Cotton 1

Märchen Adventure Cotton 100%, to give it its full and unwieldy title, first allowed us to summon magical death on baseball bat toting snowmen and boggle eyed trees back in 1994 on the Super Famicon, before finding itself ported to the PlayStation almost a decade later under the budget ‘SuperLite 1500’ label in Japan. Straight ports are normally shunned in gaming circles as the unwanted castoffs of a generation left on the shelf, but a PlayStation Network version released in 2010 has since allowed Japanese gamers to enjoy this excellent cute-‘em-up for a mere ¥300 ($3). Should you give it a go, though?

The game plays much like the other main entries in the series: you adopt the role of candy-obsessed witch Cotton, who must blast her way through seven stages of achingly cute adversaries with the fairy Silk in tow. Before the game begins, you must select a particular set of magic and fairy types to take with you, with the various options augmenting abilities ranging from fiery blasts to defensive bubble shields. Your selected impish accomplice will also apply different abilities, such as firing small bullets or even encircling the flame-haired hero as she flies.

There are seven stages in total, with each one broken up by a sub-boss around the halfway point and topped off with a proper clash at the end. Although the game never really comes close to stretching its originally intended hardware, there’s still plenty of variety on offer, from tiny elves armed with arrows to giant ghost dolls that keep the action exciting and unpredictable from the start right through to the end credits.

Don’t let the cute presentation fool you, though, as this can be an unforgiving game. Cotton will die with even the slightest touch, and every death reduces the power of her shots by one rank, which can be regained by collecting the jewels dropped by enemies. Fall and you’ll also lose one of her helpful fairy friends, adding even further to the challenge. Fortunately, there are four difficulty tiers to choose from, and you can add a heap of extra lives and continues to your session if you’re finding it a touch too tough to reach the end. Of course, if you become a master, that also applies the opposite way.

On top of all that, this is also the perfect import game. It’s good fun, absolutely unlike anything out of the normal, and is mostly presented in English aside from the quirky plotline. If you’re looking to try a shmup and have absolutely no idea where to begin, this is accessible, cheap, and doesn’t require you to memorise obtuse scoring systems in order to succeed. Give it a go if you get the chance.

Are you hungry for Cotton 100%’s sweet, sweet candy? Have you played any of the other entries in the whimsical series? Sprinkle some sugar in the comments section below.