The Cotton series is the perfect example of a franchise that was unearthed from the 90s and given a new lease of life and have it all just work! Cotton Fantasy is a new entry to the cute shoot em up series, following on from the well received Cotton Reboot. It is more of the same but Cotton Fantasy continues to refine an approachable entry to shoot em up bullet hell fun.
Each of the 6 characters you can pick from play very differently. Four of them have multiple basic shot types that change depending on what colour crystals you collect. Those four then have very different shot layouts and special attacks. Cotton can fire bombs, Appli bounces enemies off her broomstick, Kawase grabs enemies and throws them in a direct line forward and Luffie has a lazer attack. When you add that to the fact these attacks can be charged up for a slower but more powerful shot and crystals also give magic attacks too, its a ton of customisation and swapability. What is even more exciting is that each character is a viable option to play with. No one character is poorly thought out or overpowered to someone else. Oh, and weapons level up with XP from levels 1 to 5 too.
Two other characters borrow from other shoot em up games. Ria borrows from Psyvariar. Here, Ria has to graze close to enemies and to create “buzz” and the more buzz you chain together, the stronger her weapons become. It makes you fly more aggressively to become to a powerhouse. Fine borrows from Sanvien. Here, you have no lives but a timer counting down to zero and game over. Power up crystals top up the timer and each hit takes time away. The risk vs reward of grabbing crystals and staying clean makes this a different play style again.
With all these options available, Cotton Fantasy is a game I’ve been replaying over and over again and this means you get to enjoy the remastered soundtrack, which is full of energy and the beautifully bold colourful graphics. Everything runs so smooth on the PS4 version, it sparkles with cuteness. It also sparkles in dropping new levels for you to play through too. Each playthrough lets you choose from about 8 levels but whenever you complete a run with a character, you unlock a new level to join the collection. This allows you to choose your own run after the initial opening and closing boss levels. If you are tackling the online leaderboards, go for the levels you’ll work well on. If not, just have fun trying different patterns.
Between all the sidescrolling shoot em up levels, you’ll get to play 2 Space Harrier styled levels collecting teacups. These see you move around the screen to collect various different teacups to improve your score. These are nice additions but do feel a little under utilised. It’d have been nice to have some shooting to do in these levels although moving in a 2D plain in a 3D tunnel always feels a little difficult to pull off. That is the only tiny niggle in what is otherwise an approachable and exemplary game.
If you’ve ever wanted to try out an approachable shoot em up that gives you endless continues to get to grips with the game and then additional difficulty levels to give the veterans more bullet hell action, Cotton Fantasy is a great recommendation. I loved every second of the gameplay and even though it slapped me about on the harder difficulties, I had a huge grin on my face whilst it did so. Fluid, frantic and full of options.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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