Cotton Fantasy Review (Switch eShop)

When it comes to the cute subgenre, character witch Cotton and the series she lends her name to are actually kings. There are other games that have played a big part in defining a niche where shmups’ basic fighter ships, tanks, and laser turrets are replaced with kittens, candy canes, and stuffed animals, though. sure. Konami’s Gradius spin-off series, Parodius, and SEGA’s beloved Fantasy Zone titles, for example, have long delighted gamers and troubled collectors’ savings. But the Cotton games’ blend of charismatic presentation and hyperactive action has made it one of the most beloved shmups, cute or not.

And now, amid a flurry of ports and remasters from Cotton timed to roughly coincide with the first game‘s 30th anniversary, Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll: Superlative Night Dreams has arrived on Switch, landing shortly after two releases. distinct archways. Western console owners will soon be able to obtain a digital, limited physical release locally under the name cotton fantasy – but importing a copy proved hard to resist when the name of the series alone promises premium quality. Fortunately, Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll almost entirely lives up to the expectation set by its legacy.

Launching Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll for the first time, however, seems like a pretty straightforward offering. There’s the main game mode and the ability to practice single levels you’ve completed. This might be considered rather skimpy in an age when so many shmup releases are all about bundling multiple versions and arrangements into a single package – or even a collection of tracks.

But Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll’s unique game mode actually offers a striking variety of different experiences, offering not only depth of experience, but also tremendous breadth. There are plenty of ways to play – and master – what Success’ latest hit has to offer.

Before we get to that, though, it’s worth going through the core game that sits at the heart of Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll. First of all, it’s not a hellish shooter. The number of projectiles has its moments in the game of the last stage, but at the beginning the bullets are particularly few unless you increase the difficulty. That doesn’t mean Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll doesn’t have a lot to do – but it’s not just about pounding you with dense streams of neon ammo.

What Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll is is rhythmic and energetic. Set in a cheerfully gothic world, its protagonist witch sets out to uncover the mystery of the disappearance of the show’s magical candy known as Willow. This brings him to a place full of personality, where a stream of quirky enemies constantly fills the screen. Things are moving fast, and thanks to a superb variety of level design approaches, you’ll face all sorts of different challenges, from claustrophobic sections somewhat reminiscent of core R-Type gameplay to battles with flying fortresses of level, as well as vertically scrolling horizontal sections and gap-ripping races that continually close. Play through from start to finish and you consume a varied feast of shmup experiences.

And it’s the level design that is one of the strongest elements of Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll. Dynamic, detailed, and full of stunning backdrops and stylish changes around player characters, they also prove that polygonal visuals can bring style and class to a game set in a 2D playground. The odd character model is a little rough around the edges on closer inspection, but visually Cotton’s latest presents a lavish world.

The bosses also exhibit a confident design flair and are packed with interesting concepts, attacks that spawn all sorts of different playstyles, and the same abundance of characters found throughout the game. Indeed, their only Weakness is that bosses don’t last too long when played at “Normal” difficulty by default. Too often their second form only reveals itself with a handful of seconds until they meet their end.

In terms of difficulty, Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll is comparable to Cave’s own witch-centric shooter, Deathsmiles, in that played purely to survive, it’s more welcoming than overwhelming. Play seriously for score, however, and you’ll find yourself in a space with a skill ceiling high enough to satisfy the most dedicated and skilled shmup players. This is especially true at higher difficulty levels, where you can see a bit more of what the wonderfully weird boss battles have to offer.

And whatever your skill level, Cotton has plenty to explore and master. It basically comes down to the cast of player characters available. Across the six playable characters – plus at least one more if you beat the game by any number of credits – an incredibly varied set of abilities are on offer. Each effectively brings an entirely different way of playing and scoring.

Cotton is the main character, of course. Beyond a standard shot and bomb, she can unleash a variety of magic attacks that clear much of the danger screen while spawning tons of point-scoring items. Shooting down certain enemies, meanwhile, produces color-changing crystals. Depending on the color at the pickup point, they will grant magic attacks or add to a meter that levels your attacks. Cotton’s setup demands fast and responsive gameplay, rushing across the screen to juggle priorities.

In the meantime, tackle the game with Ria and you’ve essentially got a reproduction of the weapon and scoring systems of Success’ wonderful Psyvariar series of shooters. As such, there are almost no gems, no magic attacks, and very different point item clouds. Instead, “humming” enemy bullets level up your weapons, frequently providing a brief shield that lets you break through bullet patterns to spawn point objects or enemies at close range. Play through the same eight stages of the game with Ria instead of Cotton, and you must develop entirely different survival and scoring strategies.

Or there’s Fine from Success’ most niche shmup, Sanvien, where a time system keeps you moments away from death. Or Luffee, which boils the game down to a much more traditional shooter. You’ll even unlock the game’s antagonistic final boss, which again brings new ways to play with a throwable option in a gameplay system similar to R-Type’s.

If that wasn’t enough, completing the game with each character unlocks a new console-exclusive level built around their theme and abilities – at least with every character we’ve beaten Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll with so far. here. So, with Ria, you’re treated to a horizontal take on the previously vertical Psyvariar, right down to enemies, bullet patterns, and backgrounds. Cotton, meanwhile, opens up a modern reworking of a classic opening scene from her past.

Any game of Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll allows you to choose a number of stages in any order you choose. Replacing standard levels with extra levels means even more ways to explore new ways to score points.

With all this variety of interactions, there are instances where a character’s abilities seem ill-suited to the stage design. This appears to be a title primarily designed to pair with Cotton’s abilities. Still, there are few shmups with so much potential variety in a single game mode. There are times when the screen is so cluttered with activity that it can be difficult to keep up with those pesky balls. And Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll certainly looks best when played with the Switch connected.

But this release meets a quality bar that has defined much of Cotton’s 20-year history. Few shmups offer so many ways to play, or deliver a world so enchanting and full of personality. So whether you’re a shmup enthusiast or have always dreamed of a gateway to the shooting genre, Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll offers a colossal amount to enjoy.

Comments are closed.