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Review: Panorama Cotton (Nintendo Switch)

Nata de Cotton is sure to make her presence known on the Nintendo Switch. Five entries are now available in the eShop for this previously unknown character, including the recently released Cotton Reboot! and cotton 100%. Panorama Cotton – originally released for the Sega Mega Drive in 1994 – changes the series’ side-scrolling shmup gameplay by giving us a 3D view of the action, but it’s not necessarily a change for the best.

I would like to start with the story of Panorama Cotton, but unfortunately I cannot read Japanese. Although the UI was translated for western gamers, the script didn’t. A patch is supposed to fix this soon. In the meantime, the eShop has a synopsis if you want to read it, but it really doesn’t make a lot of sense. Panorama Cotton is all about arcade action, as evidenced by the way you are thrown right into it.

In this rail shooter, you have to walk around the screen to position the enemies between you and the focus of your weapons. There are a lot of these enemies and they are coming at you pretty quickly.

Your default weapon can take out most, but you’ll also need to properly time your more powerful magical attacks. Determining what you can hit and what to avoid is important, but that’s easier said than done. There are often so many objects on the screen that it is overwhelming to just look at them, let alone try to clear them out. Some obstacles cannot be destroyed, and there is a fine balance between maneuvering around them and trying to aim your shots. Memorization helps so that you learn when to move where after playing a few levels. Fortunately, Panorama Cotton’s controls are smooth and precise to make this process easier.

The difficulty is also made easier by some updates in this version. You can play in Challenge Mode, which is basically just the original version of the game, or you can use the new Standard Mode. Along with the typical port improvements (like the ability to save your progress) comes a rewind feature that lets you bypass your mistakes. Once you complete Challenge Mode, you will also be given access to cheats. But if you can beat Challenge Mode, do you really need it?

In general, I like the game’s visual approach – especially the hallucinogenic colors and wacky enemy designs – but it brings problems. First, the graphics get tough on the eyes quickly. This is not a game that you will want to stare at for long periods of time. Second, the enemies and obstacles flicker too much and appear to appear out of nowhere. The problem with flickering is made worse by UI elements that also blink unnecessarily. Much of the elements on the screen are for visual impact only, and I believe pulling them out would have eased the presentation issues.

If the game performed like this on the Sega Mega Drive, purists will appreciate it all. I’ve never had a Sega Mega Drive, so either. The 90s graphics and wonderful soundtrack add enough nostalgia that some modern tweaks wouldn’t have disturbed anyone’s childhood memories.

If you are new to the Cotton experience, I recommend Cotton Reboot !. Not only is it a superior game, it’s also more faithful to the series. Panorama Cotton is better suited for series manufacturers.

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