It's pleasing that United Games Entertainment is working alongside ININ Games, and Ratalaika Games on port programming to bring Japanese only retro games to modern consoles, like the Mega Drive's Space Harrier-esque rail shooter, Panorama Cotton. It's magical to witness on ageing 16-bit hardware — which unimpressively converted SEGA's Super Scaler games like Galaxy Force II, Thunder Blade and Turbo OutRun – that Success achieved technically jaw-dropping graphical results using the lost art of sprite scaling.
The original Cotton's spooky cute-'em-up setting is expanded wondrously, alongside Kenichi Hirata's creative soundtrack, to dial the quirkiness up to eleven. With the option to adjust Cotton's speed, and use inverted controls to steer the broomstick riding witch, the effective shoot-'em-up elements established in the original from Cotton Reboot! transcend to a single player, third-person perspective.
It's chaotic fun to blast coloured crystals for magic attacks, take multiple routes through imaginatively designed levels, and collect Tea Time bonuses. With five surreal stages, and a 'Last Battle' section, it takes 45 minutes to beat — plus there's an attainable, yet mildly skill based Platinum Trophy, which necessitates achieving a million points in Challenge Mode without relying on the rewind feature, save states or cheats.
Following Ratalaika's good work on Gleylancer, Panorama Cotton has a welcome amount of display options for CRT shaders, scanlines, and screen curvature. Sadly, early release bugs undermined our confidence in smaller niggles, for example it was unclear how we unlocked the playable fairy Silk, there are no wallpaper options, and the 4:3 DAR with no shader display mistakenly fills the widescreen. Also, Japanese story text hasn't been translated, there's no gameplay manual, and it's priced over twice as much as Gleylancer.
It's disheartening a previously Japanese exclusive Mega Drive game, patiently anticipated since 1994, is now known for poor presentation due to Version 1.00 releasing with gameplay breaking emulation errors — like Stage 2's missing scaffolding obstacles, and invisible enemies. There was a narrow window for Halloween 2021 hype, and even though thankfully a week later Version 1.01 patched in the omitted sprites, still Panorama Cotton could be haunted by the infamy of Ratalaika's conversion. Since many gamers never experienced this rare game, it'd be a shame if they believed an initially bad PS4 port directly correlates with the quality of the original.