You never know what you’re going to get with a revisited older game. Sometimes it’s emulation baked into a fancy wrapper, other times it’s a full-on remake. Sometimes the original version is included, sometimes you’re on your own.

In the case of Cotton Reboot, a new version of a X68000 side-scrolling shooter you probably haven’t played, the context is key. And having the original game stacked up to the new take helps the player appreciate the differences, the roots and the history.

Cotton was, again, a shooter for the X68000 computer that was only ever available in Japan. So if you know Cotton, you’re savvy enough to know better than me, probably. You’re probably also really into old school Falcom games.

Anyway, Cotton is referred to presently as a “cute ‘em up,” giving weight to the game’s silly anime aesthetic. You play as a little witch girl who is goaded into saving a bunch of fairies by promising her some sort of candy. Funny faces ensue.

Cotton Reboot Review

What’s unique about Cotton is its upgrade system. As you take down enemies they drop gems, and they can be different colors. Picking up different colored gems give you access to EXP as well as “bomb” moves that have different properties.

And if you shoot a gem enough times it’ll change color, as well as giving you extra points as you knock it around. Shoot too much, however, and the gem will lose all of its benefits. 

So there’s a lot happening on the screen, and a lot for the player to keep track of. It can be deceptively tough, especially if you’re trying your best to not lose any gems to the offscreen abyss.

It’s also pretty unforgiving when it comes to taking damage or coming back from a death with any leftover power. It’s a tough experience, but the silly cutscenes and classic PC/arcade aesthetics are fun to play around with.

The arranged mode, or the “reboot,” is a whole different experience. The 2D visuals are more of a hybrid of 2D and polygonal models, although they retain most of the charm. You’re also a little less vulnerable, able to take some hits before going down and not losing all your EXP.

Finally there’s a new system to the gems that give you extra firepower while shooting them, and they don’t just fall off the screen either. So the Cotton reboot is both easier to get through, and even more chaotic on the screen. There’s so much stuff firing off sometimes it’s easy to lose track of where you are.

But because it’s a much less punitive experience it’s totally fine to take some hits here and there. The extra depth to the gems is a welcome addition, and the way some of the stranger visual elements are adapted to models actually look pretty creative.

Cotton isn’t going to be an IP anyone in North America is going to be familiar with, but that isn’t necessary to have a good time here. All you need is a general interest in shmups and/or classic anime.

The collection here does the rest. Not only do you get a remixed version that’s a little more friendly to contemporary gaming, you get the original to check out and compare as well.

I played through both options in Cotton Reboot, and was glad I did. I barely have any knowledge of the X68000 whatsoever, and this was an illuminating peek into that chapter of gaming history.


Pros:

  • Colorful, silly visuals
  • Includes original and remake
  • Remake has a variety of differences that make both worth playing

Cons:

  • It’s a shmup so, these are short-lived and difficult
  • The gem stuff can get annoying at times, sometimes feeling like busywork
  • Remake UI is kinda ugly

Score: 8

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review