Osman
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Arcade
  • Developer:
    • Mitchell
  • Publishers:
    • Mitchell
    • JP Atlus
  • Released:
    • February 1996
Score: 85%

This review was published on 07/16/2017.

Osman, known in Japan as Cannon Dancer, is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by the Mitchell Corporation. It was exclusively released as a coin operated arcade game in February 1996. This game is an unofficial spiritual successor to Strider, a popular arcade game by Capcom that originally came out in 1989. Much of the development staff that worked on the original Strider left Capcom sometime after the game's release, including the game's director, Kouichi Yotsui, who was credited as Isuke at the time. After leaving, many of these ex-Capcom staff joined the Mitchel Corporation and ended up working on Osman, which was also directed by Yotsui. It's for this reason that Osman plays like a long lost sequel to Strider, despite not being officially related to it in any way. Supposedly, the game's odd plot makes fun of Yotsui's experience at Capcom after the development of Strider. Unfortunately, Osman never reached the success or acclaim of Strider. That's a right shame, because it's arguably better than Strider and one of the greatest action games of all time.

Image

Sometime during the late 21st century, a single federal government ruled the whole world. One day, a new threat suddenly takes the world by storm in the form of a sorceress named Abdullah the Slaver. Her name implies that she enslaves people, or something, and that's probably pretty bad. The appearance of this terrifying threat caused widespread panic across the globe, freezing all economic activity. Meanwhile, the world's sole government became extremely corrupt, censoring dissenting viewpoints in the name of false freedom. Judicial Affairs Director, Jack Layzon, decides to hire a lone assassin to take out the wicked sorceress. The assassin in question is none other than the titular Osman, who's named Kirin in the Japanese version. This premise is similar to Strider, which involved a lone assassin on a mission to assassinate an evil sorcerer-like dictator that had taken over the world. Unlike Strider, however, the story to Osman is kind of wacky, featuring countless nonsensical twists along the way. Its wackiness is strangely endearing, though.

Image

Many things about this game are great, and the graphics are one of them. It only takes a cursory glance at any one of the game's many screens to see that visual excellence in action. The backgrounds and foregrounds are loaded with intricate details, plus everything is displayed in a resolution that was relatively high for the time. Sprites are gargantuan and loaded with just as much detail, featuring some extremely advanced animation. Some examples of this sophisticated animation include enemy soldiers that cower in fear when in the presence of the protagonist, and how many enemies burst into gratuitous streams of blood when slain. The color palette is also positively out of this world, with just about every environment consisting of a carnival of color. Honestly, the sole issue with the visual design is that it's a bit too busy, filling the screen with so many colors and detail that it's sometimes hard to keep track of what's going on. Other than that, Osman seriously has some of the best 2-D graphics of any game ever.

Image

One thing that doesn't work in this game's favor is its music. The whole soundtrack is too low energy to properly portray the explosive action that occurs in the game. First of all, the volume of the music is quite low, especially when contrasted with the sound effects. Secondly, a lot of the tracks simply don't match what's happening on the screen at the time. You'll immediately notice this upon listening to the first track in the opening stage, which sounds like relaxing elevator music despite the fact that you're mounting an assault on enemy territory. Whenever the music isn't boring, it's downright weird. There's a track some ways into the game that sounds like a bad digitized take on reggae. On top of not fitting the game, none of the music is memorable. The sound effects are fine, but the music definitely pales in comparison to the likes of Strider. Everything else about Osman is fantastic, so it's odd that the music ended up being so mediocre.

Image

You control the titular Osman as he furiously beats down whatever's in his path. If you've played Strider, then this game should feel familiar to you. Like Hiryu from Strider, Osman can stride, jump, crouch, and attack. He also has access to Hiryu's baseball slide move, which is executed much in the same way by pressing the jump button while holding down. If the attack button is pressed during Osman's slide, he'll be able to damage enemies, and pressing the jump button while sliding lets him throw enemies. Additionally, Osman has Hiryu's ability to smoothly climb any wall or ceiling, no matter how curvaceous they may be. Unlike Hiryu, Osman is completely unarmed, so all his attacks involve punching and kicking. That's not to say that he's any weaker, though, because he's able to punch and kick robots to bits. He's even able to suplex some enemies by pressing the jump button near them while in the air. Something else Osman has at his disposal that Hiryu didn't is a super special attack that does massive damage to everything on the screen, but this can only be used a limited amount of times. At any rate, the controls in Osman are even smoother than in Strider, which were already super smooth.

Image

Throughout your adventure, you'll find floating canisters that reveal power-ups when broken open. There are the usual power-ups that restore varying amounts of Osman's health, in addition to ones that permanently increase his maximum life gauge by one point. The main power-ups you'll be getting are the ones that enhance Osman's offensive capabilities, however. Similar to Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, these power-ups give Osman phantom doppelgangers that mimic his every attack on a slight delay. Like the phantom clones in that game, Osman's shadowy mimics are immune to enemies, but are able to damage them just fine. Gathering more of the same power-up adds more phantom doubles to Osman's entourage, allowing for a maximum of four clones. Getting one more of these power-ups once four clones are present will dramatically increase Osman's attack power and range, making his punches and kicks slice the air like blades. Sadly, this power and range boost only lasts a short while before going away. Further, Osman loses a clone whenever he's hit. Still, these power-ups are all very useful.

Image

There aren't very many stages, but they're all very good. You begin in a futuristic city just like in Strider, but will eventually come across a blazing hot desert, a dangerous mine, a battleship on the high seas, a forest with a flowing river, and more. Each stage is filled to the brim with tough enemies, such as soldiers, robots, tigers, mutant dragons, and just about everything else. As with Strider, the game is littered with interesting set pieces, like a segment where a giant truck chases you down a sloping building. All stages also contain multiple bosses, all of which are cool. There's a giant robot armed with a buzzsaw, a man made of flame, and a boss that fights Osman in an anti-gravity chamber reminiscent of the ones from Strider that causes both of them to continuously orbit around the room. In other words, every stage is like a rollercoaster ride of awesome.

Image

Besides the lackluster music, another issue the game suffers from is its insanely high level of difficulty. Strider was certainly no walk in the park, but Osman's difficulty puts it to shame. Later stages often overwhelm you with more enemies than you can handle, and almost every boss is unreasonably tough. When not powered up, Osman's attacks only do chip damage to a boss' life bar, making boss battles that much tougher. As a result of that, you'll likely be relying almost entirely on special attacks to get through most of the game, as not only do they clear the screen of enemies, but they also inflict major damage to bosses. You only get three special attacks per life, but since you usually continue from where you last died, it's possible to cheese the game by purposely dying and spamming special attacks. Of course, if you were playing the game at an actual arcade machine, that'd involve pumping in plenty of coins. Either way, the game is a bit too hard for its own good.

Image

If you like Strider, then Osman should be right up your alley. In fact, even if you don't like Strider, you should still consider trying this game out, because it's really good. Actually, it's better than really good. Awesome is the perfect word to describe Osman. That awesomeness is delivered to you at a lightning fast pace, never ceasing until the game is over. It definitely looks awesome, too. Aside from the mundane music and over-the-top difficulty, this game does no wrong. Osman is one of the best games nobody knows about.

Word Count: 1,518

Tweet