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Rainbow Cotton

Rainbow Cotton

Written by Russell Archey on 5/20/2024 for SWI  
More On: Rainbow Cotton

Something that always fascinates me when I do some of these reviews is when I review a game that’s either a remake of a prior game or part of a series that I have never heard of, either because they were on consoles I didn’t have growing up or they were only released in another region. Such is the case with the Cotton series which first debuted back in 1991 with Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams on multiple systems and in the arcade, but mostly in Japan. Rainbow Cotton's release on the TurboGrafix-CD in 1993 looks to be the only North American release for the series until 2021 when several games in the series started to come out on modern systems for a whole new audience. Today I’ll be taking a look at Rainbow Cotton, first released on the Sega Dreamcast in Japan in January 2000.

Monsters have begun invading the fairy kingdom of Filament. As they head for Lasha Castle, Queen Velvet calls the fairies of the kingdom to make a plan before the monsters steal the kingdom’s Willow candy and take over the world…as you do. They decide to find Cotton and get her to help with the monsters by saying that the various towns are having a Willow Festival where Cotton can eat lots of Willows for free. That’s enough for Cotton as she sets off to the nearby towns to deal with the monsters.

Rainbow Cotton is an on-rails shooter that deviates from most of the series by having the point of view from behind Cotton, similar to games such as Space Harrier, as opposed to the 2D side-scrolling of most of the series. As you progress through each of the game’s five stages you’ll defeat enemies and collect various items to pick up before fighting a boss at the end of the stage. Aside from your basic attack, you start out with a single fairy and can free more from golden jars as you progress. With the fairies you can hold down the attack button and move the aiming reticule over an enemy to mark it and your fairies will fly off to attack them. This helps you take down enemies, focusing on a specific area while you can take out enemies somewhere else.

As you defeat enemies, a gauge in the upper-left corner of the screen will start to fill up. When it fills completely, your attack level will go up. Your attack level is retained if you get a Game Over and choose to continue, but the gauge will reset to empty. The gauge will also drain a small bit if you get hit. Cotton also has magic she can use to clear enemies off the screen. Some of those golden jars I mentioned a moment ago might contain a couple other items, including a colored crystal. Picking up enough crystals will fill a square in the gauge in the upper-right corner and let you use a certain magic attack.

On the surface Rainbow Cotton looks like a pretty good shooter and if you’re familiar with the Dreamcast original (if you had a way to play it), this seems to be a pretty faithful port. From what I’ve researched though, it may be too faithful of a port. To start with probably the biggest thing first, everything about the game I had to learn as I went and a couple of things I’m still not sure about, and that’s mainly because Rainbow Cotton tells you nothing on how to play or what anything is or does. Keep in mind that this was originally a Dreamcast game and for you younger gamers out there, games used to have instruction manuals that told you everything you needed to know about the game from the story, to the controls, to the different items you can pick up - and what they do. Unfortunately, Rainbow Cotton on the newer consoles doesn’t come with a manual, nor is there anything telling you what anything does, and it’s not easy to find out for yourself while you’re dodging a bunch of things flying at you.

Another issue comes while you’re flying through the levels: Cotton takes up a bit of real estate on the screen which can make it a bit tough to see what’s in front of you and what you’re shooting at. Similar styles of shooters such as Space Harrier and Star Fox also go for a behind-the-back view. But in Star Fox, the Arwing is thin enough that you can easily see everything in front of you. Space Harrier is a bit trickier, but the speed at which you move and fire makes it a bit easier.  With Rainbow Cotton, it can be kind of tricky to see and take out enemies in front of you before you collide into them and take damage.  There is a co-op mode where a second player can take control of Cotton’s fairy, Silk, to home in on enemies, plus there’s a Retro Mode that’s an emulation of the Dreamcast version, scanlines and all.

For everything I’ve just nitpicked about there are some good things about Rainbow Cotton. While there’s only five stages, they can have split paths that you can take and each one can have its own mini-boss to fight. As you travel through a stage, you might see a couple of arrows you can follow, each one leading to a different path. All paths eventually converge to the boss of the stage and the boss fights are typically pretty good. If you’ve powered up enough, you can breeze through the first one but after that you will have to pay attention to how the boss attacks as opposed to just mashing the attack button as fast as you can. Your health doesn’t refill between stages so if you’re careless against a boss, you might regret it during the next stage.

After spending some time with Rainbow Cotton, I’m kind of in the middle. On one hand, it’s a fun arcade-style shooter with great and colorful visuals, animated cut scenes (though they are still dubbed in Japanese), and for the most part the game plays fairly well. On the other hand, the fact that it can be hard to see what you’re firing at when the enemy is right in front of Cotton as well as the lack of anything telling you the basics of how to play from the items you collect to how the fairies and magic work can make things rather hectic and frustrating at times. The fact that the Dreamcast original is included as the Retro Mode is a nice touch, but that kind of makes me question why they couldn’t either add a tutorial to the main game or add something in the options to explain the basics of how to play. Rainbow Cotton is a game that I’ll likely revisit from time to time as it’s a short arcade-style game. At only five levels, games don’t take too long, but a few changes could have made it even better.

Rainbow Cotton is a fun arcade-style shooter, but it has a couple of flaws.  While the game plays pretty well and I did enjoy my time with it, the lack of any information on even the basics of the game’s mechanics as well as it sometimes being hard to see what Cotton’s shooting at can make the game a bit more difficult than it should be, even on the easiest of difficulty settings.  It’s still an enjoyable game, but a few additions could have made it even better.

Rating: 7.5 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I began my lifelong love of gaming at an early age with my parent's Atari 2600.  Living in the small town that I did, arcades were pretty much non-existent so I had to settle for the less than stellar ports on the Atari 2600.  For a young kid my age it was the perfect past time and gave me something to do before Boy Scout meetings, after school, whenever I had the time and my parents weren't watching anything on TV.  I recall seeing Super Mario Bros. played on the NES at that young age and it was something I really wanted.  Come Christmas of 1988 (if I recall) Santa brought the family an NES with Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and I've been hooked ever since.

Over 35 years from the first time I picked up an Atari joystick and I'm more hooked on gaming than I ever have been.  If you name a system, classics to moderns, there's a good chance I've not only played it, but own it.  My collection of systems spans multiple decades, from the Odyssey 2, Atari 2600, and Colecovision, to the NES, Sega Genesis, and Panasonic 3DO, to more modern systems such as the Xbox One and PS4, and multiple systems in between as well as multiple handhelds.  As much as I consider myself a gamer I'm also a game collector.  I love collecting the older systems not only to collect but to play (I even own and still play a Virtual Boy from time to time).  I hope to bring those multiple decades of gaming experience to my time here at Gaming Nexus in some fashion.
These days when I'm not working my day job in the fun filled world of retail, I'm typically working on my backlog of games collecting dust on my bookshelf or trying to teach myself C# programming, as well as working on some projects over on YouTube and streaming on Twitch.  I've been playing games from multiple generations for over 35 years and I don't see that slowing down any time soon.
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