Review – Cotton Reboot!

The Cotton franchise is a series of shoot ’em ups (often called cute ’em ups due to their kawaii presentation) developed by Success, with a history spanning over thirty years and a crap ton of console and computer releases, more often than not limited to Japan, even though it has always been quite famous on the import scene. I never understood the reasoning behind almost all of its games being limited to the East: we love shoot ’em ups, especially the more accessible ones like these, and an anime aesthetic has never been an issue to us Westerners. Cotton Reboot!, misleading title aside, is the first time a game in the series has been released in the Americas since 1993.

Cotton Reboot Explosions

Explosions, particle effects, tons of enemies onscreen, pure mayhem going on. Oh yeah, this is also the very beginning of the first level.

Despite what its name would indicate, Cotton Reboot! is not a reboot for the series. In fact, it is a collection featuring two versions of Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams, the first game in the franchise, “Classic” and “Arranged”. “Classic” is pretty straightforward. It’s not the original arcade version, released in 1991, but actually a slightly tweaked version of the 1993 port released for the Sharp X68000 series of computers. For the most part, it’s the same game, albeit with a brand new 16:9 aspect ratio and some really bad English translations. It’s a nice cute ’em up, reminiscent of other games like Parodius and Fantasy Zone, but nothing jaw-dropping.

The real star of the show is the “Arranged” version. Again, this is not a reboot of Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams. This is actually a full-fledged remake of the original, with faster gameplay, a rearranged soundtrack, and brand new visuals. There are more enemies onscreen and your main character’s sprite is actually larger, resulting in a more cluttered and chaotic gameplay that would have been a no-no for me if it wasn’t for the game’s excellent gameplay.

Cotton Reboot X68000

The X68000 version is nice and all, but it’s a lot slower and less chaotic.

It’s hard not to love Cotton Reboot!‘s gameplay. It’s a shoot ’em up, but it’s not meant to be challenging or a test on your twitch-like reflexes. Your main character, the adorable witch called Cotton, is obscenely overpowered, featuring a stupidly powerful rapid shot and tons of different bomb-like spells that cover the entire screen and deal ludicrous amounts of damage. Furthermore, if you decide not to collect the tons of gems scattered onscreen, you can use them as prisms to deflect your bullets towards even more enemies.

This wasn’t meant to be a challenging game in the slightest. Cotton Reboot! is pure and utter mayhem. It’s all about racking up as many points as possible, especially whenever you trigger the Fever gauge. This increases the amount of damage you deal for a brief amount of time and also turns each and every enemy you destroy into a gigantic multiplier onscreen. It’s a visual mess, nearly reaching the point of being considered an assault to the senses, but given the game’s comedic appeal and easy-going level of difficulty, I wasn’t annoyed by that. In fact, I was cherishing these moments. It was meant to be bonkers, after all.


Cotton Reboot! is not meant to be difficult. It’s meant to be bonkers.

The game also features a time attack mode that doubles down in its focus on high scores. In it, you have either two or five minutes to score as many points as possible, using the aforementioned Fever gauge to increase your multiplier whenever you feel like it. This is where strategy comes into play, as knowing when to trigger this mechanic is essential in order to exponentially increase your score.

Gameplay-wise, Cotton Reboot! is a bit rough around the edges, but tons of fun. There were just two things I really wasn’t impressed by with this game. The first one being the terrible translation, with some sentences sounding as broken as the hilarious dialogue sections from Vroom in the Night Sky, and the other one being the soundtrack. Now, before you grab your pitchforks, I’m not saying it’s outright bad, but when putting both original and rearranged soundtracks next to other shoot ’em ups I’ve played over the past few years, I can’t exactly call them memorable.


The Fever gauge turns the game into pure and utter madness. I love it.

Your enjoyment with Cotton Reboot! will highly depend on how you like to play shoot ’em ups. If you’re a fan of reflex-defying bullet-hells that emphasize skill and precision, this won’t be your cup of tea. This game is less about being challenging and more about being cathartic and completely crazy. It’s not about testing your skills, it’s all about throwing as many things for you to shoot at, reaching a point you can barely tell what’s happening onscreen. Thankfully, I love chaotic games like this, so I had a great time with Cotton Reboot!, especially with its brand new “Arranged” mode. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but it’s still tons of fun.


Graphics: 8.0

Even if the original game included in this collection feels dated and basic, I appreciate the inclusion of a 16:9 aspect ratio for it. The remastered visuals don’t deviate very much from the original game’s design, but they look crisp and are beautifully animated.

Gameplay: 9.0

Whether you’re playing the original or remastered version of the game, the controls are easy to grasp and very responsive, although the remake is faster-paced and more chaotic.

Sound: 6.5

It is what you would expect from a “cute ’em up”: a cheerful and excessively energetic soundtrack which ended up being a bit forgettable. There are tons of Japanese voice clips uttered throughout both versions of the game.

Fun Factor: 7.5

The “Arranged” version of Cotton is chaotic, cathartic and highly replayable. The original X68000 version included in here is average at best, but still a nice novelty item. All in all, a pretty good shooter for a portable system, even if it’s a bit rough around the edges, especially regarding its really poor translation.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Cotton Reboot! is available now on PS4 and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Cotton Reboot! was provided by the publisher.