Game: Cotton Fantasy
Genre: Action, Arcade
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Success | ININ Games
Age Rating: EU 7 | US E10+
Price: US $39.99 | UK £34.99 | EU € 39,99
Release Date: May 20th, 2022
Review code provided with many thanks to PR Hound.
A New Cotton Game
Cotton returns in another side-scrolling arcade shooter with Cotton Fantasy. A new original title in the Cotton franchise. Over the last year, we have seen what I have dubbed the ‘Cotton Renaissance’, where several titles from the series have made their way over to the West. I have been very fortunate to cover most of these titles for this lovely website.
As a retro fan, it’s been fantastic to experience these games for the very first time, and they have easily climbed up the ladder as one of my favourite arcade-style shooters. Cotton Fantasy feels like a wonderful conclusion to Cotton’s invasion of the West. If you have loved the series up to this point or love your arcade games, this is easily another entry to add to your Nintendo Switch.
If you have played a Cotton game already, then you may be able to guess the plot. Once again, we return to the realm of fantasy. The sweet tasty treats known as willows are mysteriously disappearing, and it’s up to Cotton and her fairy companion Silk to jump on the broom and save the day. The plot is incredibly familiar and predictable, with cutscenes playing between levels with English text and Japanese voice acting only.
I liked how, this time around, Cotton references the plots of previous games and is determined not to fall for Silk’s tricks yet again. It is still a bit disappointing that the developers didn’t use this opportunity to surprise the player. Plots are not everything though and with Cotton being an arcade title, it pulls most of its resources into the gameplay, which will be the main draw for most players.
Flying Around Casting Spells
Cotton Fantasy is a highly addictive side-scrolling shooter that will instantly click with fans of the series or retro space shooters (known as shmups). The goal is basically to fly through a wide variety of colourful fantasy-style levels shooting adorable baddies and taking on a big boss fight at the end. After the first level, you get to choose the next level from a world map, so you don’t have to go through a linear path when you replay. The game is presented in a colourful and charming 3D art style for its gameplay and 2D anime-style stills for the cutscenes played between levels. You’ll explore a variety of fantasy settings from woodlands, caves, temples and even outer space.
There is notable sweet attention to detail. Cotton will have a rather funny expression on her face when she gets hit before losing a life. When she does head out to space, she wears a little fishbowl around her head. I guess it’s magical because I sure could not see an oxygen tank anywhere. Still, it is a nice feature. Lastly, I really liked the small nods to previous Cotton games, particularly Panorama Cotton, which is often seen as the experimental entry in the series.
Pick up And Broom
The controls are easy to pick up and play. Flying around and shooting feels incredibly comfortable, like something straight out of an arcade cabinet. A fantastic addition to this entry is a short tutorial which explains the game’s mechanics. With on-screen button prompts it showcases how to shoot, use a charge shot and magic spells. This is all achieved in less than a minute and can even be accessed again if you need a little reminder. Spells can be replenished by collecting crystals dropped by enemies and, when used, will unleash some overpowered devastation which will tear through enemies and their projectiles. Very useful when you’re in a pickle.
Shooting down waves of enemies and tackling huge bosses is just as fun as it has ever been. After a single run-through, I was keen to jump back in again. It’s glorious high score chasing at its best. A little feature I really liked is if you pause the game and then un-pause, it will do a handy 3-second countdown to let you get your bearings before resuming. Enemies and projectiles fly thick and fast at you in this game so having a moment to breathe now and then is much appreciated.
Short and Sweet
A run through the entire game will probably only take around an hour, so you’ll likely complete it in a single game session. The appeal to replay is, of course, to chase a high score which can be compared on the online leaderboards if you fancy. The main incentive to replay is to play with the generous wide variety of characters available with an additional one to unlock, some from the Cotton series and a few from other game series like Umihara Kawase. Each character plays very differently, making it quite appealing to play through multiple times.
If you find this title too easy, there are two additional difficulty settings. But if difficulty is a concern, the game offers free play, so even if you die hundreds of times, you can keep adding credits to your heart’s content until you win. Other than the main campaign, you can train on individual levels if you fancy; levels for this are unlocked by playing the campaign. Even with all of this, it’s a tad light on content, especially for the games’ rather steep asking price, which will likely deter most curious gamers.
Conclusion – The Definitive Cotton
Cotton Fantasy feels like the definitive Cotton experience. Taking aspects from all the games that came before it and creating an experience that is just a joy to play through with Cotton or with the varied characters available. If you love your arcade games, this will likely put a big smile on your face with all the colours and numbers glaring back at you on screen and, of course, a pumping arcade-style soundtrack. The games main niggle is the price of entry is a bit steep, and the game is very light on content. Whether you are old or new to the Cotton series, this is an excellent side-scrolling shooter that is a must-play for high score chasers and fans of retro shooters.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot