Rainbow Cotton (XSX) Review

Originally released on Dreamcast, Rainbow Cotton is now easily accessible on all modern platforms thanks to ININ and Success. As a point of reference, Panorama Cotton, Cotton 100%, Cotton Fantasy: Superlative Night Dreams, and Cotton Reboot have all been re-released over the last couple years. Personally, I welcome the revival of this cult franchise.

To quickly summarize, Rainbow Cotton is a 3D on-rails shooter with the colorful and humorous setting known to this series; think Star Fox-ish but much more cutesy anime. Gameplaywise, I think Rainbow Cotton is one of the better Cotton titles and excited to have the ability to play this forgotten Dreamcast title that I never had the opportunity to play.  However, I am torn with this modern release. On one hand, having access to this neglected shooter is most welcomed but the end result is disappointingly half-assed.

Even though there are only a handful of stages, completing the campaign takes almost two hours. So not having the ability to save your progress is a tremendous oversight. I thought maybe pausing and choosing to go back to the main menu would automatically save my progress and let me continue on the main menu but this only led to frustration when I was forced to replay from the beginning.  Asking players to complete this challenging game in one 90+ minute sitting is a lot for a modern setting. Continuing with this issue, there is no level select and when you die, the game asks the player to input initials on the high score table but there is no option to view the high scores at will.

The other major issue with this re-release is the lack of instruction. The game never explains how to play, shoot, or how the super shot system works. Why are you collecting stars? What do the different colors mean? What do the fairies do? Why should I care about those gems? There isn’t even a control map so the player never understands what button does what. There is no option to pause during the cutscenes either.

Speaking of cutscenes, the anime cartoons sandwiched between stages are well done and have been outfitted with English translations. In fact, these cutscenes are so well done, it makes me want a 10 episode season to be available on whatever streaming platform. These animated segments are easily a highlight of this digital download. At the same time, the non-stop Japanese voice quips during gameplay are maddening but there is an option to deactivate this feature in the menu.

Overall, the gameplay is fun and responsive but isn’t without its flaws and annoyances. For example, there is no invincibility buffer when taking damage so it is possible to get nuked to death in a couple seconds. It is also difficult to judge distance since the player is flying into the screen. This results in plenty of unfair damage and unnecessarily adds difficulty to what seems like a kiddie shooter. There are also some wicked difficulty spikes. Level 3, the underwater bubbles stage, especially its boss, is frustratingly difficult and demands near perfection. Dying, which happens easily since you can continuously take damage, results in a full restart of that entire level. There are no checkpoints and no continue-where-you-died option. As cutesy as this game may seem, it is a dastardly challenge that ultimately doesn’t respect the player’s time.

It is strange that this final release lacks basic features, like saving, but includes a “retro” mode that makes the game 4:3 with an automatic scanline filter applied. Personally, this option should be called “ugly mode” and can’t imagine anyone wanting to play this long game this way when the updated version looks so crisp. There is a 2-player local co-op mode too.

So yeah, I am torn. Rainbow Cotton gameplaywise is a decent, little simple shooter which deserves a second life on modern platforms. However, it quickly becomes a lesson in frustration when it lacks basic features, has head scratching difficult spikes, and ultimately feels like it is an incomplete release. It is a shame because the late 90s gameplay is fun until it isn’t.  Unless these basic shortcomings are updated with a future patch, retro enthusiasts need to be mindful of all the missing modern expectations.

Not As Good As: having a Cotton compilation bundling many games into one

Better Than: finding an original Dreamcast disc  

Wait For It: a re-release of the GBC or NGPC Cotton titles

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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Rainbow Cotton is a cutesy 3D Star Fox-ish shooter that is welcomed on current consoles, but the complete lack of basic, modern features falls way short of expectations.

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Editor in Chief - been writing for mygamer,com for 20+ years. Gaming enthusiast. Hater of pants. Publisher of obscure gaming content on my YT channel.

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