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Strider Returns
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Run Saber
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[Rip-off] Run Saber - SNES (1993)

American Cover

A little known platformer for the Super Nintendo known as Run Saber went under the radar when it was released. Perhaps its obscurity is for the best, as Capcom could have sued Atlus for veritable gameplay bootlegging. Run Saber plays a lot like the Strider games, which probably explains why it's such a fine game. In Run Saber, crazy scientist Gordon Bruford mutates himself with a big load of radiation and creates a lot of mutants minions. Other scientists team up for the Run Saber project in order to create super soldiers to foil Bruford's plan for world domination. One of the Sabers, Kurtz, becomes defective and runs off in a state of homicidal insanity. The remaining Sabers, Allen and Sheena, are sent into the fray to stop Kurtz and Bruford. Not the most original of plotlines, but who cares about the plot just as long as we can slash us some mutants? There will be plenty of that.

The flow and control of the gameplay is very similar to the first Strider game. As a matter of fact, not unlike Hiryu's arcade debut, Run Saber pits the player against five stages of action. Thankfully, they're all a bit longer than the average Strider stage, and the game does not end as quickly. The first level is fought at the Taj Base, a military stronghold overrun by Bruford's mutants. Tong City is next on the map, a futuristic-type Chinatown area that sets the stage for the first battle against Kurtz. Taking a break from the industrial overtones of the game, stage three is set in Jod Valley, where the wrath of nature (and the occasional giant missile) ravages the heroes. After that is the oddly-titled Grey Fac, where falling gears and conveyor belts await, as well as a rematch with Kurtz. Finally, the player stumbles upon the mysterious hideout of Bruford, which is a very typical Giger-esque final stage that wouldn't look too out of place in a Contra game.

The graphics are reasonably good for a Super Nintendo game released around the middle of its lifespan. The use of colors in this game are a bit dull at times, but that compliments the atmosphere, which is that of a bleak, post-apocalyptic, industrialized Earth. They're nothing exceptional, but they are more than adequate. A fine example of Mode 7 is displayed in the first boss fight, which takes place on a stealth jet that has baddies popping out of its very metal, and in the middle of it all itsomersaults, forcing the heroes to hold on for dear life! After destroying the last beast on the jet, it twists around in the background before exploding. Sadly, Mode 7 is only displayed here, on the third stage boss, and the map sequences in between stages. The graphics overall could have been better, but as they stand, they're good enough for the SNES.

The sound isn't too shabby, either, even though like the graphics, it's nothing special. The first level music sets the tone for the rest of the game with a fast-paced beat that gears up for asskicking. Another great tune plays in Jod Valley, which is a primal rhythm that suits the jungle atmosphere given by the stage design. The sound effects are pretty good too, with typical slashes and explosions, as well as yells and growls from some of the characters. Once again, nothing mindblowing, but good for SNES standards.

As implied before, the gameplay is a dead ringer for the arcade Strider game, but it improves on the original in several areas. For starters, there's the choice to play as either Allen (who has the horizontally-slashing Thunder Saber), or Sheena (who has the vertically-slicing Ice Saber). They both walk at a decent pace and are even allowed to run by tapping the control pad twice quickly. They slash with their sabers as quickly as the attack button is tapped, and they can jump fairly high. They're even allowed to climb on walls and ceilings, and by pressing a separate button, they are allowed to slide along the ground, which is suspiciously reminiscent of Hiryu. Allen and Sheena have a few abilities that the Strider does not possess, such as a rolling jump that surrounds them with energy in order to take out aerial enemies, a diving kick which allows them to bounce off the heads of antagonists, and when in doubt, another separate button can destroy everything on-screen with a special attack. Allen sends out a menacing green dragon to rove the screen and consume all enemies, and Sheena sends out a veritable blizzard of painful ice crystals.

And since there's two Sabers for play, that means two-player simultaneous action! Any Contra fan should give Run Saber a try for the ability to tear through Bruford's army with both Allen and Sheena at the same time. The game's challenge remains more or less the same, nor matter if it's one player or two. Run Saber is not overly difficult, either way. There are a few moments of frustration (such as the aforementioned falling gears in Grey Fac) and continues are limited, but on normal difficulty settings, it's never ovewhelming. While they start out only able to take three hits, the Sabers can extend their life bar by two points (up to a maximum of eight) with blue medkits, and restore one unit of life with white ones. Blue saber powerups increase the range and power of their weapons, pink spheres give them an additional special attack, and representations of their heads give them a bonus life.

The level designs are good; full of enemies, traps, tricks, twists, and turns. Above all else, the bosses of Run Saber are the dominant feature of the game - every stage has at least three of them. One starts out as a mere hawk, which is a pest to get rid of but can be easily taken out. However, after defeating the bird, its severed head remains on screen, as an odd robotic body snatches it and flies offscreen. Later, the hawk's head returns placed onto the robotic body, and now the heroes have to deal with a kung-fu fighting robot-hawk-bird-cyborg thingie! Allen's right there on the box art doing battle with the bionic bird. Some bosses are more challenging than others, but there are many innovative designs among the rogues gallery. Sadly, the powerful special attacks can make things a bit too easy at times, and the final battle against Bruford, as awesome as he looks, is a bit disappointing.

Despite the shortcomings in the challenge department and the very strong similarities to Strider that makes it come appear like a rip-off, Run Saber is nonetheless a solid action title that's worth grabbing for the SNES. It's semi-obscure and may be a bit difficult to find. At any rate, Run Saber certainly makes a better Strider game than Strider Returns: Journey From Darkness.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Horisoft

Publisher:

Genre:

Themes:


Run Saber (SNES)

Run Saber (SNES)

Run Saber (SNES)

Run Saber (SNES)

Run Saber (SNES)


Additional Screenshots


[Spiritual Successor] Cannon Dancer (キャノンダンサー) / Osman - Arcade (1996)

European Arcade Flyer

Game companies seldom keep all of their founding members on the team. Some designers and programmers leave because a better job comes along for them, they're fed up with their co-workers, or they just get tired of the programming life. Some of them end up forming or joining entirely new companies. It may be upsetting at first for fans of any established franchise, but if it didn't happen, we would never have gotten the awesome games produced by Treasure, which consists chiefly of former Konami members. In a similar fashion, Strider director Kōichi Yotsui (usually credited as Isuke) moved on to work for the much more obscure Mitchell Corporation. The result? Osman, one of the most obscure and excellent platformers to be released in arcades.

Osman, which is known in Japan as Cannon Dancer, centers around a strong young man known as... well, Osman (named Kirin in Cannon Dancer), who sports baggy pants and a rat tail hairdo that makes him look like he's an MC Hammer devotee from the eighties. Not unlike Strider Hiryu, he presumably works for some organization that destroys criminals for the protection of the world. The plot is so ridiculous and confusing that it's hard to tell what's going on, but here is an attempt to explain as much of it as possible: Osman's boss, Jack Layzon (who only wears shorts to show off his muscular being in the opening cutscene for no adequately explored reason), assigns Osman to assassinate Abdullah the Slaver, an evil female sorceress who wants to take control of the world. He does a pretty good job of kicking enemy ass for a while, until Jack betrays him for... umm... reasons unknown, and then he has to fight his way through all sorts of soldiers and beasts, as well as a creepy goddess statue. Osman seems to have some connection with her, who apparently commands him to kill and... yeah, it's all rather confusing.

Oh well, it's an action-platformer and the plot means little in a game such as this, so let's move on to the graphics. Osman is about as colorful, if not more so than Strider, with vibrant shades of various colors. The level designs look very good, ranging from a fortified cityscape to the harsh desert, from the high seas to a mysterious forest, and even the city of Prague, all ending with a fierce battle within ominous crimson skies. The character designers were no slouches either, as Osman has as many frames of animation as he could possibly go through, and the enemies look beautiful, too. Early in the game, there's one soldier trapped between Osman and a pit, and the wuss puts his arms up as he cowardly winces away from the wrath the hero is about to bring to him. Besides soldiers, Osman also has to deal with tigers, statues, robots, and sandworms. The game is loaded with eye candy that's sure to please any old-school gamer.

The music is less than spectacular, though. It's not bad, it just doesn't seem all that adequate for this kind of game. The main reason for that is because it's... well, the background music is rather "mute." Compare it to the tunes of Strider, which are practically booming out through the speakers. The instrumentalizations are pretty weird, too, and one of them sounds like there's a chainsaw going off in the recording studio every few seconds. It's highly unorthodox, to say the least. There's one truly bizzare piece of music, which involves Gregorian Monk-style chanting that often pops up when a giant statue appears. The sound is good, although nothing too outstanding. Osman makes all sorts of yells as he attacks, jumps, and dies. Explosions happen quite often, and enemies make all sorts of shrieks and screams. Goody!

The fast-paced gameplay is the primary subject of comparison of Osman to Strider, as the way Osman moves could cause anybody to mistake him for Hiryu's long lost brother. He's able to run down steep slopes extremely fast, climb walls with the greatest of ease, and holding down while pressing the jump button causes him to slide, just like Hiryu. Osman's jump does one thing better than the Strider, as he can control himself in mid-air, wheras Hiryu suffers from jumping inertia, where he cannot fly backwards once he jumps forth. Osman isn't a total rip-off of the badass in blue, as he does not carry a cipher - or a sword, or even any weapon. One might think that he'd be dumbass to take on a legion of bad guys without even a switchblade to defend himself, but in fact he has toned his body to be a weapon in itself. He mainly uses wind-fast kicks (and mixes a few punches in now and then) to crush his opposition, and can cause robots to explode with his bare legs alone. There's even a bitching slam attack that he can perform on some enemies by pressing the jump button again while he's already in midair. And when all else fails, there's a special attack performed by tapping forward twice and pressing the attack button (there is no need to do this in Cannon Dancer, as there is a third button devoted to the special). Thus he creates multiple clones of himself to dash about and obliterate everything on screen a la Joe Musashi from the original Shinobi.

There are power-up containers (gray capsules with a P on them) that contain either a red, green, yellow, or blue power-up. Osman can take a maximum of four hits before losing a life, and he receives three special attacks per life. The green power-ups restore one life bar, a rare blue one brings back all lost life, and the also rare yellow ones permanently add one extra health bar to the life meter. The most common are the red ones, which change the color of Osman's parachute pants - but that's not all! One red capsule transforms Osman's normal blue pants into purple, which causes him to leave behind a phantom double where he attacks! Fans of Ninja Gaiden will appreciate the usage of these shadow duplicates, but sadly, they aren't as smart as those that follow Ryu Hayabusa. Osman's doubles only stay in place where he was standing when the attack button was pressed, and they remain in that location for approximately three seconds, before returning to Osman. Careful positioning of these doubles could make or break victory against bosses, as the real Osman can hang back, safe from enemy attacks, while the invulnerable double wears down the boss. A second red power-up changes the pants from purple to red, which allows two shadow doubles on screen at once, and another one changes it from red to white, which allows four(!) doubles to attack. The maximum level is black, which doesn't add any doubles, but gives Osman's kicks a big power boost, increasing their range with green slashes that make his limbs seem like blades. However, this bonus power doesn't last forever, and Osman goes back to white after he makes about fifteen attacks while in black pants-induced maximum overdrive.

Unfortunately, despite all these boosts of strength, the difficulty can be punishing at times, even when not dealing with the bosses. Sometimes the amount of regular enemies can be overwhelming, which especially becomes apparent in the forest level, where jetpack guards swoop about erratically while letting loose with their machine guns. What's worse is that Osman loses a power level each time he is hit, so if he wears red pants, getting hit will have him regress to purple. Obviously, once his life runs out, he goes back to the default blue power, regardless of his level before dying. Around the later stages, most players likely have to get used to a lack of doubles to help out.

The most incredible parts of Osman are the bosses - there's Gamran, a huge robot armed with a buzzsaw and flamethrowers. Speaking of flame, there's Herio, a man made entirely out of fire who floats about while dumping flames and has green hands floating about looking to grab Osman. The next three bosses are fought in random order over the third, fourth, and fifth stages. There's Tianon, the bombshell who can kick as fiercely as Osman and throw him about, not to mention the ability to create explosions. The ridiculously-named Willf looks a bit like Zamza from Streets of Rage 2 and utilizes his sharp claws to shred Osman, and if that fails, he can always toss the floating platform he rides on. The most dishonorable of the three is Cannons, who just teleports around the arena while his gigantic helper mech in the background sends various body parts flying to smash the hero. Most of the bosses can be extraordinarily tough.

The difficulty of this game can be really rough at times, but that's essentially nullified by the ability to resurrect right on the same spot after dying, not unlike Strider 2. As a matter of fact, this game suffers from the same difficulty balance issues as the official Strider sequel, where the challenge doesn't matter much to those who just want to finish the game, while those who want to beat it on one continue will find it very hard. There are actually a few points in the game that require to go back to a certain point after dying, and the last level actually disallows continuing on the spot, but Osman's extremely strong special attack is the one thing that ruins the challenge of the boss battles. Just one can slap off 80% of a big baddie's life, and Osman gets three of them per life. He almost becomes dependent on them to get through the final level, which makes the last battles seem anticlimactic.

The broken challenge curve shouldn't put anyone off to what is one of the least-known platformers on the face of the planet, though. Osman definitely deserves more recognition than it has ever received, which isn't much, considering that the arcade machine is rare, and no home ports whatsoever have ever been released. Osman is fun, fast and furious. Who cares if it can be blazed through in a relative matter of minutes?

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Kōichi Yotsui

Genre:

Themes:


Osman (Arcade)

Osman (Arcade)

Osman (Arcade)

Osman (Arcade)

Osman (Arcade)

Osman (Arcade)

Osman (Arcade)


Additional Screenshots


Other Appearances

In Capcom's Versus 2D fighting series various Capcom characters face off against Marvel superheroes. The whole game is gigantic fan service for followers of Capcom, starring favorites like Mega Man, featuring cameos by Arthur from Ghouls 'n Ghosts, or the Lost Soldier from Forgotten Worlds. Far and away one of the best new characters in the third game, Marvel vs. Capcom was Strider Hiryu. One of the fastest characters in the game, Strider can double jump, hang on the side of the screen, and pull all kinds of crazy acrobatics, leaving opponents on the sharp edge of his incredibly powerful cipher. His special attacks call upon the various power-ups - the rotating orbs, the bomb-dropping orbs, the ravenous mechanical tigers - to attack foes. Strider's theme music starts with the memorable "Stage 1" intro from the original Strider before breaking into an original synth guitar rock piece. His ending is exactly the same as the arcade game as well - he takes his hang-glider, flies out to the ocean, and lands on a whale, with the music from the Amazon level playing. One of his win quotes, "Take me to your boss!", is also straight from the original. The Ong Pooh, the Chinese acrobats from the end of level 3, also show up as helper characters.

While he was weakened in the sequel, Strider Hiryu still remains one of the best characters in the game. Hiryu was meant to appear in Capcom Fighting All-Stars, a 3D game featuring a whole slew of other Capcom characters, but the game was cancelled, and morphed into the mediocre 2D title Capcom Fighting Evolution - sans Strider, unfortunately. Strider also appears in the Capcom arcade quiz game Capcom World 2, and as a playable character in Namco's strategy RPG Namco X Capcom.

Marvel vs Capcom (Arcade)


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