Cotton Fantasy (PS4, Switch, PC)

“Cotton” is a series of 2-D horizontally scrolling shooters that were very popular in the 90’s during the 16- and 32-bit eras.  They star a candy-obsessed witch girl named Cotton who flies on her broom as she shoots down foes in spooky yet silly settings.  It’s an example of the “Cute ‘Em Up” subgenre of shooters similar to titles like Twinbee, Parodius, Fantasy Zone, or Ordyne.  Last year was Cotton’s 30th Anniversary and we got a few games and re-releases out of that.  There was a reboot of the original game, which I reviewed here, as well as re-releases of some of the 16-bit titles, which I also reviewed.  And now Cotton is in a brand new 2-D shooter named Cotton Fantasy!  It’s available on PS4, Switch, and PC, but reviewed on PS4 here.

So the game is a mostly horizontally scrolling 2-D shooter.  There are some sections where you scroll down but still shoot forward, and some bonus stages that are third person behind the character view, similar to Space Harrier or Panorama Cotton.  Hold down the fire button to continuously shoot projectiles.  As you defeat enemies, you’ll collect crystals of different colors, which can change your shot pattern or give you magic attacks.  Hold down and release another button to perform these magic attacks, which lets loose a powerful beam depending on what you’ve collected.  There is another button that activates a special skill, depending on the character.  You’ll go through around nine stages, but there are supposed to be some secret areas here and there as well.

One of the coolest things about this game is there are more than half a dozen characters to play as, and you can unlock more.  Each character has their own skill and shot patterns.  For instance, Cotton can collect fairies that give her more shots, but you can press the skill button to use one of them like a screen-clearing bomb.  Another character is completely time based and you collect the crystals to increase the time!  Some characters you can play as are from other games entirely, like Umihara Kawase.  She’s from a game where you use a fishing rod like a grappling hook, and I’ve reviewed a few of her games in the past as well.  She rides a blowfish and shoots out sea creatures, and her skill is she can reel in enemies with her fishing rod and shoot them out again!  The multiple playable characters give this game a lot of replay value.

I had some problems with this game, but they’re pretty minor ones.  It kind of stinks that the story mode doesn’t change with each character, and I do wish you could save between stages instead of having to tackle it all in one sitting.  It’s a shame that the behind the shoulder view modes were only for bonus stages, at least from what I played.  But at least there are multiple difficulty selections and you can continue right off after losing all your lives (your score does reset, though), so players of all skill levels can enjoy this one.  While I think I liked Cotton Reboot a tiny bit more, this one is still great for classic 2-D shooter fans.

Kid Factor:

Cotton Fantasy is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence and Mild Suggestive Themes.  You shoot down cartoon enemies with magic blasts that explode when defeated.  When you get hit, you just fly off your broom or other vehicle and say something in Japanese.  Cotton’s friend Silk is a fairy who wears nothing but a bikini, so that’s where the suggestive themes come from.  Reading skill is helpful for the text, but not necessary just to play.  Limitless continues mean that anyone can enjoy this game.

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