A middle eastern man with a mullet in a rat-tail and day-glow parachute pants stolen from MC Hammer's wardrobe might seem an ill-fitting substitute for one of gaming's greatest ninjas, but there's a reason many see Osman as the true heir to Strider Hiryu's legacy. Created by the man who oversaw the creation of Capcom's classic, Osman manages to not only whallop Capcom's long overdue attempt at a sequel (to say nothing of US Gold's feeble effort) but even gives the original a run for its money.
There have been many attempts to reclaim a gaming legacy without access to a license. Some of these take a more discrete approach, as Contra III's programmers did when they created Gunstar Heroes, but Strider's creator Isuke apparently has no qualms with outright filching all of the lavender-clad ninja's moves. Osman can scale walls and climb across ceilings. Even Strider's kick-slide isn't sacred. To add insult to injury, he even nicks his super move from old school rival Shinobi. And he does it all without any weapons. That's right, who needs a sword when you can splatter enemy soldiers with well placed roundhouse kick? Osman can also power-up to create clones of himself as he whips out the combos, which can lend a bit of strategy to aerial strikes.
Osman boots the futuristic Soviet Union backdrop that became so ironic so soon after Strider's release, and trades it in for a cyberpunk Arabia with shades of Blade Runner. The neon glow of the backdrops almost lends a touch of Las Vegas. The foregrounds are likewise nicely illustrated, but the whole game looks a tad dated placed beside other games from '96. However, in hindsight the visuals have aged better than more technically cutting-edge games of the day, and indeed better than the grainy, blocky 2D/3D blend of Strider 2.
But what really shines is the frenetic pacing. The opposition is fast and unrelenting. Like it's predecessor, the level design is varied, and rife with bosses around every turn. These guys come in all shapes and sizes, though most of them are big and nasty. The difficulty is a bit brutal at times, but unlike the checkpoint system of its granddaddy, Osman will allow a defeated player to spawn right where he left off—for another quarter, that is. If there's any flaw with the difficulty, it's that it's perhaps too difficult to plow through without continuing, but completely easy with enough credits.
It really is a shame that a quality game with such prestigious breeding would be relegated to obscurity by a fairly limited arcade release. With the collapse of Mitchell, any future home port or inclusion on any compilation seems unlikely as well, rendering it little more than a foot note for die hard Strider fans. Still, for those will to make the effort to track it down, Osman is all the sequel a Strider junkie could ask for.