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Cotton 100% Review


Cotton 100% requires a history lesson. It’s the sequel to Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams, and was originally launched on the Super Famicom in 1994. Both it and the original game were highly sought after by collectors: they never launched in the west, and I can vividly remember a time when you’d have to pay hundreds of pounds to get one working in your home (ah, the life of a shoot ’em up importer). I

NIN Games and SUCCESS recently collaborated to get a brushed up version with additional options onto the Nintendo Switch in 2021 before – bringing us up to date – we get that brushed up version on the Xbox. 

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Shooter enthusiast? You’ll love Cotton 100%

For shooter enthusiasts, we’ll get to the porting question first. Cotton 100%, in feature terms, is a strong offering. Sure, there are no global highscores, and ININ haven’t managed to crowbar in the multiplayer modes that the original sorely lacked. But it’s got a seemingly endless reverse function (we managed to go back a whole level as a test), an in-game save system, cheats (as long as you’ve completed the game once) and all the audio-visual options you could need. 

Less satisfying is performance. Cotton 100% creaks along in places, dropping frames where an Xbox should be guaranteeing consistency. A slug that fires lasers never fails to cause slowdown issues, while we experienced problems whenever there were a dozen enemies onscreen (or a particularly bullet-hell-y boss attack). Playing on a Series X|S in 2023, it just isn’t good enough. Even the audio slows down to a din-like dirge. 

As a port, then, Cotton 100% disappoints. There’s been time to improve these issues, as they were very much present in the Switch release. We even managed to get caught in a game-breaking bug that pixelated the screen after a tree boss; praise-be for the rewind function, which managed to unravel to before it happened. 

Removing the porting question, though, Cotton 100% is a charmer. Like Parodius, Pop N Twinbee and Gunbird, it finds itself in the centre of the Venn diagram between fantasy, science-fiction and lovable chibi characters. A cute ’em up, then. Enemies are one-third fantasy mainstays like griffins and knights; one-third cutesy fairies; and the final third are odd blobs, slimes and one-eyed demons. It’s a mishmash, but Cotton’s pure imagination carries it through. 

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Flying high

I will hold my hand up and say that I have no idea what the story is doing. I think it’s meant to be a rug-pull: you play Cotton, a witch who is enlisted by a fairy called Silk to catch another witch who is stealing the forest’s Willows (a fruit and magical macguffin that powers the fairy’s glade – we think). The problem is, we know that Cotton is the witch who stole them in the first place, because we saw her doing it. Which leads to a bemusing say-what-now, as Cotton seems to be chasing, um, Cotton. 

It makes more sense by the end. We think. In all honesty we’re not sure. But it’s all very skippable.

From a side-scrolling shooter perspective, Cotton 100% is fairly conventional, which makes it a reasonable choice for anyone looking for a shoot ’em up entry point. Play is almost entirely left-to-right, with only a couple of instances where things go upwards or slightly diagonal. To deal with this craziness, you have three weapons to choose from. There’s the primary fire, pew-pewing across the screen; a spectacularly limp air-to-ground missile that we soon stopped bothering with; and a special weapon that can be cycled through different types. This special weapon is finite, so you’re using it as a last resort (if you’re like us, dealing with bosses or minibosses that are particularly knotty). 

Fairies gather round Cotton, to a three maximum. They fire as you fire, so maintaining three of them is a must. And then there’s an XP system, which keeps the power of your primary fire high, as long as you don’t get hit. If you do, then the XP lowers – potentially an entire level – and that makes you more spankable. We’ve rarely seen a shoot ’em up where keeping at a high overall power level is so important. There’s a huge gap in power between level 1 and level 4. 

While it’s conventional and we’ve played with shoot ’em up toys like the ones that are available here, the roster is fully featured and polished. There’s a big difference between the special attacks – some more offensive, others more defensive – while full-powered Cotton is something to behold. Even without relying on the reverse-time feature, we felt like a powerhouse that could take down bosses in moments. 

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Pretty polished

Those bosses are pretty great, as it happens. They’re an imaginative bunch, for one, and there’s no skimping on them for two. Each level gets a miniboss and boss, and you could have switched them around and none of us would have been the wiser. We’ve fought living trees, living beehives and some fried chicken, and they’re all multi-phased, delivering multiple attacks, and with each acting like a small puzzle that needs to be resolved. They’re exactly what we like from a 2D ‘shmup boss. 

Cotton 100% is a classic cute shooter that still holds up, comparing well with the best of its peers. Sure, it’s not massively innovative or long, and there are enough slowdown issues to make it feel like we should mark it down to Cotton 50%. But what’s here is pure, retro shooty goodness, and we latch onto these kinds of experiences whenever we can.


  • Classic cute ’em up action
  • Plenty of imaginative bosses
  • Loads of features to get the experience you want
  • Dramatic slowdown at several points
  • At least one game-breaking bug
  • Story is abstract enough to be ignored
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, ININ Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One
  • Release date and price - 7 December 2023 | £7.99
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Classic cute ’em up action</li> <li>Plenty of imaginative bosses</li> <li>Loads of features to get the experience you want</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Dramatic slowdown at several points</li> <li>At least one game-breaking bug</li> <li>Story is abstract enough to be ignored</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, ININ Games</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One <li>Release date and price - 7 December 2023 | £7.99</li> </ul>Cotton 100% Review
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