Originally released back in 1996 as an arcade game by Mitchell Corporation, Cannon Dancer is a side-scrolling action platformer that is now making a return to modern consoles. The modern release of Cannon Dancer comes from ININ Games which has teamed up with the original team who worked on the original release of Cannon Dancer. After over 30 years, we are finally able to play this lost action platformer which was originally only released on arcade machines. Bringing its top-notch action, cool visual effects, and a solid soundtrack, Cannon Dancer is the perfect retro title for today. This is our review of Cannon Dancer in which we suplex some bosses and ride some waves while killing enemies.
Cannon Dancer follows the revenge journey of the lone assassin and a top-class agent called Kirin who is hired by an employer known as Jack Layzon. The game is set in the near 21st century and the world is currently under the control of a single corrupt government. Kirin is hired to get rid of the government and the impending threat of an evil sorceress, Abdullah the Slaver. Things do not work for Kirin as they are planned and after a huge betrayal, Kirin begins his journey to avenge everyone who did him wrong. The game features cool narrative cutscenes which tell you the story of the game with the help of text. Depending on your edition of the game, this will be either in Japanese or in English. Since there is no audio dialogue in the game, apart from the text in cutscenes, nothing much is different between the two versions of the game. Even the main menu is in English for the Japanese version of the game.
Cannon Dancer comes with fairly straightforward gameplay mechanics that you can learn after 5 minutes of your initial gameplay. You move around with the left joystick and you jump with the X key. You perform basic attacks with the Square key and you can land an ultimate attack with the Triangle key. ININ Games always adds a rewind function to its games and Cannon Dancer is no different. Pressing L2 rewinds the game and R2 fast-forwards the game so if you make a mistake, you can quickly rewind the game and try again to save a health bar. The UI is pretty straightforward as well with the top-left side of the screen showing most of your basic information like score, lives left and the time remaining for the level. Each level comes with a time and you have to complete the level within this time limit however some tasks give you bonus time as well such as defeating mini-bosses.
Cannon Dancer plays out like any other generic platformer where you move left and right and you can attack and land combos to kill incoming enemies. However, Cannon Dancer is not just left and right moving because the game also offers you plenty of climbing opportunities as well. You can jump on certain walls and push the up key to climb over them and move around walls. You can also hang from the roof and land attacks and this was one of the key mechanics that I used plenty in boss fights if I was able to use this mechanic. Some of the enemies also do not attack while you are in the air so hanging from the roof is a pretty neat mechanic that this game offers. Apart from this, you can also land some cool attack moves on your enemies like suplex and throws.
The overall attacking animations of Cannon Dancer are extremely fluid as well and I love the visual effects that happen while you are fighting. The game really hypes up the fight sequences with its special effects as key moves are left behind as your imprints which later come back to you as though you left a small part of yourself behind while landing that hit and it later joins you back. The level design is really cool as well as you fight enemies everywhere ranging from deserts to while riding on the waves and high in the air while riding giant swords. As I said earlier, Cannon Dancer does not hold behind when it comes to action and cool sequences. This is further made cooler by a dynamic soundtrack that changes the beat depending on the on-screen situations. Boss battles will switch the music high while laid-back sections will be much calmer.
Purchasing Cannon Dancer gives you access to both versions of the game, the original Japanese release Cannon Dancer or the English release called Osman. At the start of the game, you are given the option of choosing which version you want to play and you can pick whether you want the Japanese experience or the English experience of the game. Both Cannon Dancer and Osman are exactly the same game with just a different language. From this very same menu screen, you can choose different options for the game as well. You can always access this menu by pressing the touchpad on your DualShock 4 controller. While playing the game, you can save your state or even load from a previous state if you want to. This works as the save feature of the game since the original arcade release did not come with any sort of a save mechanic. This time around, you can save your progress and come back and resume whenever you like without any issues.
Apart from saving and loading, there are different enhancements and cheats if you want to make your game much more accessible than it already is because these arcade shooters were really tough and it might not be playable by modern players easily. You can pick between a Challenge Mode and a Standard Mode at the start to tailor your gameplay experience. If you choose the Standard Mode, you can further adjust the game mode with different enhancements like Invincible Jump or Invincible Slide and activate different cheats as well like Infinite Health, No Timer, and more. However, the game disables any sort of achievements or trophies in the Standard Mode. If you love trophy hunting, you will need to play Cannon Dancer in its Challenge Mode which is the original Cannon Dancer experience however you can still save the game and load saved states and you are allowed to choose two enhancements for your gameplay. Other than that, the game disables all cheats and other enhancements like cheat codes.
Apart from adjusting the gameplay, you can also play around with some retro visual filters before jumping into the game as well. Naturally, there is a CRT filter and you can play around with its settings to see how much the settings really affect the gameplay. You can also select a display ratio and scale filter to further customize the overall display settings of the game. Even if you do not do any of these settings while starting the game, you can access this menu at any time while playing the game and switch the visual display settings of the game according to your own liking. The same goes for enhancements and cheats. You do not have to restart the game in order to change the main game settings. After you have booted into the game, you are presented with the actual game menu which is straight from the arcade release of the game. You will be surprised to see the minimalistic options here and when compared to modern releases, how much freedom they give us when it comes to options and menu screens.
Cannon Dancer or Osman is one of the best retro games that I have played in recent years and if you check my reviews page, I have reviewed tons of retro games recently released on modern consoles. Cannon Dancer really comes with its own personality when it comes to controls and fighting action. The movement in Cannon Dancer feels more fluid and especially when you can climb on walls and move around them while hanging, you have the freedom that very few games actually give you from the same era. I love the fighting and movement special effects where the game leaves imprints of your actions on the screen and then they return to the body after some time. It looks really cool and I am glad to finally be able to play this lost gem.
Cannon Dancer on the PS4 is one of the best retro games that you can play today. Not only it features a unique fighting style but the movement is also pretty cool and gives you a sense of freedom as you move around walls and platforms while hanging from them. Both the audio and the visual design of the game really sets itself apart and I love them. Cannon Dancer also does not disappoint when it comes to action since there are a lot of different types of enemies and bosses. I like the fact that Cannon Dancer does not just give you a super-accessible and easy version of the original release to just skimp through it but also brings the original, much tougher arcade experience to modern consoles as well which really shows you how tough arcade players had it back then. If you love retro shooters and are loving the influx of retro-arcade titles to modern consoles, you must absolutely play Cannon Dancer because it is a completely different and unique experience. One that you should absolutely try.
Final Score: 9.5/10