Love playing video games? And collecting them too? Well the game-playing doesn’t have to stop when you run out of lives — if you wanna roll the dice on winning and losing some more, why not try pre-ordering your next game?

Okay, that sounds like cynical snark right out of the gate. But I was thinking about this as I’m looking at pre-ordering a title I’m really looking forward to, and realizing that just pre-ordering a new game can be — well, a game in itself.

The game in question is Cannon Dancer, also known as Osman. And since pre-orders for its first-ever home port started today, this is a perfect time to talk about them!

A little history, in case you’re not hip to Cannon Dancer: This semi-obscure 1996 arcade title from little-known company Mitchell was designed as a spiritual successor to the original arcade Strider Hiryu, and was designed by Strider’s creator himself, Kouichi Yotsui. Strider fans and hardcore arcade gamers know Cannon Dancer as a wild, action-packed ride that some may say out-Striders Strider. I love this game!

Anyway, Cannon Dancer has never been released as a home title. Arcade collectors pay big bucks (or yen) for an original PCB, and there aren’t many of them around.

But never fear: ININ to the rescue! ININ, the company who published the previously-unreleased Clockwork Aquario, various entries in the Cotton series, and Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (the remake of Monster World IV) among many other enthusiast-oriented titles, has finally licensed Cannon Dancer for digital release on Switch, PS4/5, and Xbox, ending its legend as an arcade-only title after 26 years. Great news!

Along with this comes the announcement that Strictly Limited Games, a Germany-based purveyor of limited special editions who partners with ININ on many of their releases, will be producing standard physical versions and a collector’s edition of Cannon Dancer. That’s cool too!

Now, I gave up on special editions a long time ago; I just decided I don’t really need all that extra stuff. But once in a while, something comes along that’s important enough to me that I feel I need to mayyybe check out what the collector’s edition is all about. Metroid Dread was the last game that made me want to scoop up the limited box set. But even so, if I hadn’t scored one, I would have been just fine with the game itself. Missing out on a box full of stuff isn’t going to make me lose any sleep.

Here’s where some previous experience and knowledge comes in handy. Strictly Limited Games, as spiffnificent as their special editions are, takes approximately FOOOOORRRRREEEEEEVVVVEEERRRRRR to produce and ship their product. That includes the regular editions of the games too, not just the collector’s sets. If you get in on their short-ass preorder window and score yourself that LE that you’ve been eyeballing, expect to forget all about it for the near future as you will not see your order for 6-12 months.

Not kidding: I pre-ordered the regular edition of Cotton Reboot from SLG near the end of 2020. Right away, I started hearing from other gamers that SLG tended to take way too long to deliver product, so I decided to also order the Japanese edition (published by BEEP) from Amazon Japan within a couple days afterwards. Long story short, the Japanese edition arrived in February 2021. The standard ININ edition from SLG showed up on August 29. That’s eight months; and from what I could see in my social media, the collector’s edition took even longer.

In that time, I had also pre-ordered Clockwork Aquario. That one finally came in December.

What I realized somewhere in that time period is that you can just buy the regular North American ININ releases on Amazon on their release dates and get them immediately; ordering a standard edition from SLG is just inviting frustration.

After the Cotton incident, and while I was waiting for Aquario, I swore off ordering from SLG, and vowed that I was done with them forever, no matter what they came out with.

Then SLG announced a domestic release of Mad Stalker for Sega Genesis. Dang, I wanted that. It went up for pre-order in November 2021, and THEY SAID the expected ship date was January 2022. That’s not such a bad wait, I thought! I can handle that! So out went my order.

Aaaaand Mad Stalker arrived in April.

That’s it! Done! No more SLG! There can’t possibly be anything they could announce that I–

— shit.

ALL RIGHT, FINE. I’ll get Cannon Dancer, and THAT’S IT. NO MORE!

That collector’s edition is gonna take a million years to get here, I have resigned myself to that fact already. But I’m gonna want to play Cannon Dancer ASAP. So I need to apply some strategy here, and play the pre-order game.

Armed with all the knowledge I’ve learned the hard way, I decided what I needed to do is pre-order the PS4 collector’s edition from SLG and just wait for it to show up whenever it shows up. But meanwhile, when ININ release Cannon Dancer digitally, I’m also gonna download the Switch version. That way I can play it right away, and whenever the fancy swag gets here, it gets here. Win-win!

The other part of the game is the whole limited-window pre-order thing. In the digital age’s equivalent of camping out in front of the store before they open to get the latest new release, pre-orders go live at a certain time and sell out quickly. Sometimes they happen in a couple of “waves” to allow buyers a second chance. But when they’re gone, they’re gone, and if you miss out, well, you shoulda slept in your digital sleeping bag outside the digital store, cuz now you’re SOL.

Anyway, that wasn’t really the issue with Cannon Dancer. According to SLG, there production numbers for each edition of Cannon Dancer are as follows: Switch standard, 4000; Switch CE, 2000; PS5 and PS4 standard, 1500; PS4 and PS5 CE, 750. As of this writing, the preorders went live about five hours ago, and there are 75-85% left of all of the various editions.

Now, maybe you’ll call me a sucker for double-dipping, and you think I’m the one who’s getting played here. Yes, I know I can emulate Cannon Dancer right now on MAME and play it all I want. That’s not the point. Honestly, I’m so happy with ININ for their historic decision to license and release Cannon Dancer that I’d love to support this release as much as I can. I do wish ININ was releasing a standard physical edition themselves, because of course, I’m an old fart gamer who likes my physical releases and doesn’t trust digital-only stuff. But since they’re not, and I don’t want to wait just as long for a standard edition from SLG, I guess digital is my option for getting the game itself on Switch ASAP.

But after this? I can’t imagine what it’ll take to get me to order another SLG product. (Now watch those f*ckers partner with Taito for a Time Gal HD remaster collector’s edition or something.)

Anyway — what about you? Are you stoked for Cannon Dancer/Osman finally making it home? Did you play the pre-order game? Are you getting it? Which version?