Cotton Fantasy review (PS4)

We’ve been seeing quite a lot of Cotton franchise lately, and after seeing a lot of the classics get rereleased we’re now getting a brand new entry in Cotton Fantasy, which is out for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.

If you keep an eye on the Japanese video game scene then you might have noticed that Cotton Rock ‘n Roll came out there last year, and Cotton Fantasy is the western release of that title – which is the first proper Cotton sequel in two decades. As with the recent re-releases of classic games in the franchise, ININ Games is once again publishing, with Studio Saizensen taking care of the development of the game.

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Gameplay-wise, not too much has change, so if you’re familiar with the Cotton games or arcade shoot ’em ups in general you’ll be right at home here as well. A quick controls guide is just a single screen that explains which buttons are for your regular and charged shots, and which one drops bombs if you have them – though how they actually work differs between characters, of which there are no less than seven in this game.

While we’d recommend playing with Cotton first to get the “standard” experience it’s nice that you have six other characters to choose from, and that each one offers a different gameplay style – something that’s especially nice because arcade shooters like this generally don’t have the longest campaigns. Studio Saizensen’s own Umihara Kawase is featured with her fishing rod, for example, while other characters can deploy turrets or pick up and throw enemies. In a genre where the norm is that one ship shoots a laser beam while another fires a three bullet spread, the diversity that’s on offer is a real plus here.

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Whoever you pick, gameplay is the usual swerving between enemies and their projectiles while attacking them, though with some practice you’ll start to learn how you can get higher scores in the game’s eight stages – which can be played in a random order. There are six secret stages to unlock as well, so there’s definitely some replay value to Cotton Fantasy – though you might need a guide to unlock all of its secrets.

What you’d expect from a Cotton title is that the visuals are colorful and vivid with cheerful music and voices, but at the same time this is also where you’ll see the biggest leap forward. It’s been 20 years since the last game, and you can tell by the heavily improved levels of detail that are on display here. The cutscenes also look great in high definition, which also makes the animations shine. As per the norm for a Cotton game things can get a little hectic, but overall this one’s a joy to watch and listen to. If you enjoyed the previous Cotton titles, this is the long-awaited next step in the franchise.

Score: 8.0/10

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