Wednesday 17 November 2021

Panorama Cotton (Switch Review)


“Welcome to the fantasy zone. Get ready!” will elicit fond memories from many gamers from the mid to late 80s. Space Harrier was a refreshing take on the shoot-em-up genre back in 1985, and its port from arcade to home computer and console only bolstered its popularity. While the rail shooter enjoyed some popularity past the Yu Suzuki classic, it often felt like the genre was a bit gimmicky during the 16-bit era. The true sense of speeding towards the horizon was restricted by the hardware running the game - at least until the true 3D era of gaming came about. Panorama Cotton sits in this overlap of generations and suffers because of it.

The third game in the “cute-em-up" Cotton series, you control the eponymous Cotton, a witch on a broomstick whose aim is to get rid of all the burnt willow in the kingdom, as it’s believed this is causing Queen Velvet to behave erratically. Unfortunately, none of this comes across in Ratalaika’s port, as there’s no English translation of the script. This is most surprising, given their solid port of Gley Lancer.

The game itself is standard on rails fare, and hasn’t aged particularly well. To be fair to Panorama Cotton, not many rail shooters from the era do fare well, but being this was released a year after the SNES classic StarFox/Starwing, it was a step back, even then. It stands out from others by having branching paths throughout levels, which is a nice touch, and there are some really nice graphical flourishes here and there (in the first level Cotton heads over the cliff and through a waterfall, which is fairly effective for the then aging Mega Drive), but otherwise it’s much like Space Harrier or Afterburner II – a horizon and some rocks hurtling towards you.

Things get busy on screen throughout, and at some points there’s noticeable slowdown. Power ups can get lost among the chaos, and it’s often tough to see what you’re picking up. You can change what benefit a pick up provides by shooting it, so it’s often a case of blasting away and hoping for the best.

As with many ports, there are some tweaks here and there (rewind mode, save states, cheats) alongside the original game, which is always appreciated. This is also the cheapest way to buy the game too, as the original MD release apparently only had 4000 copies printed, so you’re saving at least £500 going by today’s eBay prices. The lack of an English script translation is a little disappointing, and the game is a product of its time, but if you like your curios this may be worth picking up. However, if you’re more interested in gameplay there are better rail shooters out there to spend your money on.


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