Review: Rainbow Cotton

This Dreamcast do-over makes the original obsolete

The opening cutscene of Rainbow Cotton posits its leading lady, rather than any kind of benevolent hero, as something of a candy-obsessed psychotic menace, a goblinesque brat who thinks nothing of grabbing and viciously squeezing the fairies who call upon her for aid as monsters besiege their town. It’s fitfully amusing, but also a tiny little bit unpleasant when married with the art on offer, a mixture of curiously weak draughtsmanship and over-sexualised design. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking drawings of arses – I’d just prefer they were well-drawn to begin with.

But hey, that’s just a cutscene. The actual game is a linear 3D shooter closest in style to Lylat Wars – excuse me, Star Fox 64. Following the Mega Drive’s Space Harrier-like Panorama Cotton (also available now on Switch), Rainbow Cotton got itself a limited release on the Dreamcast back in 2000. And, erm, it wasn’t really all that good, thanks to a combination of the appalling Dreamcast controller and a game handling model that wasn’t exactly conducive to accurate shooting. Thankfully, this remake more or less fixes that issue entirely and is much more enjoyable to play.

New to this version, you see, is the ability to hold the fire button to lock onto a specific enemy, which will make your little fairy pals focus their aim on that target. Previously, your only option was to utilise manual aiming, which while responsive in isolation didn’t work out great when swarmed with targets, which is almost all the time. Additionally, the early game is so focused on powering Cotton up in order to make clearing the later levels feasible, it’d get frustrating as heck when you missed one of the little jars that granted you said power-ups due to the screen being so busy.

Of course, it’s also in widescreen now, which is a nice boon to go along with the much cleaner visuals. There’s a degree to which Rainbow Cotton loses some charm when that slightly-nicer-PS1 look that defined the Dreamcast is taken away, but thankfully it’s possible here to play the game in its original mode should you wish. Hooray! Other than a fairly rudimentary co-op mode – player two is basically just a cursor – there’s not much in the way of additional content, but the game itself is the appeal here; newly translated outside of the in-game dialogue, which while optional would have been a nice bit of extra effort.

Still, the game is the appeal – since the initial run only numbered about six total copies, it’s nice that Rainbow Cotton is available at all, and with the changes to the controls it’s much easier to appreciate the set-piece led, secret-packed stages. Yes, there are only the five of them, but with multiple very different routes it’s still a generous offering for its genre and you really wouldn’t want to spend hours and hours blowing through it anyway. It’s nice to see a re-release of a shonky but interesting game be given the tweaks it needs for the experience to shine, without compromising the game’s design or feel to do so. This isn’t the same game rendered toothless; it’s just better than the original release and should be played in its stead from now on.

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