Friday, April 15, 2011

Of Import: Cotton - Fantastic Night Dreams (1993)

The American TurboDuo version of Cotton - Fantastic Night Dreams is now a sought-after and pricey collectible -- which is why this will not be an East vs. West comparison -- but fortunately the Japanese version is much more affordable, and almost equally playable, as most of the written text is in English.  Sequels and variations also appeared on the Sega Mega Drive and Super Famicom, and later on the 32-bit Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn; there were even Neo Geo Pocket Color and Dreamcast games.  But this "original" console port was published in 1993 by Hudson Soft, based on the Japanese arcade game created by Success:

The cutscenes are in Japanese, of course, but it's not hard to follow the story -- a young witch named Cotton befriends and/or captures a bikini-clad fairy named Silk, and they set out to conquer evil of a supernatural nature, which is really just incidental to Cotton's quest for Willow candy.  Cotton - Fantastic Night Dreams is a side-scrolling shooter pitting the cute little witch and her winged pal against a bevy of bizarre enemies. 

And despite its cute-'em-up appearance, it's not easy -- dealing with this early miniboss requires a lot of tricky maneuvering and firing:

Most of the regular enemies are small in size, leaving the system enough processing power to send them out in well-animated flurries -- these odd little puffy pig thingies are a case in point:

Each level concludes with a Tea Time segment, where Cotton can pick up extra points by snagging the teacups inexplicably cascading from the sky after the boss has met its demise:

There's not really a lot to say about the game design -- it's fairly standard 2-D shmup material, with success based primarily on dexterity and pattern memorization.  But it's a high-quality effort, with excellent CD-Audio music and some neat graphical tricks, including lots of parallax scrolling and warping backgrounds.  The music does repeat on a few of the later levels, as do some of the enemy designs, probably because few players will reach the higher levels at all; there's always some nasty creature waiting to knock Cotton offscreen, screaming in her cute, high-pitched anime voice.

The graphics are colorful and varied, the music is pretty solid, and while the gameplay isn't necessarily superior to the myriad of decent shooters available on the PC Engine, Cotton is still worth seeking out and belongs in any serious collection.  (Which mine is not, given its random nature.  But I'm still glad I have it.)

This is one of the good ones. You might be able to buy a copy here or here:

Cotton PC-Engine SCD

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