Cotton Fantasy – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Success and Studio Saizensen with publishing handed by ININ Games, Cotton Fantasy: Superlative Night Dreams is the latest title to be released in the long running cute ‘em up series. This title retains all of the classic gameplay mechanics, with some new features to make this title unique. This title is available for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4/5, with leaks to both versions of the game available 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 Fantasy that was used for this piece. The provision of this title 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, starting with the story for Cotton Fantasy. I have covered other Cotton titles on the site, which you can find (HERE) if you haven’t already seen them.

Story – in the kingdom of Fairyland, the Willows have started to vanish, with this occurrence being linked to a prophecy that could lead to disaster. However, this prophecy also makes mention of a witch in a blue robe being the key to averting disaster. Knowing this the Fairy Queen asks silk to find the witch Nata de Cotton to help, who has an insatiable craving for the delicious Willow. In exchange for a lifetime supply of Willow, Cotton agrees to help her old friend and they set out on another adventure.

Gameplay – Cotton Fantasy is a scrolling shooter that plays out much like Cotton Reboot! (found HERE) with the player battling a range of enemies, in frantic bullet hell styled action through 9 stages. The stages have a mix of horizontal and scrolling sections, with the player travelling through fantastical locations during the battles. Alongside the scrolling stages are two bonus stages, with an on-rails rear view in a manner similar to Panorama Cotton (found HERE).

When starting the game, the player can choose one of 6 characters, each with their own unique gimmicks. During the course of a stage, the player fights enemies with a standard shot that can be used as semi and auto fire, as well as character specific special skills. When using the special abilities, enemies and their attacks will be turned into bells, adding them to a combo counter that provides bonus points for each enemy and bell collected.

As the player defeats enemies, gems have the potential to be dropped by foes, with crystals having different effects depending on the character used. There is also an experience system, where the strength of each characters attack will increase depending on their level, with an average maximum of level 5. However, in most cases if the player takes damage, they will lose a level with their power and damage being decreased.

Here are some details about the characters that are available when starting the game;

  • Cotton – the protagonist and focus of the story, she has the same basic move set as her previous incarnations. Cotton uses a standard shot influenced by the type of magic currently in her active slot, a charge shot that depletes the active magic and a special skill option bomb that explodes the fairies that follow her.
  • Appli – one of the characters introduced in Cotton 2, her basic moves are the same as Cotton, but she has her own unique magic spells. Her special allows her to capture enemies, using them as a shield or throwing them at other enemies to cause explosions.
  • Luffee – a guest character from DokiDoki Poyatchio. She has a limited move set, with a standard shot and charge up laser shot, which can go up by three power levels before being discharged. Her special attack is a bomb that deals massive damage to enemies on screen.
  • Umihara Kawase – a guest from the franchise of the same name. She has a move set that is similar to Cotton and Appli, with three different magic attacks and a slightly weaker regular shot. Her special skill is the fishing rod, which can go in several directions and capture enemies to be used as weapons.
  • Ria – a representative for the Psyvaria series. Her moves are unique to her and take influence from the game she comes from, with a buzz ability that charges her level by near missing enemies and projectiles (with a max level of 99). Her attacks include the normal shot and rolling shot, with a shield that damages enemies when leveling up, as well as the bomb special attack.
  • Fine – a representative for the Starfighter Sanvein title. She has the most unique gimmick out of all characters, with a timer on screen instead of lives, with damage reducing the counter on screen and crystals increasing that timer. Her move set includes three different attacks that can be switched between freely, as well as each of them having their own special charge attack and the bomb attack to clear screens of enemies.

After the player has selected their character, they will be taken to the stage select menu screen. At the beginning only the prologue can be selected, but once that has been completed, the other selectable stages will open up providing a non-linear experience. When the first 6 stages and 2 bonus stages are cleared, the final two stages are played in order. Between stages, the story plays out in cute animated cutscenes all told from Cotton’s perspective.

The majority of stages follow the same pattern, having a mid-boss partway through a stage and a final boss at the end. The boss battles have two phases to them, with the second activating if the player doesn’t defeat them fast enough, adding more complex attack patterns during the second phase. It is also possible for the bosses to escape if too much time is taken to defeat them, as the boss will retreat or explode and the stage will end missing out on a score bonus.

Once the boss battle has ended Tea Time will begin, where teacups will fall from the sky for the player to collect to earn bonus points. When Tea Time concludes bonus points will be granted based on various factors, including how many enemies are defeated and how well the character gimmick was used. If the player is able to beat the entire stage without taking damage once, a special no-miss bonus will be given, providing an extra incentive to do well.

During the course of the game if the player loses all their lives (or time if using Fine), they get a game over and choose whether to continue or not. If the player continues, their score will be rest to zero, their level maxed out to five (higher if playing as Ria) and given a fresh set of lives. If the player clears all the stages or chooses not to continue from a game over, their score will be added to the online leaderboard if they are connected online, with a local leaderboard for offline too.

As well as the leaderboards there are additional incentives for players to keep playing, with special stages that are unlocked by clearing the game as each of the characters. These stages are themed after each of the characters, such as a stage based on Umihara Kawase and a version of the first stage from Fantastic Night Dreams: Cotton. These stages are added to the stage select when playing story mode, increasing the number of route variations that can be played.

Outside of the story mode is the training mode, where the player can alter a variety of settings to practice through each of the stages. As each stage is played, they will be added to the training mode, increasing the options in this practice mode. This feature can also be used as a form of score attack, letting players learn the stages and maximize the potential high scores, moving up the rankings over time.

Now with the gameplay covered to a degree I am happy with, it’s time to move onto the other elements of the game, starting with the controls.

Controls – the controls are super simple for this release, with the movement tied to the left stick and d-pad, and the action buttons on the face. All of the action buttons can be remapped freely, with all of the buttons on the controller being available for customization. These inputs work well with all control types, having zero issues with lag or missed inputs during play. This game is comfortable with pro controllers and Joy-Cons, but an arcade stick or Sega style controller is recommended.

Difficulty – this title has three difficulty settings that the players can select when starting the story mode. These settings are Normal, Hard and Extra, with each setting altering the way that standard enemies and bosses function. The enemy attack patterns will change, introducing more bullets and dangerous hazards for the player to try and avoid. The Extra setting really ramps up the bullet hell aspects, with every enemy defeated exploding into a hail of bullets and death.

Presentation – the visual style for Cotton fantasy has a very cutesy look to it for the most part, with a mix of fantastical environments, varied enemy designs and huge bosses that appear. The 3D models used for character sprites and stage elements are all implemented well, fitting the style that other Cotton titles have established in the past. This is most prevalent with the appearance of the Skull Moon, as well as the Homage stages for Cotton and Appli.

The 2D art for characters and cutscenes that play out between stages have that distinct Cotton charm, with exaggerated animations of Cotton and Silk that mesh with the dialogue wonderfully. The Music has that signature electronic sound to it, with the classic theme playing upon reaching the title screen, with music that fits each of the stages perfectly. There is limited use of voice work outside of the story cutscenes, but all voice lines are done well and compliment the other elements of the game.

Final Thoughts – now I will admit that I am a fan of the Cotton series and have been for a long time, so I did have get hyped when I discovered a new title was in the works. That excitement was not misplaced as I can safely say that this is an excellent scrolling shooter, with the new characters and gimmicks making for a fun experience. The story has the classic humor of the series, with the cutscenes serving as a fun transition between the stages.

However, there are a couple of minor complaints I have with this release. On a personal note I do wish that the Panorama style rear view style was used more, I also found the hit boxes for characters to be difficult to see when visible, which made tough bullet hell patterns harder. Putting those minor issues aside, I have no problem recommending Cotton Fantasy, as it is an excellent scrolling shooter that is perfect for fans both new and old of the genre.

In the end, I give Cotton Fantasy a final score of 4.5/5. This latest release in the Cotton franchise is an excellent continuation after the revival of the series with Cotton Reboot. The story and stages have the signature Cotton charm to them, along with guest characters and stages that call back to the history of Success, offering a lot of content and fanservice for players. If you want to check this title out for yourself, links to each version will be below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation version (HERE)

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