A Clumsy Cute ’em Up – Rainbow Cotton Review

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Rainbow Cotton is a 2024 remaster of its original release in 2000 on the Dreamcast now made for modern consoles. It’s the 5th entry in the Cotton franchise, but the plot in Cotton is generally just filler (the original games were arcade games) and you can start with this game and understand the plot.

The plot in Cotton games is very basic and revolves around Cotton wanting to eat a treat called willows. She travels with her fairy, Silk. Usually something gets in the way of Cotton’s goal of finding a willow or she gets tricked by Silk, and she then has to look for willows elsewhere. It sounds silly, but it’s hilarious how Cotton’s attempts to eat willows get thwarted.

rainbow cotton bai gaming screenshot review 1
The animated cutscenes feel like an 80’s anime and are very plentiful throughout the game. (Image Credit: ININ Games)

The remaster is very fun to play, but not necessarily fun to complete. The visuals have been enhanced and the gameplay is now in widescreen. The 2D animated cutscenes have been cleaned up, but are in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. The game features a Japanese audio dubbing with English subtitles for the 2D cutscenes, but no subtitles are provided for character dialog during gameplay.

Cotton is a 3D rail shooter game where you control Cotton on a broom. You dodge obstacles and fight enemies and bosses. Rainbow Cotton was the developers’ first attempt at making a 3D Cotton game and it unfortunately shows. The enemy and boss design is top notch, but the game design is lacking and the remaster doesn’t its issues. For instance, Cotton is very large on the screen, making it very difficult to dodge projectiles right in front of you.

Cotton used to be a sidescroller shoot-’em-up, meaning you’d never have your vision blocked because Cotton would be on the left, and the enemies would come in from the right. The projectiles are all 3D now, but some are easier to see than others. The 3D nature of the game makes the gameplay annoying at times, as moving Cotton around to dodge incoming projectiles feels sluggish and she has an acceleration to her. Even aiming can be tricky since its in 3D and feels wonky.

The game itself is hard due to the way it’s structured. There are 5 stages you explore. They consist of gameplay, a mini-boss, more gameplay, then the stage boss. This itself is perfectly fine.

Depending on your choices in a level such as flying to the left or right, or even interacting with objects such as shooting a sign, it’s possible to choose one of two routes in a level, which affect a portion of the stage and sometimes the mini-boss you fight.

In the first stage, for instance, you can either fight a train mini-boss or a pumpkin mini-boss, and it’s genuinely fun to re-do levels because the changes in mini-bosses and the levels itself are substantial.

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The multiple routes make the stages fun to explore. (Image Credit: ININ Games)

My criticism is that the game retains archaic game design even though it’s a remaster on modern platforms. You have 5 credits or continues to beat the entire game and your health doesn’t get refilled between stages. Although the first 4 levels are on the easier side, it can be tricky to marathon them all minimizing deaths and the final level is extremely tricky and can eat up your lives quickly.

When you die you need to start the entire stage over. There is an exception thankfully, if you make it to the stage boss (not mini-boss) you can just continue from the beginning of the boss fight. But anything other than that, and you need to restart the stage from scratch. So if you beat the mini-boss and died right before where the main boss fight triggers, it means you need to do the entire stage over including the mini-boss.

I would’ve preferred if this remaster had more checkpoints or even unlimited continues. The game itself is short, being only about a hour and a half to two hours if you can beat it within the 5 continues. But the final stage and its bosses are very challenging and is my real criticism of the game.

If you lose all your continues you need to restart the entire game from scratch, meaning you need to beat the game within the 5 continues. Even if you just want to quit out of the game you’ll need to restart the entire game. There’s no stage select and I wish there was so that you can pick up where you left off. It’s very old game design.

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This game’s endgame is challenging. You’ll have to get used to seeing game overs. (Image Credit: ININ Games)

If you’re struggling with the stage 5 mini-boss and dying to it, I want to get practice on that. But instead, I’ll now have to spend the majority of my time replaying and perfecting the other 4 stages to get back to the stage 5 mini-boss who might just teleport in front of me and slash me to death in two hits.

There are difficulty options, but the endgame stages and final bosses are still very challenging and I wish there wasn’t such a big difficulty spike. It sounds cheesy, but I just wish the game was more accessible to a modern audience.

The sound design is very archaic as well. The sound balancing is all over the place. There is dialog your other fairies will tell you during gameplay, but they don’t have subtitles. It wasn’t programmed well and they constantly talk over each other and even talk over the soundtrack, meaning I wasn’t able to get a good appreciation of the soundtrack. The voice direction and soundtrack during the animated 2D cutscenes are perfect and genuinely feels like a TV show.

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The stages feel very colorful and vibrant. (Image Credit: ININ Games)

Otherwise, the artwork, character designs, even level designs and boss designs are really well made. The stages have many distinct biomes, and true to the name Rainbow Cotton the world you explore is very colorful and vibrant. For a first foray into making 3D games it’s not a bad attempt at all. It has the trademark clunky looking 3D polygons, but looking back it feels charming. Flying with Cotton on a broom feels exciting and you do go weaving all over the place, through towns, forests, volcanoes, train tracks, castles and more. Though the series was originally a shoot-’em-up, this title really plays more like a rail shooter.

The animated cutscenes with Japanese dubbing really reminded me of 1980’s anime designs and tropes and I was constantly laughing at how whimsical the game was. It really does feel like a timeless classic. I know that this is a remaster of an old game, but I would’ve preferred if the remaster had added more quality of life features.

Rainbow Cotton

Our Score: Okay

Pros

  • The game is vibrant and fun to play.
  • The animated cutscenes are hilarious and feel like an 80’s anime.
  • The stages have multiple routes, allowing for further replay value.
Cons

  • No effort has been made to address issues in the original release.
  • Not really accessible. There are difficulty spikes towards the end, and you need to beat the game in 5 tries in one sitting.
  • Sound balancing within gameplay is poor, with fairies talking over each other and sound effects being far too loud, drowning out the soundtrack.

Brandon Harris
Reviewed on the PC

Brandon is a passionate gamer and reviewer who respects the artistic and technical prowess that goes into creating interactive experiences. He enjoys playing the guitar, volunteering, and traveling to experience different cultures.


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A Clumsy Cute ’em Up – Rainbow Cotton Review

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