The gaming industry tends to go through phases where a particular genre is the hot new thing, resulting in a massive glut of titles released in that genre. You might recall a period where Auto Chess was in style, for instance, and I’m sure nobody will forget the MOBA or Battle Royale fads anytime soon. Even as recently as a few months ago it became pretty clear that farming games a la Harvest Moon were going to be the next fad based on the sheer number of them revealed at E3.
It’s always been this way, really, and we can think back to a time when shoot-’em-ups were the order of the day. That’s the era that games like Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams originated from, and it’s the era that Cotton Reboot harkens back to.
This is a horizontal shooter in the classic cute-’em-up style. We control the witch Cotton, insofar as she can be controlled given her insane hunger for Willow candy, while she blasts her way through level after level in search of sugary goodness. Cotton’s got a pretty straightforward set of actions consisting of a straightforward shot and a set of high-powered magic bombs that are consumed on use. She’s also got some help from Silk the fairy and any other fairies you find, who will drop bombs to deal with ground-based threats.
Defeated enemies drop crystals, which are the key to Cotton’s gameplay; by default these are yellow, offering a tiny bit of experience to help level up Cotton’s normal shot. If she blasts them a bit, they’ll turn orange, offering more experience, and then blue, replenishing one of her magic bombs, before turning back to yellow. Crystal color management is vital to success, but you have to do it while dodging the bullet arrays spewed from your adorable foes.
That’s all talking about the Sharp X68000 version of the game, which is available in this reboot along with a new Arrange mode. Said Arrange things mixes a lot of things up, graphics included, but the most significant change might be one made to the fundamental gameplay.
See, you might recall that Cotton’s all about shooting at crystals in order to change their colors and get more favorable power-ups as a result. In the Arrange mode, this system is expanded upon a bit. Shooting a crystal causes Cotton’s shots to split behind the crystal, damaging enemies in a much greater area beyond the item. This adds an offensive capability to crystal-blasting to further incentivize the maneuver.
What’s more, crystals that are shot for long enough will turn black, offering a sizable point bonus if Cotton picks them up. The problem, of course, is that continuing to shoot a black crystal will eventually shatter it altogether, earning Cotton nothing at all. While actually shattering a crystal takes an inordinate amount of firepower and probably won’t happen all that often, it’s still something worth considering in the heat of battle. It might even be worth it given the boost offered by shooting through crystals. This lends even more plate-juggling to Cotton’s crystallific gameplay.
The Arrange mode is also one of the best-looking versions of Cotton we’ve seen. It really milks as much cute as possible out of the cute-em-up thing. Seriously, it’s adorable and probably the best case for picking up the reboot. That X68000 mode offers a number of screen options for you retro fans as well. Speaking of bonus features, you’ve also got a time trial mode, online leaderboards for everything and the finest digital manual ever created by man. It’s fully voiced. Even if you know how to play horizontal shmups, you probably want to take a look at the manual just because it’s great.
Cotton Reboot is pretty great as well, really. This is a classic shooter available in both its original form, like a fine aged wine, and a new, tasty form, like a…um…container of delicious vape juice? Point being that both the versions of Cotton available here are worth playing, not to mention that time trial mode for you caravan fans, and if you’ve never played Cotton before it’s a high-quality introduction.