ININ Games’ new release Cotton! Reboot has quite the long history behind it, but you can be forgiven if you haven’t heard of it before, as one of the only entries to make it to America was on Turbografx. Fairly popular in Japan since its first entry in arcades (Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams, 1991), the Cotton series is a take on the shoot ‘em up genre colloquially referred to as “cute ‘em ups” and has seen sequels and ports on a range of consoles; from Neo Geo Pocket Color to Dreamcast and PS2. Cotton! Reboot marks the first time Cotton has graced consoles in two decades. Cotton! Reboot is actually a twofer: you get the original Cotton version that was released on Sharp’s Japan-only X68000 Home Computer System back in 1993, plus an “Arranged” version, which is just a fancier way of saying “remaster”.
Times of war and strife can often bring out the best in people. Some rise and take action for honor and glory, or because it’s the right thing to do. Our juvenile witch protagonist Cotton, however? She does it for Willow: a delicious type of candy that is the specialty of the fairies. A charming little introduction details how demons invaded the fairy realm and stole the light of the world, engulfing it in darkness. A fairy named Silk approaches the eternally unbothered Cotton and beseeches her for her aid in defeating the demons, only for Cotton to pass her by. Once Silk mentions that they must gather 7 pieces of colored Willow to make a gigantic piece of willow, Cotton’s sense of philanthropy kicks in and she charges into action to get her hands on that sweet, sweet rock. I mean, candy.
You already have an idea of what to expect from a game in the shoot ‘em up genre, but Cotton! Reboot throws in a few nice surprises. As you blast the multitude of cutesie monsters, they drop crystals that have many functions: the first of which is granting you experience to level up your main attack. These crystals grant you experience when picked up, filling up your level bar at the bottom of the screen. Each level upgrades your shot, while dying makes your level drop by one. Their next function has a more direct use. While crystals are floating about, shooting them diffuses your attack into multiple parts so you can hit more enemies at once. As Cotton is a witch, she has magic at her disposal. I think this mechanic is a cool alternative to the typical screen-clearing bomb. You can stock up to six of the different types of magic at a time and collecting crystals of the same color increases that color of magic’s power. You can then activate them at your leisure to obliterate your foes... or at least mortally wound them. Cotton’s fairy companion Silk hovers around her and fires off shots while you attack. You can collect up to six of these fairies by saving them from the baddies during levels but whenever you die, one will sacrifice herself in a screen-clearing blast. You also have a special fairy gauge that can be activated to earn bonus score once you have it filled enough. I honestly never bothered to use it since earning a high score doesn’t really matter to me.
There are several levels and they each follow the same format of a mid-boss fight and then a boss fight at the end for a much-coveted piece of Willow. The visuals of the Arrange version are pretty slick, but the biggest differences are noticeable in the backgrounds details and the special effects. The X68000 version is more or less the same as the Arranged, but with the original visuals. Some of the abilities from the Arrange version are not present like Fairy Fever and shots do not diffuse when they hit crystals. The crystals themselves behave differently, dropping down to the bottom of the screen instead of floating in place. This makes it a pain in the ass to get them in a lot of cases where there is no ground and they simply drop off the screen. The graphics still look fairly good for a 93 title so it’s worth at least one playthrough.
So as far as cute ‘em ups go, Cotton Reboot! is an excellent family-friendly title but doesn’t offer much replayability once you’ve cleared the game a few times, unless you’re interested in climbing to the top of the online leaderboards or mastering time attack mode. Still, it’s a worthwhile diversion if you’re craving some unique shoot ‘em up action.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7/10
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