Review: “Panorama Cotton” (Nintendo Switch)

*Disclosure: A copy of Panorama Cotton was provided to The Splintering for the purposes of this review.

With that disclosure out of the way, I would like to now say, “THANK YOU” to ININ Games for the review copy of Panorama Cotton! I enjoyed the heck out of this game! I guess I spoiled the outcome of this review up front, but it’s true, I loved playing Panorama Cotton, and will likely be adding it to my “continuous rotation.” Maybe I need another disclaimer here… Ah, give me a break, these arcade-style shooters are my favorite genre of video games, after all.

Panorama Cotton was originally released in 1994 for the Sega Mega Drive in Japan. I remember seeing previews for it in my favorite gaming magazine, Diehard GameFan, and I really wanted to get my hands on it. Unfortunately, Panorama Cotton was never released for the Sega Genesis over here in the good ol’ US of A. (Until now! MWUA HA HA HA!!!) But, at least it wasn’t a terrible shock to my younger self, as the only Cotton game to come stateside was the original, and it was exclusively for the TurboGrafx-16 CD-ROM! Nobody I knew had one of those, not even me! (Not that I didn’t want one, but still, I wasn’t made of money back then… or now either, now that I think about it… erm, thanks again ININ Games!)

Beware the might of the terrifying, THUNDER CHICKEN!!!

The Cotton series started out as – and primarily was – a side-scrolling, 2D shooter series, but for Panorama Cotton, the game’s developer Success changed the perspective to behind-the-back, so that it plays like Space Harrier, my all-time favorite game! (If you do want to hear a “terrible shock” story, ask me about Space Harrier getting cancelled for the 32X sometime!) Not only does Panorama Cotton play a lot like Space Harrier, but it also looks a lot like it, full of vibrant colors, and clever enemy designs. Maybe a bit more like Fantasy Zone in the wackiness department than Space Harrier, but you know… “Welcome to the Fantasy Zone,” after all. (Speaking of Fantasy Zone and Space Harrier, if anyone wants to buy me that copy of Space Fantasy Zone that I found on Ebay – and that TurboGrafx CD-ROM I never got, then hit me up!)

“Look Ma! I’m Space Harrier!”

As the cute, little redhead witch Cotton, you fly around on your broom and shoot stuff. Of course, you have a few spells at your disposal, too, so you can periodically collect multiple spell scrolls dropped by enemies. It is worth noting that the spell power-up normally hones in on your location, but if you shoot it, then it will bounce back, and will change to a different spell if shot enough times. This way, you can always try and collect your favorite of the three spells (red, blue, or green). Each spell has 2 different uses as well. You’ll notice that there is a little fairy flying around you (Silk), and if you hold down the shoot button, then she will start circling around you. If you use your magic while she is circling, then it will have a different effect than if you were to release the shoot button and just hit the magic button. I personally liked the red fire dragon spell the best (probably because it felt like another nod to Space Harrier), but you can hold up to six spells at once, so you can mix things up to your liking.

There are also a few “star orbs” that you can pick up, but they don’t seem to do anything special other than bonus points. However, those points and experience, which comes in the form of “yellow spell scrolls”, do come in handy by increasing your life and making your shots more powerful. Pro tip! If you beat the game with over a million points, then you get to swap roles with Silk the fairy, and play through the game as a her instead! Nothing against Cotton or anything, but I’d much rather look at the backside of the scantily-clad Silk the whole game!

At least it’s better than staring down the back side of a broom!

At only five stages, Panorama Cotton is fairly short. They are much longer than the individual stages in Space Harrier, though (which is my basis for comparison here, if you hadn’t noticed). For the most part, the levels looked amazing, and I really enjoyed levels four and five a great deal. Some stages also offer branching paths, allowing you to play slightly different areas across different playthroughs. Nothing major, but still a nice touch, for sure! (Like the level four boss in Rez… You haven’t played Rez? Oh, we need to have a talk after this!)

The music is about what you would expect from a 16-bit game of this kind. Upbeat and catchy! It kind of sounded a bit like Ristar if you ask me. If you haven’t played Ristar… *shakes head*

So Space Harrier and Fantasy Zone are apparently part of the Alex Kidd universe as well!

With all this gushing, I guess I should air my complaints. There are a few places in Panorama Cotton where I was getting hit with zero idea what was hitting me. Not to brag, but I am usually pretty good at these types of games, and hearing Cotton getting pulverized without explanation kind of made me sad! The hits may have been from enemies that come out from behind you, but I’m not entirely sure on that one. With all the colors, enemies, levels, and the power-ups… things can get a bit hectic onscreen. While that is to be expected in a game like this, I still find it annoying when I die (or take damage, in this case) and don’t even know what hit me.

You may also miss a number of power-ups because you have to stop shooting in order for them to approach you. Sometimes the action just doesn’t let up long enough for you to stop shooting and sit still while you wait for a power-up to inch your way. I suppose that this may add a bit more strategy to the game rather than being a true “flaw,” but I thought I’d still mention it.

Also, not all the levels looked super amazing. Level two was particularly bland by today’s standards, even if the effects were amazing in 1994. And since I’m griping, I might as well call it out here… Couldn’t the fairy do something other than just give you a second spell option? Maybe fetch those star orbs, or… anything? At least if you always have the “swap places” option that I mentioned earlier, then Cotton can pull the worthless card on her! Take THAT you STOOPID FAIRY! Just kidding! I still liked the fairy!

Panorama Cotton does offer a few risqué images, so whether you like a little cheekiness in your video games, it makes you lose sleep at night, or you are somewhere in between, then at least you have been “warned,” for lack of a better word. It’s pretty tame mostly… though there was one shot where I am still on the fence as to what exactly I was looking at…

Uhhh…

Overall, Panorama Cotton is an extremely fun game, and definitely one for the behind-the-back shooter fans! I highly recommend it for anyone interested… or for anyone who may have been waiting 25 years to finally get to play it, of course! On that note, if anyone wants an ACTUAL Sega Genesis cartridge version of the game (FINALLY!), or a physical copy of the game for Nintendo Switch or PS4, then there are some limited quantities available over at 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.

Is anyone able to read this and let me know what this is a picture of? A belly button, maybe? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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