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Cotton Reboot! Review: Shooting in the 90's | Screen Rant

From 1942 to Gradius the shooter genre has always varied wildly, but back in 1991 Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams was released and helped usher in the idea of the “cute ‘em up” subgenre. Now, ININ Games, with the help of BEEP and Strictly Limited Games, has created Cotton Reboot!, a modern remaster of that classic title.

Cotton’s story has remained unchanged from the original release, and like many stories of the era it is essentially an as barebones as possible justification for each levels’ existence. For what it’s worth, the narrative follows a young witch named Cotton who is assisted by a fairy named Silk in a quest to bring light back to a world shrouded in eternal night. Contrary to what would be expected, Cotton actually has no problem with this situation and is actually on the quest because she was promised a candy called “Willow” in return for her help. After every stage she receives one of these candies from the boss, and only doesn’t eat them due to Silk telling her that once she has all of them, they will combine to become one massive candy.

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The remake is a very faithful recreation of the “shoot ‘em up” gameplay from the original Cotton game, though with some tweaking to help fit modern sensibilities. The differences this makes can actually be seen in-game as, in addition to the remade “Arrange Mode,” there is also a “X68000 Mode” which is a faithful recreation of the original arcade version. Probably the biggest difference between these modes is that the shooting in Arrange allows for a lot more of the player’s projectiles being on the screen at once. The streams of bullets that the player can produce in that mode make the original game pale in comparison.

This difference actually extends to the design as a whole as, in general, the number of enemies and bullets on screen in the remade game is significantly more than in the original. These bullet-hell elements increase the difficulty of the game significantly and are compounded by additions made to some of the bosses which make them harder still. While this kind of compounding difficulty can be appealing to some, it can be just as much of an annoyance to others. This is the kind of game that wants players to play its short campaign repeatedly, trying to master a brutal combat system that requires precise movements and where death comes from a single hit.

That philosophy, unfortunately, highlights a problem with the game’s controls, though it is not really Cotton’s fault. The joysticks on the PlayStation 4 just feel like too imprecise an input method for a lot of the demanding navigation that the game requires. Moving at exact speeds and directions with only the joystick can be quite the herculean task, and it can make for some very frustrating moments where the number of threats on screen make movement feel impossible despite it being entirely feasible for the player to escape them. This problem can be exacerbated by the overabundance of visual effects on display in Arrange Mode, which muddies the player’s ability to tell exactly what exactly is happening on screen.

The nature of a game like Cotton Reboot! is one where its audience will know immediately if they want to pick it up, because as far as being a classic shooter game, it’s exactly what is to be expected. For those less knowledgeable, however, this game is for players who want to spend quite some time on what amounts to a very short game so that they can learn its ins and outs. It is also far more important than it probably should be to not be bothered by more than a little fanservice.

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Cotton Reboot! released physically and digitally today, July 20th, 2021 for both the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch. Screen Rant was given a digital PS4 code for the purposes of this review.

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