Darkness has overtaken the world and there is only one person capable of bringing light back to the land. That person is the young witch Cotton, who has enough magical firepower to turn enemies to mush. The only problem is Cotton is more interested in saving the world for the sake of candy than for the greater good. Woe betides anyone who stands between her and her favourite treats!
Welcome to the world of “cute ‘em up” with Cotton Reboot!, a sub-genre of the schmup genre in which bullet hells are cute and challenging. Cotton Reboot! is, well, a reboot of Cotton: Fantastic Nights Dreams which was released in Japanese arcades in 1991 before making its way to home computers and consoles with various ports over the years
Cotton Reboot! Comes packaged with a couple of game modes. There’s the Arranged Mode, which is the remade version of the game, X68000 mode which is a faithful recreation of the home computer version of the game released in 1993 and Score Attack Mode which is exactly what it sounds like.
If you’ve played a schmup before then you know what to expect. You pilot Cotton on her magical broomstick through a series of levels avoiding a blistering barrage of enemy fire while unloading with an arsenal of your own. Cotton Reboot! adds onto this basic template design some light RPG systems and a crystal system that adds a surprising amount of depth to the combat.
As you guide Cotton through this magical fantasy world, bringing violent death to the cute critters trying to stop you via a barrage of magical energy and air-to-surface bombs and a bunch of different magical screen-clearing supers. Vaporised enemies will drop crystals or bomb power-ups. All of Cotton’s abilities can be powered up, which makes all the difference to the difficulty. Bomb pickups power up the bombs while the crystals enemies leave behind both add to your score and XP while also powering up Cotton’s super.
When shot, the crystals change colour. What colour a crystal is determines which magic attack it powers up. The XP that Cotton gains goes towards increasing her projectile damage and each time you die, you lose some of that XP. The real strategy to using the crystals though is by stopping yourself from picking them up early as each time you shoot them, apart from changing its colour, it diffuses your shots into a spread attack that, if your XP bar is full, does serious damage to the enemies flooding the screen. More than that, the longer you use the crystal before picking it up, the higher the score it gives you. Shoot a crystal too much and it turns black for a massive score boost on collection.
Visually Cotton Reboot! in arrange mode is stunning. Featuring redesigned visuals across the board, the game is a beautiful 2D sprite-filled game. The background artwork is gorgeous, evoking some popular anime designs while the enemies have some great designs and animations that lend an air of personality to them. The game’s cutscenes have also been redrawn and animated, even though the shots are fairly identical to that of the original game.
X68000 Mode is the original game, circa 1993. While most of the design elements are the same between this mode and the Arrange Mode, Arrange Mode is far more hectic than the original mode. Oddly, the X68000 mode is both easier and harder than Arrange Mode. Easier in that it doesn’t have the same amount of craziness on-screen and is harder because your damage output is less. Crystals also don’t float around in the same manner as in Arrange Mode, instead falling rather quickly to the ground.
Score Attack comes in two flavours, a 2-minute run and a 5-minute run. It’s just a straight-up section for enemy blasting but it does add a new Colosseum backdrop to the proceedings.
Cotton Reboot! adds the modern convenience of infinite continues for you to blast through the game with. However, it doesn’t have a save option. If you start a run, you’re going to have to complete it or start from the beginning again if you have to switch off halfway through. While I would have preferred a save between levels, Cotton Reboot! is so short, especially with infinite continues, making it easy for players of any skill level to finish it, that it ultimately didn’t matter. Unless you’re planning to start playing say, 10 minutes before you need to do something, there should be no issues at all. It also helps that once you learn how to use the crystal system efficiently, progress feels much faster. There certainly felt like there was a time difference between my first run versus my second and third.
Finishing the game unlocks new character sprites to use, access to the ranking system so you can chase those high scores and a sound test. In the options menu is where you can change player sprites, game difficulty and the number of lives you have. Though it seems that you won’t be able to rank if you change your default lives.
Outside of a few sections where you’re travelling backwards through tunnels without being able to turn around and a final boss that was clearly designed to empty your pockets of quarters, Cotton Reboot! is a breezy, entertaining shooter whose longevity comes from chasing high scores. It may not have the crushing difficulty of some other schmups that requires level memorisation and twitch reaction skills, but it is a cute, fun diversion for some quick pick up and play sessions. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
Visuals8/10 Very Good
- Gorgeous 2D artwork in Arrange Mode
- Crystal and XP system lets you melt enemies and bosses with ease
- Short playtime
- No saves during the campaign
- Some serious cheapness on the last boss