Beyond Co-op Review: Cotton Fantasy
Review by: Paul Acevedo
The Cotton series of cute ‘em ups has experienced a renaissance in recent years thanks to developer Success and publisher ININ Games. Six of the games in the series are available on PlayStation and Switch, including classics like Cotton 100% and Panorama Cotton, as well as a few modern games. Only Rainbow Cotton for Dreamcast hasn’t received a re-release or remake. The latest part of the renaissance is Cotton Fantasy, a new entry developed for arcades in 2021 and released on consoles the following year.
Cotton Fantasy has three main strengths: story, characters, and presentation. The story involves another mysterious disappearance of magical candies called “willows” from Fairyland. The queen sends Silk the fairy to recruit Cotton the witch on a mission to save the remaining willows. Cotton loves willows to an absurd degree, so she takes their disappearance to heart. The narrative comes to life between levels via animated cinematics that are fully voiced in Japanese with English subtitles (a huge improvement over the untranslated cinematics of previous Cotton games). It’s like watching a magical comedy anime every time you clear a level!
Whereas Cotton games usually only put players in control of Cotton and Silk, Fantasy adds an additional six characters into the mix. These characters include: Appli from Cotton 2 and Cotton Boomerang, Saiba Ria from Psyvariar, Fine from Sanvein, Umihara Kawase from the Umihara Kawase series of platformers, Luffee from Doki Doki Poyacchio, and a new, unlockable character. They all play differently from Cotton herself, and two Trophies can be unlocked with each character, adding a fair amount of replay value. The only downside is that the same cinematics play regardless of character choice. Character-specific stories would have been much more exciting.
The game also looks and sounds like a dream. Fantasy is a 2.5D shmup, so most of the graphics (outside of the cut scenes) are 3D. Still, they’re colorful and creative, capturing nearly all of the charm of the 16-bit games. Between some of the game’s 8 main levels, players will engage in a pair of 3D bonus stages that pay tribute to Panorama and Boomerang Cotton. The soundtrack is quite memorable as well, remixing some classic tunes to great effect.
The only real downside to Cotton Fantasy is a lack of game modes. Besides the story mode (which has 7 characters but only one story), the only other mode is a Training mode that lets players play any unlocked stage individually. Additional modes like a boss rush or the ability to play through all the unlockable stages in a row would have been welcome. The lack of co-op is also a shame, especially given how many characters the developers had to work with! Considering the slimness of the overall package, it might be advisable to pick up Cotton Fantasy when it’s on sale instead of at full price. Still, this is definitely a real Cotton game that anime and shoot ‘em up fans will love while it lasts.
Cotton Fantasy sells for $39.99. It’s available digitally on PlayStation and Switch. Physical PlayStation and Switch versions are available at Amazon as well.
Our Rating: 3.5 out of 5
The Co-Op Experience:
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.