The Cotton (コットン) series is a line of shoot 'em up video game software developed by Success with a long history of releases both in arcades and on home video game consoles. With the series debuting in 1991, the Cotton games have helped to establish the visual style of shoot 'em ups sometimes called cute 'em up. Instead of warships and battle fields typical of most shoot 'em ups, Cotton games put players in control of a witch riding on a broom and tasks them with fighting through magical haunted kingdoms. Cotton games have appeared on a variety of consoles including the NEC PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16, the Super Nintendo, the Mega Drive/Sega Genesis, the Sega Saturn, the PlayStation, the Neo Geo Pocket Color, and the Dreamcast. There is also a pachinko game featuring Cotton available for the PlayStation 2. Most recently, Cotton appears as a hidden character in the Nintendo DS game Rondo of Swords.
Each Cotton game features a unique story that is loosely connected to the other games in the series. All of these stories revolve around the obsession of a young witch named Cotton with a magical type of candy called "Willow". In a typical Cotton game, Cotton will embark on her journey through the game's stages with the hope that she will be rewarded with a Willow at the end. However, when the game is over, she almost always winds up empty handed.
The character Cotton is always very childish. The amusing cut-scenes she stars in have endeared her to fans of Japanese anime.
Characters and Places
- Cotton – The star of every game in the series, Cotton is a red-haired pre-teen witch with a hunger for Willow candy that drives all of her actions. She is very quick to anger, never very mature, and often very outrageous. Although her quests in each game are ultimately to serve a higher purpose, she is never involved personally for any reason other than the prospect of getting to eat a Willow.
- Silk – Silk is a fairy who has been in every Cotton game to date as a sort of sidekick for Cotton. She is a citizen of the fairy kingdom Filament, and is a close aid to its queen. In terms of personality, she serves as an antithesis of Cotton – she's always very practical and reasonable, and she maintains focus on unselfish objectives. Additionally, she thinks of herself as being exceptionally beautiful.
- Queen Velvet – Though missing from a few games in the series, Queen Velvet rules the fairy kingdom Filament, and generally concerns herself with the well-being of the world and the safety of the Willows sustaining it. She is the only person in the fairy kingdom who is human-sized.
- Wool – Wool is the traditional villain in the Cotton games. She never develops much of a personality, but it is enough that she is after Willows for her own evil ends. Cotton is never really concerned with Wool, so much as she cares about who has Willows.
- Knit – Silk's little sister. She is only present in Panorama Cotton, and has no role other than in the introductory storyline.
- Calmin – Riding a giant boxing kangaroo, Calmin is the villain of Panorama Cotton. He claims that he doesn't like Willows, which is why he has been burning them.
- Cookie – The name of Calmin's boxing kangaroo. He is given no character development, although he does serve as a boss in Panorama Cotton.
- Meke – The so-called mascots of Panorama Cotton. They only appear as box-shaped golden-outlines, and have no additional information given about them.
- Appli – Princess of the Pumpkin Kingdom. She is featured as a rival character for Cotton in both Cotton 2 and Cotton Boomerang, although they never fight against each other. The story of Cotton 2 begins with Appli searching for the Water Willow that she stole from her castle but lost in the woods, and the rest of the game is her quest to retrieve it. Appli has an air of being a bit spoiled, and she is crazy about male celebrity idols.
- Needle – Appli's living witch-hat and sidekick. He is not given much character development, although like Silk, he counters some of Appli's personality quirks and shortcomings. He also has a unique style of talking.
- Filament – The kingdom where the fairies live. Willows grow here readily, and the seven willows that bring light to the world are stored here.
- Pumpkin Kingdom – Appli's home, to the west of the Filament. Falls into darkness after the events of Cotton 2.
Known Games and Versions
- Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams was originally released as an arcade game on the Sega System 16B arcade board in 1991. :Later, in 1993, it was ported both to the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 as a Super CD-ROM game, as well as to the Sharp X68000 home computer during the same year. The Super CD-ROM version includes a remixed redbook audio soundtrack, as well as voice acting in the Japanese release. The X68000 version lacks the remixes, but it is actually a more faithful reproduction of the arcade release. Another version that combines the best of both of these ports came out of for the PlayStation as Cotton Original in 1999. Finally, the Neo Geo Pocket Color hand-held console also received a scaled down port in 2000. The Turbografx-16 and Neo Geo Pocket Color releases of this game are the only games in the Cotton series to have come out in America.
- Marchen Adventure Cotton 100% was released on the Super Famicom in early 1994. It is perhaps best described as something of a reinterpretation of the original Cotton – the enemy graphics and behaviors, the gameplay mechanics, some of the stages and bosses, as well as the plot itself are virtually identical to the first game. However, in addition to many unique stages and enemies, the theme and colors in Marchen Adventure Cotton 100% are much brighter, and the actual level mapping is significantly different from the first game. Marchen Adventure Cotton 100% also came with a free mini-audio CD which featured music and dialogue based on the game. In 2003, the PlayStation received its own straight port of the game called simply Cotton 100%. It did not, however, come with the mini-CD.
- Panorama Cotton was released exclusively on the Mega Drive/Genesis system in late 1994. It is the single rarest game in the series, and also one of the most rare games on the Mega Drive. It is notorious for fetching high prices at auction, especially when included with its commemorative tea cup (see below). Panorama Cotton made a major departure from the original gameplay formula of Cotton; instead of being a side-scrolling shooter like the others, it was a pseudo-3D shooter in the style of Sega's classic arcade hit Space Harrier. Stylistically, it also stands out for having lost the melancholy undertones that the other games have; instead, it simply strives to be uniquely psychedelic.
- Cotton 2: Magical Night Dreams was released first as an arcade game on Sega's ST-V hardware in 1997. Only months later, it received a virtually arcade-perfect console port on the Sega Saturn. Considered the true sequel to the first game in the series, Cotton 2 also marks the introduction of two new primary characters: Appli, a young princess, and her anthropomorphic hat, Needle. Cotton 2 sees a return to traditional horizontal scrolling in the series, but it also stands out among shoot 'em ups in general for its unique gameplay system. With a heavy incorporation of Newtonian physics, Cotton 2 ultimately mixes elements of 2D platformers with traditional shoot 'em up gameplay. The first release of Cotton 2 on the Sega Saturn also included a mini-calendar for 1998.
- Cotton Boomerang was also originally an ST-V arcade game, and it, too, received a faithful home port on the Sega Saturn. It was made in 1998. Like Marchen Adventure Cotton 100%, Cotton Boomerang remixes graphics and gameplay from the previous game in the series (Cotton 2) with a number of new ideas. The gameplay in general is much more manic than Cotton 2, and Silk and Needle are playable as independent characters.
- Rainbow Cotton Was released for the Dreamcast and saw the series venture into 3D for the second time. The game featured bright crisp visuals and sound effects but disappointed fans of the series who were hoping for a continuation of the traditional Cotton formula.
- Magical Pachinko Cotton Was released on the PlayStation 2 games console. This is not really a game in the Cotton series; rather, it simply stars the characters from the games.
- Rondo of Swords Although not a Cotton game specifically, the willow obsessed witch joins your party in this strategy role-playing title, also made by Success.
The Cotton Tea Cups
Amongst collectors of video game memorabilia the Cotton tea cups are some of the rarest pieces of collectible merchandise.
The Panorama Cotton tea cup is white with no handle and features a brown drawing of Cotton on the cup, with the words "Panorama Cotton". To obtain the cup originally, it was necessary to purchase the game and send in a registration card, before being entered into a random draw. 300 are known to exist.[ ]
The Cotton Original tea cup was made to commemorate the release of Cotton Original on the PlayStation. It is white with no handle and has a blue drawing of Cotton and Silk on the front, with the words "Fantastic Night Dreams Cotton Original" in the top left corner. The origin of these cups and the quantity made are currently unknown.
A Cotton 2 tea cup is also believed to be in circulation amongst collectors but its origin and quantity made are unknown.