Overview – developed by Rocket-Engine, Studio Neon and BEEP with publishing handled by ININ Games, Cotton Reboot is a full remake of the classic cute’em up shooter, Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams originally released in 1991. This remake features new visuals, gameplay mechanics and sound, along with a port of the Sharp X68000 home release from 1993. This title is available on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4/5, links to each version of the game will be at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Cotton Reboot that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the story segment as I feel it should be experienced firsthand, so I will be jumping straight into the gameplay section. Please note, the majority of details below are for the remastered content in the Arrange mode.
Gameplay – Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams is a horizontal shooter, taking place across several stages filled with cute, yet deadly enemies. The broom riding witch Cotton, has access to two basic attacks, a standard shot that can be fired at a rapid rate and a bomb that can be dropped on enemies below. Defeating enemies can cause them to drop gems and power-ups, the gems change color when shot and provide a variety of effects. Items and gem effects are detailed below;
- Bomb – dropped in single or double versions, these will power up the bombs that can be thrown at enemies, dealing more damage with each upgrade.
- Diffused Shots – Shooting gems will change their color, while also splitting the shot off and dealing slightly more damage to the enemies, along with increasing the fever meter (mentioned below) to maximize the highest possible score.
- Yellow/Orange Gems – these gems provide experience, leveling up the standard shot and overall power that cotton can use to defeat enemies. Levels will be decreased if Cotton is hit by an enemy, weakening the shots that she can use.
- Magic Gems – gems will change color when shot into red, blue, green and purple. Each color provides a special magic attack that will be leveled up by collecting more of the same color. Pressing the magic button will activate the spell furthest to the left, with devastating power against the enemies on screen.
- Black Gems – hitting gems with enough shots will activate a special chain that gives bonus points when collected, with each subsequent black gem in the chain increasing the multiplier.
- Fairies – some enemies will drop Fairies when hit by magic or bullets, they will then join the player and provide additional support. If Cotton is hit, a fairy will appear on screen and explode dealing damage to all enemies on screen and they can also be used to use special magic that can help Cotton out.
- Fever Meter – shooting gems and hitting enemies with Diffused shots will increase the multiplier up to a maximum level of 5, with damage reducing the level each time Cotton is hurt. Fever can be activated at any time as long as there is action currently going on (not available after defeating bosses).
The levels that the player takes on are filled with hazards to overcome, with enemies coming from every corner and strong mid bosses. The end of each stage is heralded by a challenging main boss fight, pitting Cotton against a powerful monster that will launch an all-out offensive that can be tough to beat. When the boss is defeated, tea time starts, with tea cups dropping from the sky in white and red giving a special bonus. After tea time, bonuses are applied and the next stage begins.
Once all stages have been cleared or the player has chosen to not continue after a game over, their score is added to the global rankings, being updated when a new high score is obtained. This ranking system gives a lot of replay value as it promotes improvement, pattern recognition and practice to improve scores to beat other players on the leaderboards.
The game may feel a little short as it is an arcade title, however there is plenty to enjoy in this title. Included along with the Arrange mode is an extra time attack mode, pitting the player against a timed onslaught of enemies. Playable in a 2 or 5 minute limit setting, this is a highly challenging mode that will test the skills of the player to reach the highest score possible, adding a competitive edge to this mode as it allows competition with players across the world.
The last thing I want to discuss is the special port of the original Sharp X68000 home computer version of Cotton bundled in with this release. Originally released in 1993, this version of Cotton, is based on the original arcade release with enhancements and tweaks being made, making it the definitive version of the Fantastic Night Dreams entry in the series. The gameplay experience for the Sharp X68000 mode is a direct 1:1 port, with additions like an extended field of view, new difficulty settings and online rankings.
Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – the controls for this release are very comfortable, offering adjustable button layouts to fit any play style and controller method, be it the Joy-Cons, pro controller or even an arcade stick. The inputs are responsive, there is zero lag when moving and shooting, providing a fast paced and exciting gameplay experience. Cotton Reboot plays well in both handheld and docked play, meaning that this is the perfect cute ‘em up to play at home or on the go.
Difficulty – the difficulty curve for Cotton Reboot is balanced well, getting progressively difficult as the game progressed, with new enemy attack patterns and obstacles being introduced over time. There are also selectable difficulty settings in both Arrange and X68000 mode, allowing players to tailor the experience to their own skill level and challenge themselves.
Presentation – visually, the Arrange mode for Cotton Reboot is gorgeous, with hand drawn backgrounds, character portraits and redesigned sprites. The animations are smooth with no issues involving frame rate or overall graphical performance, creating one of the best modern takes on the cute shmup genre. The cutscenes have also been redrawn, with brand new animated scenes and images, telling the same story with a fresh look.
The presentation of the X68000 version is fantastic also, with pixel perfect graphics and an expanded resolution that looks excellent on the Switch screen. The soundtrack for the Arrange mode is a joy to listen to, featuring brand new arrangements or the classic music tracks. The instrumentation is excellent, introducing synth, bass and drums that elevate the original chiptune compositions to a whole new level. The soundtracks can also be switched between original and arranged for added enjoyment.
Final Thoughts – when Cotton Reboot was first announced, I was very excited to get my hands on it and I can happily say I was not disappointed. I have been a fan of the cotton franchise for many years and being able to experience this magical franchise in a new way is wonderful. The overall package that Beep and Rocket Engine has put together is the perfect way to bring the little witch Cotton to a whole new audience, with many secrets to discover.
The presentation of this release is fantastic, celebrating the old and new with both gameplay modes, redesigned visuals and an absolutely delightful soundtrack. I have absolutely no issue recommending Cotton Reboot to everyone, whether you have been a fan of cute ‘em ups for the past 20 years or you have never even looked at one before. I applaud the developers in their dedication to revive this once overlooked franchise.
In the end, I give Cotton Reboot a final score of 5/5. Cotton Reboot is a perfect celebration of the original Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams release, reviving a once dormant franchise in spectacular fashion, creating a brand new experience for fans of the little witch both old and new. If you want to check this release out for yourself, links to each version of the game and the special physical store link will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation 4/5 version (HERE)
Link to physical editions (HERE)
Link to PlayAsia store (HERE) – Affiliate Link if you wish to help support the site.
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