With just under 10 days to go, I'm eating breakfast in a red wig and riding my broomstick to the office in anticipation of the next installment of the Cotton series, Cotton Fantasy.
If you’re like me, you have an appreciation for well-crafted Japanese video games. So when I saw Cotton Fantasy coming to the Nintendo Switch, I was immediately intrigued, given the history of the franchise's retro roots. Well, it turned out to be everything I hoped it would be and more! Here’s why I love this game so much…
Obviously, the main character is Cotton. In addition to your standard shot and bomb, she has magical attacks that take up large chunks of the screen, showering her with point bonuses. When downed, certain enemies will drop a colored crystal which will give magic attacks depending on its color when picked up. Cotton's set-up, in addition to requiring speedy, reactionary play, also entails constantly flitting around the screen to juggle priorities.
Similar to success' delightful shooter series, Psyvariar, the player tackles this game with Ria and reaps no benefits from jewels, magical attacks, or endless showers of point items. In turn, as the bullet passes near you, your weapon levels up, and a shield is created for a brief period, in which you can use it to smash through bullet patterns or shoot enemies close up. Play through the game with Ria, and you'll need a totally different survival and scoring strategy.
Another popular one is Fine from Success' own obscure shooter, Sanvien, which has a time system to keep you constantly on the verge of death. Then there's Luffee, which manages to boil the game down to a much more traditional shooter. You will also find the game's final boss, the antagonist, who features a new play mechanic, such as throwable projectiles, found in classic R-Type.
If that wasn't enough variety, finishing the game with each character unlocks a fresh, console-exclusive level, depending on their abilities and themes, with every character we've defeated thus far. With Ria, for example, there is a horizontal Psyvariar, featuring enemies, patterns, and backdrops just like in the previous game. Additionally, the cotton onstage offers a modernized version of one of her past performances.
Cotton Rock 'n' Roll is high-octane and moody. Set in a cheerful gothic world, its main character, a witch, is trying to find out the secret behind the disappearance of Willow, the in-series equivalent of our world's magical candies. That sends her to a zone that exudes personality, where enemies continually fill the screen. Things move fast, and thanks to superb varieties of approaches to level design, you'll face all kinds of different challenges, from somewhat tight areas somewhat reminiscent of R-Type's core gameplay to battles with level-sized flying fortresses, as well as vertically scrolling horizontal sections and races tearing through ever-tightening gaps. Finish a shmup from start to finish and you'll experience the feast of an entirely different genre.
Graphics & Sound
And one of Cotton Rock 'n' Roll's strongest features is its level design. It is dynamic, detailed, and contains sweeping set-pieces and elegant shifts around the player characters. Polygonal visuals are used and can bring style and class to a game set in a 2D playfield. Mixed media stages can make you look twice at times, but Cotton Fantasy blends them nicely, and continues to be a treat for the eyes.
With bosses full of character, they also have attacks with a variety of different effects, catering to every style of play. Playing at the default 'Normal' difficulty, the boss battles can feel short. In most cases, the second form isn't revealed until the very end when there's just a few seconds left. Turning the difficulty up remedies that, if you're up to the challenge.
This release lives up to Cotton's usual high quality standards. Few shoot 'em ups have as many varieties in terms of how you can play, nor such a well-designed world as what Cotton does. No matter what type of game you like, Cotton Rock 'n' Roll will offer something to please you.
It should come as no surprise that Cotton Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy manages to pull off its total execution beautifully. Action sequences in the game are absolutely incredible, and the fun is easy to find.