Review Shooter

Cotton Fantasy – Review

Cotton Fantasy, known in Japan as Cotton Rock ‘N Roll is the latest release in the long-running “cute ’em up” franchise. So we have to ask; Is this real life? Or is it just Fantasy?

Magical Night Dreams

Cotton the Witch is funnily enough a Witch who has an unhealthy obsession with sweets known as Willows. These sweets have magical properties and have even been known to grant wishes!

Cotton is a simple girl. When her friend Silk the Fairy tells her all the Willows are disappearing from the land and the only way to save them is to collect the mystical ones, it spurs her into action. Cotton once again mounts her broom and lays waste to the cutesy monsters of the land.

The story is told through static cutscenes which are well-drawn and fully voice-acted, though it only provides an English Dub. No matter which character you pick, you are told the story from the perspective of Cotton. Just want to shoot monsters? You can choose to skip or turn off the story within the options menu.

While the more comedic side of Cotton blossoms within the cutscenes, once you’ve seen them all there isn’t any reason to keep them on. You won’t be lore diving here.

Cotton Fantasy - Willow


Cotton Fantasy belongs to the sub-genre of “cute ’em up” nestled under the umbrella of the ever-growing in popularity of the Shoot ‘Em Up/SHMUP/STG genre of games.

The game is a traditional horizontal shooter. It takes you through the game’s 8 or so stages, dodging enemy fire while sending them replies in the form of your own bullets. As these games often go, it culminates in boss battles at the end of each stage.

The game has 8-way controls, a shot button, a special button, and an auto shot. While not initially complex, the true gameplay meat comes in the form of the scoring, the special button, and the fact you have to level your character up with collectible jewels.

Cotton Fantasy - Character

Superlative Night Dreams

Cotton Fantasy has a fantastic roster of playable characters/ships to choose from and they are as follows 

  • Cotton
  • Appli 
  • Umihara Kawase 
  • Psyva Ria (Psyvaria Delta)
  • Fine (Sanvein)
  • Luffee (DokiDoki Poyatchio)

Along with those there is a secret unlockable character whom I won’t spoil. Silk may also be an option someday. She’s an Amazon exclusive DLC in Japan and it’s currently unknown if/how she will be made available elsewhere.

Cotton and Appli are your standard Cotton affair. They have access to magic attacks by holding down the shoot button and by collecting them via the many different jewels you’ll find. Cotton has a screen-clearing bomb and Appli has a capture spell that lets you grab enemies and throw them back.

Cotton Fantasy - Shooter

Umahara Kawase is famous for her unique brand of physics-based platformer games and Umihaea Kawase: Bazooka! has her gameplay revolve around her fishing rod. Much like Appli you need to capture foes to throw them back. This is not only for score but it’s her main way of providing huge damage.

Psyva Ria is representing the overlooked but fantastic Psyvaria series. The latest I believe is Psyvariar Delta which is available on digital stores across platforms and PC. Ria relies on grazing bullets, letting them just pass as close as possible to your hitbox. This builds up and gives you a shield to wipe out bullets and do huge damage. She also has the series staple “spin attack” to focus shots.

Fine is from Starfighter Sanvein, not a series I have any familiarity with yet. Her gameplay revolves around a timer that constantly ticks down. It can be added to by killing quickly or reduced by being hit. It’s a system that will be familiar to anyone who may have played Sine Mora EX.

Luffee is from the classic PS1 title DokiDoki Poyatchio. They handle a lot like Cotton, but with less choice of magic and dealing more damage.


As you can see, the characters offer very different playstyles and their scoring mechanics are tied to their special abilities. Each character also has a stage that they can unlock when you finish the game with them. This gives you more incentive for multiple playthroughs.

The stages aren’t the most imaginative of the series and don’t quite match the high points of the previous big release from the series – Cotton Reboot

The bosses all have 2nd phases which activate if you don’t kill them quickly enough. While you will score higher for beating these, they put you through much tougher bullet patterns and give you a hard time.


Cotton Fantasy features 3 different difficulties in Normal, Hard, and Extra alongside online leaderboards for each of them and every character. This gives budding Shmuppers something to work towards each time they load the game.

Finally, to help you score high and survive long you have a training mode. It has plenty of options to help you learn the patterns and the best ways to make the game rain points on you.

The only noticeable omissions in this title are the lack of Caravan/Scoring mode and the shot enhancement feature where you fire into the crystals like in Cotton Reboot. Aside from this, I go on record by saying this is the finest Cotton has ever played.


It’s a shame that Cotton Fantasy doesn’t look as good as it plays. Not that it looks hideous, but visually it’s a step back from the standards set in Cotton Reboot

As mentioned previously, the stages come off rather bland and uninspired. While matching the theme of fantasy and whimsy they sometimes smack of placeholder and minimal effort. It’s a real shame.

The main gripe with the visuals stems from the fact that all the enemies, stage hazards, backgrounds, and playable character models are all 3D character models. Sadly they lack anything like cel-shading or other effects to make them look special. Instead, you’ve left with a rather bland art direction. Ever play CAVE’s Deathsmiles 1 and 2? The contrast between similar titles reminded me of those two titles.

With that said, boss and enemy design mix series staples with a Sci-Fi theme. It’s worth checking out the second form of every boss to see some brilliantly designed and grotesque foes to fight.


The soundtrack for Cotton Fantasy is brilliant and keeps you engaged the whole time. It has some brilliant little toe-tappers. While not the gold standard of the genre, they suit the game well and keep your adrenaline levels where they need to be.

Sound effects are mixed well and connect well with the controls and the feel of that oh-so-essential feedback the genre requires for it to feel good. The characters are a talkative little bunch too and without an English Dub, it leaves you feeling like you’re playing Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius where a Japanese commentator would scream at you throughout.

Cotton Fantasy - Face


Cotton Fantasy is frankly my favorite Cute ’em Up I’ve played in years. The different character playstyles caught me off guard and I fell in love with the title so quickly.

In the gameplay department, it does very little long and sets the standard of the series for the most part. If it took the omissions from Cotton Reboot for a potential sequel we could be looking at a G.O.A.T contender. 

Sadly the visuals do let the overall package down and I feel that may have done some damage to the stage designs. It’s not enough to knock the title down but is something that could be easily addressed in a future title in the series.

This Cotton anniversary stretch has been great and what better way to cap it all off with the best gameplay the franchise has seen? The only thing sweeter than Willows it seems is Cotton Fantasy!


Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4

If you would like to see more Shooters, you may be interested in our review of Cotton Reboot or some of the other Cotton titles.

Many thanks go to ININ Games for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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