Superlative Night Dreams: Cotton Fantasy. Review

  Those that have been with us for a while, know that I always had a soft spot for SHMUPS (Shoot 'em ups) There is something nostalgic a...


Those that have been with us for a while, know that I always had a soft spot for SHMUPS (Shoot 'em ups) There is something nostalgic and cathartic for me to play a side scrolling or top down space craft, navigating through a busy screen full of enemies and the things they fire at me with only one objective.. killing me. There is a reason that they are often also referred to as bullet hell games. It sure can be a challenge to make it through with a small amount of lives against incredible odds, but hey those good old arcades that premiered these type of games had to earn those quarters somehow did they not? And so we all gleefully kept pumping in our hard earned allowance for another chance at saving the universe.  With Cotton fantasy I was introduced to a whole new take on the SHMUP genre.

So what is this game with the incredible long name? Superlative Night Dreams: Cotton Fantasy is the latest game in a series that has lasted for 30 years and this new entry by a new studio (Saizensen) is bringing the game in HD graphics for the first time.  Bringing a pure arcade experience to the player the title character Cotton and her scantly dressed fairy Silk are taking on the task to find out who has been stealing all the willow candies in the world. Now it is a race against time, and a growling stomach, to locate the culprit and restore willow balance to the world.
As you can tell the story is not as dark and gloomy as the average alien invasion stopping SHMUP you might be used too. Its lighthearted storyline and presentation make it stand out from the usual fare.

Cotton Fantasy adds several new mechanics to the Cotton playstyle so if you are familiar with the series you will finds some changes to keep things fresh and improve your experience. Featuring 6  playable characters with each a unique playstyle offers plenty of ways to enjoy the game and to challenge yourself across the various stages of the game. At first you will have access to 8 or so levels but as you improve and unlock the secrets this will expand to up to 16 levels loaded with secrets , enemy fleets and boss fights. Anime style cutscenes with voice acting ( in Japanese) bridge the levels and present the quest of Cotton and her search for willow candies. 

With the need of only a few buttons (shot, special or auto) you get a variety of attacks and specials that vary with each special character. With Cotton for instance, you can shoot manually or continue to hold button a powerful attack if you have it ready. You can also decide to push a special attack or use the auto button for an endless barrage of "bullets".

Another character might trade the special attacks in favor of the option to select your weapon types or give you some other bonus. Play all the characters to find your favorite playstyle. There is even one that trades in lives for a time limit instead that you can extend during your session by grabbing gems that spawn from killed enemies. 

Superlative Night Dreams: Cotton Fantasy is a colorful game, with big graphics, lots of color and tons of special effects. Despite its 2D presentation it is build on a 3D engine resulting in some great 3D rotoscoping effects. It also gives a depth and character to the game and its content. There is a large variety in enemy types in the game that often fit well with the level environments. A few are a bit dull and miss the mark with an uninspired design but they are balanced out by others that more then make up for it with their looks and presentation. 

Each level comes to its peak crescendo with a boss fight that involves an often-massive boss and includes various stages during combat. You could fight a gigantic eagle that after a while just turns into a massive gryphon. The bosses are really cool and a real challenge to take down. Even the levels themselves are tough to get through and will challenge your skills and your resolve even on normal. However, this is not a huge problem because you can continue as much as you need and play through all the levels without a huge issue. The only tradeoff is that a continue will reset your score to 0, so it will diminish your chances to end up on the top of the online leaderboards. The fact the game does not block you from passing beyond the first few levels is a great feature because it allows for casual play, tons of fun and enable you to challenge yourself over time by trial and error, honing your skills in the process.

The sound and music are arcade perfect and complimentary of the visual presentation and consists mostly out of energetic beats and accompanying score to the story between levels. There are tons of sound effect creating a satisfying and serotonin producing chimes and pings. 

There are a bunch of secrets to unlock in the game, but beyond that and the various characters the game is largely the same. It would have been nice to see some multiplayer options, even if only local co-op, challenge modes or even different aspects to the story, because as it stands now you only get the story from Cotton's perspective, even if you decide to play a different hero. Once you played through the story and unlocked all secrets you can play story mode, practice mode, training mode or work your way up on the leaderboards.

Superlative Night Dreams: Cotton Fantasy is a quirky fun shoot'em up that feels like bringing the arcade in your living room without the need for a bag of quarters. With great HD graphics, colorful presentation and challenging missions it is a game you can pick up over and over again and it will bring a smile on your face.  I had my daughter Kat sit down and play the game and I had to fight her of my chair and get my controller back, I would say that is a pretty solid endorsement of the fun in Cotton fantasy. The game is out this Friday 20th of May 2022 on PlayStation and Switch stores, or if you look for it you might still be able to get a physical (collectors) edition out there.

Game: Superlative Night Dreams: Cotton Fantasy.
Publisher: INNIN
Developer: Saizensen
Release Date: May 10th, 2022
Platforms: Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Switch 
Review Platform: PlayStation
ESRB:  E10+

About the writer: DadGeek (Rob) is the co-founder of GeeksVsGeeks. He is a product of the eighties and never let go of his geek interest and hobbies no matter how often someone told him to stop. His love for gaming and all things geeks has been part of his parenting style and permeates throughout the whole family. A family of Geeks vs Geeks 


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