03/06/2024

Rainbow Cotton Review 3/10 By Pixel Hunted "Seeing Rainbow Cotton back on sale is genuinely surreal" ๐Ÿงน๐Ÿง™‍♀️ @ININ_Games

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Rainbow Cotton Remake Review
You really can’t polish a turd. We live in a renaissance for video game remasters, remakes, and re-releases, where even the most obscure titles can be given a lick of paint and sent out into the wild world of digital storefronts.

But, even in a world where the likes of Baten Kaitos, Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninjas and Famicom Detective Club have been exhumed from their mouldering gaming graves, seeing Rainbow Cotton back on sale is genuinely surreal.

Rainbow Cotton Remake Review
For those not in the know the Cotton series of 2D shmups eschews the genre’s typical sci-fi aesthetics in favour of cute fantasy: with you controlling a broom-riding witch blasting spells through magical worlds. Developed by Success, the first title Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams debuted in arcades in 1991. A speckling of sequels followed throughout the 90s, with the excellent Cotton 2: Magical Night Dreams on Sega Saturn a highlight.

Things were looking good for the little witch that could, right up until Rainbow Cotton on Sega Dreamcast in 2000. After that… radio silence. Twenty long years later the Cotton games were resurrected with retro ports and a long-awaited new entry in Cotton Fantasy: Superlative Night Dreams.

So, what did Rainbow Cotton do to kill the franchise for two decades? 

As opposed to the beautiful sprite-based 2D entries this is a 3D rail shooter akin to the Panzer Dragoon games, with the camera parked behind your witch as you fly through various levels blasting low-poly enemies. Ditching everything that made the series so beloved proved unpopular with fans and a slew of negative reviews followed, eventually culminating in an outright apology from designer Yusuke Nemoto for it sucking so bad.

Rainbow Cotton Remake Review

Now, for some reason, it’s back! My previous experience with Rainbow Cotton is limited to having a dodgy pirated copy of it on the Dreamcast back in 2001. I played five minutes, decided it was crap, and returned to Jet Set Radio. After a brutal few hours with this modern remake… well, it looks like I was right the first time around.

Rainbow Cotton breaks practically every rail shooter design rule. Your character takes up way too much screen real estate, making it difficult to see what’s directly in front of you. The collision detection is also on the wonk and it’s hard to judge when your adorable witch girl is about to smack face-first into a wall or eat a barrage of magical fire. This is slightly mitigated by a meaty health bar and frequent health top-ups but it never feels good to control.

The levels are over-long and you feel like you’re trundling through them with little-to-no variation in speed, compounded by a death placing you right back at the start of the level to do the whole boring thing over again. 

Rainbow Cotton Remake Review

Thankfully reaching the stage’s boss gives you a checkpoint before it, without which I’d have given up on the game far earlier. There’s also a lack of modern polish: for example, there’s no level select, meaning that if you get stuck on Level 4 you have to play through Levels 1-3 to get back there.

Surprisingly for a remaster there’s no additional content or context about the game or its place within the Cotton franchise. Bonus features are limited to a “retro mode”, which proves to be a 4:3 aspect ratio and CRT filter. That’s literally it. Woo.

It’s not downright awful - the colourful visuals have their moments and the soundtrack is cheery enough - but the entire time I was playing I was baffled that this of all games has been picked to be remastered. This remake project might make sense if the gameplay had been reworked to add fun but everything that made the Dreamcast original so disappointing has been painstakingly recreated.

Rainbow Cotton Remake Review

SUMMARY

In a way, there’s something morbidly intriguing about recreating a bad game, and at least from the perspective of video game preservation, I’m glad there’s now an easy way to play Rainbow Cotton. I just wish I hadn’t had to play it.

Look, if people want to pour blood, sweat, and tears into remaking obscure Japan-only Dreamcast games I’m not going to stand in their way, but why not focus on good ones? Cool Cool Toon is right there, being forgotten! Remake that!

Rainbow Cotton Remake Review

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