Review: “Cotton 100%” (Nintendo Switch)

ININ Games has been on quite a roll while celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Cotton franchise. Originally created in 1991 for the Sharp X68000 computer (X68K), the first Cotton game helped to popularize the “cute-em-up” sub-genre of the 2D, side-scrolling shooter. The series would spawn several sequels, including a 1994 release for the Super Famicom (aka the Super Nintendo) titled Cotton 100%.

Now, ININ Games has re-released for Cotton 100% for both the Nintendo Switch and PS4, finally making the game easily accessible to westerners at an affordable asking price of $15. So what can modern gamers expect when picking up this retro title?*

“Get back, Jack!” (Kill me)

In Cotton 100% , you play as the titular young witch who returns to battles the demons of darkness across seven stages. Like other games in the series, Cotton is assisted by a small fairy named Silk, who acts as the game’s satellite/option/familiar, depending on your preferred nomenclature. There’s certainly some kind of plot, but the cutscenes are not translated into English, so there’s not really any way to know what is going on unless you can read Japanese. I scoured the options screens to see if I somehow set the language settings improperly, but no dice.

Cotton has a wide array of magical skills at her disposal, including rudimentary magical blasts that are upgraded as you collect yellow and red magic crystals, and arched “bomb” attack, and magical super attacks that do substantial amounts of damage. You can also collect more fairies in addition to Silk, whose flight pattern can be swapped on the fly! (Kill me)

The enemies may be slightly standard fantasy-inspired fare, but at least they offers a change of pace from the sci-fi inspired, 90s-era contemporaries. They include axe-throwing goblins, evil fairies, flying eyeballs, winged demons, etc. Every stage also has two bosses with which to contend, which helps to extend the game a bit as the stages are actually fairly short. The mid-bosses tend to be fairly simple battles, while the final bosses take a bit more finesse to take down. These bosses take the form of oversized mushroom, a flying clown face, and a giant Jack-O-Lantern, but my personal favorite design was the possessed tree infested with ill-tempered squirrels.

Behind all of these magical battles are colorful stage backdrops, some of which are very impressive even by Super Famicom standards. Retro gaming purists will also find several visual options to tailor your experience, including multiple scan line filters and screen formats. I also noticed zero flicker, slowdown, or other performance issues in this re-release. On the sound side, the music and sound effects are all generally upbeat and fun, but there were not any tunes that stuck in my head as particularly remarkable.

“Quit clowning around!” (Kill me)

While you can play Cotton 100% in its original form, there is also a mode that adds the ability to quickly rewind the game to correct dumb mistakes, though you probably won’t need to use it much. By contemporary standards, Cotton 100% is markedly easier than most other 2D shooters, even those in the Cotton franchise. However, the final boss – no matter how you play – is pretty darn tough, and I struggled to find a good strategy to defeat her other than staying dangerously close for most of the battle.

But should you buy it? Cotton 100% is cute, plays seamlessly, and is genuinely fun, but it’s also short, easy, and there’s no telling what the story is (at least not until an English language update, which ININ has promised to provide via a post-release patch). If you are new to 2D shooters (or kind of suck at them), a fan of the Cotton series, or a retro enthusiast who has always wanted to play this rare, Japan-only import, Cotton 100% is a nice pickup for just $15. If you are looking for a more substantial game, or the “definitive Cotton experience,” however, I have to recommend the pricier, but more satisfying Cotton Reboot!, which was released for both PS4 and Nintendo Switch this past summer (which we reviewed here).

Before cutting out, it is worth mentioning that you can preorder a physical edition of Cotton 100% both for Nintendo Switch and PS4 via the Strictly Limited games website. There are multiple packages to choose from, including standard and collectors’s editions, so be sure to check those out here if you are interested.

*Disclosure: A copy of Cotton 100% was provided to The Splintering for the purpose of this review.

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