Cotton Reboot! – Review
Follow Genre: Arcade shoot-'em-up
Developer: Rocket-Engine Co., Ltd.
Publisher: ININ, BEEP
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4
Tested on: Switch

Cotton Reboot! – Review

Site Score
7.8
Good: Fast-paced addictive gameplay
Bad: Price point is hard to justify for non-diehard fans
User Score
10.0
(1 votes)
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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Three decades ago, Japanese developer Succes Corp. released a little arcade game titled Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams. The game proved to be a hit and was ported to a plethora of consoles, including the original PlayStation and the original Dreamcast. It also spawned several sequels and spin-off titles, with the last Cotton game releasing on the Neo Geo Pocket in 2003. That was a long time ago though, and for almost two decades, it seemed like the Cotton franchise had met its untimely end. That changed in 2019, when Japanese retailer BEEP announced that they’d be reviving the series through a new version based on the X68000 port of the game, which many consider the definitive release. The new version, titled Cotton Reboot!, is now landing in the West, thanks to ININ Games. Does Cotton Reboot! have what it takes to entice fans of arcade titles three decades after it originally launched? Read on to find out.

Story

Given Cotton Reboot!’s origins as an arcade title, there isn’t a whole lot of narrative depth to be found here. The base premise, as told through manga-styled cutscenes, is cute and fun though. Our heroine, the young witch Nata de Cotton, only cares about one thing: gobbling up Willow candy. She is approached by the scantily clad fairy Silk, who needs the young witch’s help in order to save her people from evil monsters. Cotton is initially dismissive of Silk’s plea, until she learns that she’ll be rewarded with Willow candy. Enticed by the foresight of these treats, Cotton teams up with Silk in order to defeat the evil creatures and collect as much candy as she can along the way.

Graphics

Of note here is that Cotton Reboot! features two distinct visual styles. The X68000 mode of the game offers up a faithful recreation of the original release from the ’90s, albeit rendered in 16:9 instead of 4:3. Given the variety of platforms that Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams has appeared on, it should come as no surprise that the various ports feature visuals of differing quality. Of these, the X68000 port is generally considered the best looking one. Thankfully, Cotton Reboot is based on this version of the game and we’re happy to say that the ‘90s style pixel art of that specific port looks incredible even today. The pixels look crisp and the creature and character designs are simply fantastic. The same goes for the visual effects and the backgrounds. It all adds up to a gorgeous game that oozes charm.

Meanwhile, the new Arrange mode offers up a more modern rendition of the visuals. What stands out here are the manga-styled illustrations shown during story scenes, which add a ton of character to both Cotton and Silk. The updated Arrange visuals may prove to be divisive, with some people preferring the pixelated renditions seen in the normal XP68000 mode. It’s a close call though, with both versions looking fantastic. No matter which visual style has your personal preference, the game’s performance is flawless, even when the on-screen action becomes extremely chaotic. As you’d expect from a port like this, the game also has a setting that allows you to emulate CRT visuals, which is always fun for a few minutes but ultimately loses to the crisp images of a modern screen.

Sound

Given the anime aesthetics of the cutscenes and the cutesy pixel art, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Cotton Reboot!’s OST sounds appropriately bubbly as well during these scenes. When you’re actually playing the game, the tone of the music shifts to match the fast-paced and chaotic nature of the gameplay. The constant stream of sound effects drives the atmosphere of the game home even further. Finally, the Japanese voice acting brings the characters to life, making for a soundscape that is appropriate for what Cotton Reboot! is supposed to be, but that doesn’t really stand out.

Gameplay

Cotton Reboot! is a fairly simple side-scrolling arcade shooter which sees you take control of the titular witch. It’s a simple and familiar concept for anyone that has ever played a game in the genre. Your aim is to shoot down enemy creatures, collect the gemstones they drop in order to power up and ultimately take down the stage boss. With seven stages, Cotton Reboot! is a fairly short game that can be completed in about half an hour. That might sound like a ripoff given the game’s price tag, but if you’re only playing through the stages once, you haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. There is tremendous replay value here, thanks to the plethora of modes and options that allow you to customize your experience to your heart’s content, and if you’re a glutton for punishment, then you can ramp up the game’s difficulty to insane levels. That said, you’ll be revisiting variations of the same seven levels over and over, which might feel repetitive over time.

Cotton herself starts out with a basic shot, but as you zoom through the levels, you’ll increase your attack power by picking up gemstones that are dropped by enemies that meet their untimely death at your hands. Gems will have different effects depending on their color but you can change the color of a gem by shooting it before you grab it. Yellow gems will gradually fill up Cotton’s experience bar, leveling up her basic shot. Meanwhile, blue and red gems reward more powerful attacks that are limited in use, such as lightning and bombs. Finally, green and purple gems -which aren’t available in every mode- are the most powerful ones, giving Cotton access to literal nukes. Silk and her fairy pals can also be picked up and accompany Cotton, improving the range of Cotton’s shots. While none of the gem-related weapons can be used infinitely, unlike your basic shot, you’ll be able to pick up enough gemstones to use your arsenal fairly often, and there is little point in conserving your powerful attacks until the right time. Instead, your best bet is to use your powers as often as possible.

In terms of additional content compared to the original X68000 version, the standout feature here is the aforementioned Arrange mode, which not only changes up the visuals, but also alters the mechanics, putting a greater emphasis on scoring points. It’s clear that this mode was designed with modern sensibilities in mind. The game’s standard mode sticks close to the original, although it’s been polished here and there, and even though playing the classic version of Cotton is still incredibly fun, it is showing its age here and there. From a gameplay perspective, Arrange shakes things up just enough to feel like a different game, with a wider array of weapons and power-ups available, more fast-paced gameplay, and improved balance when it comes to enemy encounters. It’s definitely more difficult than the standard mode but it’s also more satisfying, mainly because you are able to rack up massive points. It’s frantic and chaotic but a lot of fun.

With the two distinct main game modes, a timed attack mode, options to customize how easy or how hard your experience is going to be, unlockable playable characters and an online leaderboard, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Cotton Reboot! has much more to offer than half an hour of arcade gameplay. The game allows you to not just tweak the overall difficulty settings -including a brand new BEEP difficulty setting- but also the number of lives you start out with for example. Of note here is that if you want to participate on the online leaderboards, then you’ll need to adhere to specific settings. This applies even when you’re making the game more difficult, ensuring an equal playing field for anyone hoping to see their name appear at the top of the ranking. Admittedly, even with all the available modes, the game may feel repetitive and light on content for casual players, but if you’re a hardcore fan of arcade shmups, Cotton Reboot! is a must-have title and definitely worth every penny.

Conclusion

Whether or not you should pick up Cotton Reboot! really depends on how much you’re a fan of the genre. The game is among the best arcade shooters of its time, and even three decades later, it still holds up. That said, this is a title aimed at a niche audience that already knows what to expect. If you’re part of that audience, you’re absolutely going to love what’s included here, but if you’re on the fence, the price point may make it difficult to justify adding Cotton Reboot! to your library. You’re either going to get dozens of hours worth of gameplay out of Cotton Reboot! as you push yourself towards a higher rank on the leaderboards, or you’re going to play this one for an hour or two before deciding you’ve “finished’’ the game. Either way, Cotton Reboot! delivers amazing gameplay, but if you’re in the latter category of potential public, then the game might not be worth the price of entry to you.

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Cotton Reboot! - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
SebastiaanRaats


1 Comment

  1. […] Silk are ready to take on more adventures on your home screens! After the great success of Cotton Reboot! in Europe and North America, Strictly Limited Games and ININ Games are bringing you more great […]

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