trivial when you've no special attacks to spare.

I can't really share my opinion on the music, as I don't even remember it. It's just kind of there, doing its thing in the background without drawing attention to itself or trying to fire the player up, and it's a bit of a shame really as the visuals in this are fantastic. This is a real showcase for old school 2D pixel animation right at the time where everyone was keen to bury the style and move on to 3D and it's worth giving the game a look just to see it all in action.

I'm not saying the gameplay is bad mind you! This is a solid game, probably one of the best in its genre (that genre being 'Strider clone'). Not that I can back that up with any kind of serious analysis, as like I said, the game's a ride. You're flying around the next corner before you have time to really dwell on what got you there, and the respawn system takes all the sting out of deaths, bullshit or otherwise.

I'm not sure I have the patience to ever play it to the end, as it's a bit on the mindless side, but I'd give this another go for sure. So it gets a shiny star:

If you'd like to share your thoughts about Osman/Cannon Dancer, pass judgement upon my website, or help me out and tell me what Osman's outfit is reminding me of, then you can leave a comment right here, right now.

11 comments:

  1. From what I remember I think you were on the final level before you gave up.

    The outfit reminds me a little of Fei Long from Super Street Fighter II and a little of Mega Drive Aladdin, but that's the baggy trousers.

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  2. Damn this is a good looking game.

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  3. Got fixed plans for "Q" yet? Have you maybe considered moving further up in Quake series? (Quake 4 I presume, as Quake III seems to me too multiplayer centric for your style of blog?) I think it could provide fresh change.

    Also, no hint box this time? What a tease. :)

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    Replies
    1. There's no hint box this time because we're entering a Zone of Mystery, where not even I know what's coming next. I'm taking a bit of a break from the site and dialling the pace down to recharge my enthusiasm and try to rediscover my obsession with classic games, so I've got nothing written up for next week yet.

      I can promise you one thing though: I won't be playing Quake III Arena because it's too multiplayer centric for my style... but Quake IV is on its way for certain. Any further up in the Quake series and stuck I'm waiting on id I'm afraid.

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  4. Only games that start with Q that I can think of are Quake 1-4 and Q-bert

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    Replies
    1. Qix, Quartet, A Question of Sport, the Questprobe series, the Questron series, Qwak.

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    2. Yeah it's not a great selection. Fortunately I've been incredibly lazy/distracted/etc. these past few weeks so I've fallen massively behind schedule and therefore have a great excuse to drop most of the Q games I was going to play in order to get back on track.

      Though I do have one 'Q' game in mind which isn't on your lists...

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  5. Well, this game has a lot of style... and madness. I bet a very cool surreal action film might've been made with it.

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    1. I'd pity the poor screenwriter stuck trying to work out what the plot is (if only so he can be sure that his own story has nothing to do with it).

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  6. > The plot didn't quite survive the journey from Japan with its sanity intact

    You cannot experience Japanese stuff and return unscathed.

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  7. You should all really be checking out Arcade Odyssey in Miami, We currently have ythe Osman Arcade game on the floor!!! in fact I have put out almost all of these Mitchell games out in the past, I built the Arcade to promote super rare classics such as these, but unfortunately they get very little love down here in Florida, Someone was mentioning outfoxies, awesome game, great concept, but I just took that out a couple of months ago, no one was playing it , just like Osman, they might get 1 play a day if that. you can check us out at www.facebook.com/arcadeodyssey or if you want to see all the games I have put out on the floor and already removed because of lack of play you can see them here https://www.facebook.com/arcadeodyssey/posts/677250019017151 , it is a shame there are not more gamers that appreciate incredible titles like this around here.

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Semi-Random Game Box