The Cotton franchise has really seen a resurgence on the Nintendo Switch, and today we are getting both Panorama Cotton and Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% on the same day. These two classics have been ported to the Switch faithfully and include some quality-of-life additions like a rewind feature, save states, and even cheats.
I love the Cotton series and quite enjoyed the recently released Cotton Reboot! when I reviewed it. But does the Panorama Cotton port follow suit and do justice to the cute ’em up series? Let’s find out.
For starters, Panorama Cotton was originally designed by SUCCESS and published by SUNSOFT for the SEGA Mega Drive system in Japan, otherwise known as the SEGA Genesis. The success of the Cotton series in the arcades begged for a console version, and this unique 3D version is what Mega Drive owners got in 1994.
ININ Games has basically ported this exact version of the game with a few additions to give it more modern value while still respecting its original feel and gameplay.
One sad thing I noticed right out of the gate is that Panorama Cottons‘s story has not been translated. The scrolling text in the cutscenes is still in Japanese, which makes things hard to follow if you do not know the language. For those wondering, Panorama Cotton‘s story begins when Silk’s sister Knit comes to tell her that Queen Velvet has started saying things that do not make any sense. Later, the Queen reveals that she believes that the world is falling into chaos, and that she is the only one who can save it. She rides off on an animal called “Pinky” to save the day, and disappears.
Perplexed, Silk and Knit deduce that a burnt Willow which recently turned up in the castle garden is responsible for the Queen’s odd behavior. Apparently, monsters north of the kingdom have been burning any Willow they see. Before doing anything else, Silk immediately decides that she needs to get rid of the burnt Willow in the castle first.
Silk carries the burnt Willow far away, but before she can dispose of it, Cotton appears suddenly and snatches it from her. Not stopping for even a moment to hear Silk’s story, Cotton begins to eat the burnt Willow. However, she quickly spits it out, angry and disgusted. When Cotton discovers that someone is burning Willows, she vows that she won’t let it continue. From there, Silk and Cotton set off on their new adventure.
The story is fun and very Cotton-like, which is exactly the kind of story you want from such a silly franchise. However, the lack of a translation really sucks for people who cannot read Japanese, so their ability to follow along as they play the game is immediately hindered by this problem (Possibly even an oversight).
Unlike your standard Cotton games, though, Panorama Cotton is a 3D rail shooter similar to games like HyperZone on the SNES. At the time in 1994, this was quite innovative and ground-breaking, but in 2021, this is a bit nauseating due to the fast-movement and low texture.
Despite, Panorama Cotton is still a fun experience even if it deviates away from the side-scrolling nature the series is famous for, but the strangest thing is that this feels way more like a psychedelic trip than the silly and melancholy feel of the previous entries.
Due to its age, the depth is incredibly hard to decipher, which makes shooting at enemies way more difficult than it should be. The three dimensional aspect in 1994 using 16-bit graphics is really hard on the eyes, especially if you are used to more modern day three dimensional graphics that are are lot easier to look at.
Unfortunately, even with the quality-of-life inclusions like save states and rewind features, Panorama Cotton is wildly difficult. The only way to unlock cheats that mix things up, too, is to beat Challenge Mode, which is the game in its original state. Clearing this is not impossible, but the percentage of players who actually have the time, patience, and stomach to memorize and conquer the entire campaign of Panorama Cotton are slim. Because of this, most players who pick up the game will not be able to enjoy the fullness of it, as the only way to unlock those cheat codes is by clearing the game old school without save states and rewind.
Part of the charm of the side-scrolling shoot ’em ups is that we get to see Cotton’s side profile the whole time. In Panorama Cotton, we only get the pleasure of seeing her face and reactions during cutscenes (Which are only in Japanese) or when she dies, to which she turns to the camera in agony.
Lives are even a bit on the strange side, as health is tied to your experience, and death is associated when your EXP bar is depleted. This helps stay alive longer, but it also makes your vulnerability hard to follow. I died quickly on some stages while taking like 10 hits before dying on others.
Panorama Cotton sacrifices too much in order to be 3D, and that unfortunately hurts the experience tremendously. Although the visuals can be nostalgic for a moment, the 16-bit graphics can be very hard on the eyes after a short period of playing, and the depth perception messes with this even more.
It is not a bad game, and for a first attempt at a 3D rail shooter in a genre famous for its side-scrolling efforts, Panorama Cotton could have done worse. Unfortunately, even when it is firing on all cylinders, this is a very mediocre-at-best game.
If you are wanting to take a trip down memory lane or experience Cotton’s first 3D adventure for the first time, then this is a decent ride. But for the price and the not very impressive experience, I find Panorama Cotton very difficult to recommend. If you are a Cotton fan, then adding this to your collection is a must, but that doesn’t mean it is a good game.
Nostalgic graphics and audio
Quality of life additions, like save states and rewind
Depth perception is problematic
No English in the story mode
Steep asking price
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.