Saturday, November 5, 2016

Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% (SFC) Review

Received: May 28th, 2016 / Written: November 3rd-5th, 2016
Year: 1994 | Developed by: Success
Published by: Datam Polystar | [|O|]

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  =)  Let us talk about Datam Polystar!
No, not Magical Pop'n developer Polestar, Datam Polystar
Formed up in the early '90s, this Japanese firm served as publisher for plenty of games during the Super Famicom's run beginning with Jorudan of Gdleen and Xardion fame's Gōsō Jinrai Densetsu Musya (Musya: The Classic Japanese Tale of Horror in America) as well as Affect's Cacoma Knight (in Bizyland) and Makeruna! Makendō (Kendo Rage in America), all three of which received American distribution through Seta's USA division.  After the fact the developing team of Success first started collaborating with this publisher for a few Japan-exclusive titles starting with today's game, but first a little background.
Flyer image from Wikipedia; Happy 25th Anniversary, game I haven't played
In post-Sonic 1991 Sega released onto the arcade scene a little title created by Success by the name of Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams which reportedly based its gameplay from shoot'em ups like Irem Corporation's R-Type (which turns 30 in 2017, which is crazy when you think about it) but distinguished itself from other titles in the genre with its fantasy setting as well as its bright and colorful visuals that gave it a lighthearted feel to the proceedings; not to mention that instead of controlling a fighter jet or spaceship you took the reins of an adolescent witch on a broomstick.  As a result this game helped establish the cute'em up genre, the not-so serious version of shoot'em ups.  Sooooo,...
what were these games before Cotton popularized the genre?  =<  With the arcade game doing so good and the good word of mouth that it got there were home conversions made for it, with the PC Engine Super CD-ROM² System/TurboGrafx CD port in both Japan and America in 1993, followed by a Sharp X68000 computer port the same year, as well as seeing a 1999 rerelease for the PlayStation One under the name SuperLite 1500 Series - Fantastic Night Dreams - Cotton Original, culminating in a handheld Neo Geo Pocket Color conversion back in 2000.
Cover image from Wikipedia; Happy 25th Anniversary, other game I haven't played
Incidentally, 1991 was also the year that another cute'em up with similar gameplay to Cotton (right down to starring a broomstick-riding witch) came out in the form of Palsoft's Magical Chase on the PC Engine (published by Quest of Ogre series fame) which saw a late TurboGrafx-16 release in America in 1993, saw a Windows 95 port in 1998, and was given a handheld Game Boy Color edition in 2000.  As I don't own a PC Engine console my best bet to experience this game would be on the Game Boy Color, which I would gladly play if not for the fact that it's super expensive (but considering this version was done by the late Micro Cabin of Ys clone Xak: The Art of Visual Stage fame, hells' yeah I wish to play it... only in my dreams, currently).  ='(
On April 1994 Cotton became a series after the then Super Famicom-exclusive release of Success' Märchen Adventure Cotton 100%, published by Datam Polystar, before seeing a Japanese rerelease for the PlayStation One simply called Cotton 100% in 2003.  Some have described this entry as being another interpretation of the first Cotton with the plot and enemy designs and behaviors and gameplay as well as some stages and bosses being identical albeit with a much brighter color palette, unique stages and enemies, and level mapping being different.  I haven't played Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams myself so I cannot verify if that is the case, but I have played today's game (being my first foray to the Cotton series) and it is considered by many to be one of the best and most highly sought after Super Famicarts of all time.  Let's find out, shall we?

One day all seems well in this fantasy world until trouble strikes: a series of candies called Willows have been taken by Wool, with one of the fairies taken hostage by someone who looks just like Nata de Cotton.  Meanwhile, the real Nata de Cotton--a young, hotheaded, and rather childish preteen red-haired witch--has just been informed by her fairy companion Silk that the Willows have been taken (the very candy Cotton obsesses about).  Triggered by this unpleasant news, the witch sets off to right these wrongs in the hope that she'll be rewarded with at least one Willow when this is over (Wool is unimportant to Cotton, what's important to Cotton is the magical candy).  That's it as far as plot is concerned!

Before you start you'll be given a choice between one of four three-set magic capabilities (just like how in the Gradius sequels you could choose any of the given power capabilities) provided that you have at least one powerful magic orb at your disposal (I always choose the second column from the right); once you select it you're stuck with it until you finish the game, so choose wisely.

It starts
Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% is a horizontal-scrolling cute'em up where as Nata de Cotton you can soar in any direction and every inch you're allowed to (provided there are no walls, ceilings, or obstacles) all while still facing the right (you can't switch facing position).  By holding down the Y button you'll be amassing an unlimited array of firepower, with the B button you can drop bombs on your foes below (how near or far you throw it depends on how fast you move when you drop one), with either shoulder button (or X if you feel like it) you can select between any of the three magic capabilities in your stead, and once you've selected the one you wish to use press the A button to unleash the conjuring of the spell (if you have at least one magic orb).  Also when you hold down the B button you'll be preparing to launch between one and three fairies (acting as your options in this game) straight ahead of you the moment you let go, who'll then swiftly come back by your side.

The Kyotokei demo sadly stopped a few seconds into
its forest stage; at least I get the full experience here  =)
When you start Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% you begin with the weakest firepower which can be augmented in your progress; after shooting a series of enemies they'll leave behind a crystal of varying size (thin, medium, or wide) and by collecting crystals you'll fill up the gauge near your life count gradually; once it fills up completely it becomes bigger and the process starts again, but luckily you've become a bit more powerful.  Unless you have the barrier magic on you'll lose a life upon a single hit, which will decrease the power gauge by one and a fairy will wipeout all onscreen enemies (if you have more than one fairy nearby)--but fret not, you'll still resume right at the spot as opposed to starting over or from a nearby checkpoint.

Rock snake
All throughout you'll be contending with a multitude of enemies (ahead of you, above you, below you, and even behind you), one kind which has a fairy hostage until you take it down and a few specific kinds that leave behind magic orbs (such as the laser beam-spouting creatures); and on rare occasions you might stumble upon a life icon for a free life after you touch it.  During the middle and end of each stage you'll be facing off against a boss, which depending on the difficulty setting you choose or what magic you have at your disposal can be taken down easily either by firing normal shots or using magic to make things easier; since magic orb usage is limited I highly recommend unless it's the barrier magic to use it as sparingly and conservatively as possible (might not have to rely on magic much for the earlier difficulty settings, but they'll really come into play with the latter difficulty settings).

"Bombs away!"
The visuals in Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% are very pleasing to look at for the eyes, for they are brimming with vibrant colors and each area has got a good sense of detail.  =)  Each setting is filled with creativity and imagination; for example the second stage begins with some floating islands with some streams falling from up high, eventually getting to the point where it becomes snowy with a striking purple sky with yellow clouds where there's an elegant crescent moon (not an actual moon, though, but it's shaped and colored like the sky).  The forest segment has got a pretty foliage scenario, the volcano is filled with glowing red backdrops that change hues and shades of the same color throughout, and the underwater cave segment has got a beautiful design layout to it with the blue stalactites and stalagmites, bubbles abound, and the background (which looks like a well-crafted oil painting) occasionally going from straight to wavy.  That's a good sense of visual depth, and in the final stage is a clever take on a mirror's reflection.  =)

"Bad news, Cotton, but it's not over yet..."
This is a really pleasant game to look at, and just as pleasing to look at are the main character, enemies, and bosses.  Cotton animates well flying on her broomstick, whether she remains stationary or backs up or flies ahead, I like the detail of her hair being pushed back by the wind, and when she loses a life it's exaggerated with big incredulous eyes.  XD  Inbetween each stage as well as during the prologue and epilogue there are well-drawn anime cutscenes which are pretty humorous to watch in their own right; particularly Cotton's propensity to overreact when she finds that things aren't going her way (particularly to her fairy companion Silk; when she's told about the Willows she charges into action while holding onto a string holding a tied-up Silk with a banner saying "Game Start", which is amusingly clever and self-aware), sometimes with exaggerated facial expressions.
In the secret Sound and Visual Demo screens Cotton is drawn in a very different style than she is during the title and cutscenes, and they're rather endearing to look at it (the latter especially which is gorgeous).  =)

All eyes ahead!
Among the enemies you face in the roster there's legions of eyeballs with wings, blue spear-throwing yellow-haired enemies (red white-haired palette swaps for the fairy takers), axe-wielding Vikings(?), a chibified Death too adorable for words, lunging fish shaped exactly like swords(?), archers, and even seahorses; all of which are drawn in a simple yet endearing manner, with solid animation.  =)  The bosses are huge, well-designed, and animate decently, being imposing yet lighthearted at the same time; among those a big pumpkin with a creature inside of it, a tree with a Pinocchio-esque nose (with occasional squirrels aiding it), a zombified giant doll with a detachable head, and even an imposing water serpent to name a few.  Wool is well-designed and has an imposing stature when you end up fighting her.

Look out, Death's cuteness is sure enough to kill you!
Series composer Kenichi Hirata makes a return to compose music for Märchen Adventure Cotton 100%, with Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams marking his first soundtrack effort--much of his music was done specifically for this cute'em up series until 2000's Rainbow Cotton on the Sega Dreamcast; but among the few non-Cotton games he was involved in he also provided music for the Super Famicom version of Keeper and the PlayStation One/Sega Saturn ports of Psikyo's Sol Divide as well as make sound effects for the arcade version of Hebereke no Popūn plus PlayStation One titles Crossroads Crisis and Air Hockey (Hirata has not done anything past 2000 as far as I know).  The soundtrack is really good and lends so much appropriate atmosphere to these fantastical settings, all invoking a sense of wonder and mysticism while simultaneously staying true to its lighthearted tone.  =)

Streams and falls
The title theme is fun as it begins with what sounds like the famous notes from Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" but then segues into a fun melody, and the cue for the cutscenes is quirky.  The first stage theme is engaging, the third stage theme is uplifting, the fifth stage theme is instrumented atmospherically, and the sixth stage theme is relaxing to listen to.  <=)  The sound effects are well-chosen, like the sounds for when Cotton gets an item or uses up magic (though the sound for when she begins to launch her fairy or fairies before letting go oddly sounds like a lion's roar that twinkles); once in awhile you'll hear Cotton's soundbyte provided by radio actress Takae Yoriguchi (who voiced the titular adolescent witch until Rainbow Cotton)--it's not extensive voicework like the late Ai Iijima's Princess character in Magical Pop'n, but it's welcome all the same.  The midboss and main boss themes work well, and the final stage has got an impending vibe to it with the elegant harpsichord in the background.  The final boss theme is the best song in the whole game for me, for it is very intense and epic; I especially love the climactic notes to it which just elevates the whole battle, which honestly reminds me of a differently-pitched take on Studio Ghibli's Laputa: Castle in the Sky's core theme by Joe Hisaishi.  Speaking of which,
Image from Wikipedia
Happy 30th Anniversary, you magnificent anime film, you... provided it's the two-hour version and not the ninety-minute cut!  =D

"Fairies, attack that creepy doll figure!"
Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% has got four difficulty settings: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Mania.  In the options you can also change the controls if the default setting doesn't suit you personally, enable the fade to five or thirty seconds after pausing the game (or not have it fade at all), and have a choice to start with anywhere from one to nine lives (you'll need all the help you can get if you're not adept at the shoot'em up/cute'em up genre).  During the title screen you can up your credits count to nine by pressing Select six times which will make your life a little easier during the harder modes but you'll still have difficulty with it.  Depending on the difficulty setting enemies (less or more) will approach either slow or fast at you and some of them might take more than one shot to take down; this is especially true of the bosses as they take many more hits to dispose of than they do during the easier modes.  Not to mention that the more powerful your firepower gauge is the less hassle it takes to dispose of enemies, but the loss of each life reduces your firepower potency (and a fairy).  It is pattern-based, so if you study where the enemies come from and what they do you should be alright; Easy and Normal can be beaten without much problem if you can handle it, where you'll struggle most is Hard and Mania mode (mainly Mania mode; Hard I managed to barely beat with my last life on my last continue).
There is a code which enables you to get maximum experience: during the Magic Select screen press X, L, R, Right, Left, and Select; after that's done the words "Power Up" will appear.  Now during the game press Select constantly to increase the power of your firepower gauge... there is a catch, though: shooting at most if not all enemies will take them down but at the expense of having a huge white orb come at you in the direction you were at when it happened (sometimes real fast you can't see it coming).  It's almost like this cute'em up was saying, "You can cheat, but prepare to face the consequences if you do!"  Well played, Success, well played; thank you (and damn you), GameFAQs!  XD  But, if you wish to beat Mania... there's also a stage select code but I wouldn't bother with that one (starting the game outside of the first stage will result in a game over instead of the credits sequence when beaten), trust me.

Seahorse Party
In a lot of Super Famicom and Super Nintendo shoot'em ups and cute'em ups when you lose all your lives (or in Super Earth Defense Force's case, shield stock; health in Pop'n TwinBee's case) and are given a chance to continue you normally start from the beginning of the stage you were in when you lost your last life (except Darius Twin, where it had no continues, which was very mean of Taito); in here, however, when you lose your last life which causes you to use up a continue should you have one, you'll resume right at the spot, which is very convenient; I like that Success made that decision, it really helps!  =D

Deep in the underworld
After Märchen Adventure Cotton 100%'s release the Cotton franchise continued with the rare Sunsoft-published MegaDrive entry Panorama Cotton (which shares a similar structure to Space Harrier) on August 1994, the reportedly true sequel to the original game Cotton 2: Magical Night Dreams for arcades and Sega Saturn in 1997, the expanded version of said game for both arcades and Sega Saturn the next year in Cotton Boomerang, leading up to the 2000 Sega Dreamcast 3D cute'em up Rainbow Cotton.  In 2003 the characters from Cotton appeared the PlayStation 2 game Magical Pachinko Cotton, and the latest appearance Nata de Cotton made was in the 2007 Success-developed strategy RPG Rondo of Deception/Swords for the Nintendo DS in Japan and America respectively.

The Success-Datam Polystar collaboration would continue with the 1994 Super Famicom port of Success' adorably addicting 1993 Sharp X68000 puzzler (published in its original format by ASCII) Keeper and the 1995 one-on-one fighting game Makeruna! Makendō 2: Kimero Youkai Souri.  The last game that Datam Polystar would publish during the Super Famicom's run would be the Polystar-developed Yōchien Senki MADARA--that's an interesting way to follow up on Konami's Mōryō Senki MADARA 2, one of the best Super Famicarts I imported and played this year.  =<

I'm more of a coffee person than a tea person
I recall having first heard of Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% on someone's Top 10 list of "best SNES games you never played but should" on YouTube in 2008; it was a only a few seconds' worth of clips but those were enough to make me curious.  This was long before I got a Retro Duo and eventually a Super Famiconsole, but eventually I found out about a WiiWare release of a cute'em up structured in the style of Cotton called Kyotokei, which I didn't download at the time (this was back in 2011, during a time when I focused on collecting physical SNES carts after having stopped downloading games on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console in the early half of 2009). Earlier last year when I chose the Nintendo Wii screen on my Nintendo Wii U and selected its Virtual Downloads (for some reason, out of curiosity) I saw that there was a free demo of Kyotokei; it was certainly nice for what it was but it only lasted until the first few seconds of its second stage which bummed me out.  Since it hasn't been made available outside the WiiWare format and Nintendo Wii Points cards are no longer made I don't think compromising my credit information just to play the full package would be a wise move, so I won't; better safe than sorry.

 I would've reviewed this game by Halloween, but
I was busy playing Mōryō Senki MADARA 2 which
I got during mid-October
Incredible RPG, by the way  <=)
This May I imported both Keeper (which I was fortunate enough to find at a cheaper cost) and this game (which was the highest amount of money I spent for a Super Famicart at almost $50) as well as another Super Famicart (unimportant, but for those who are curious it was Epoch's SFC port of Nihon Falcom's Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes), and all things considered was a great way to start off this year's Summer.  =D  Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% is an incredibly fun and challenging cute'em up that is endearing and full of charm and humor; its colors are sumptuous to behold and each setting is full of creativity and imagination, not to mention its jovial and upbeat soundtrack makes this a really engrossing title.  Having not played the other Cotton cute'em ups (I own neither a PC Engine nor a Sega Saturn nor a backwards-compatible/region-free PlayStation 3 console if those are still round) I got a real kick out of this entry.  =)  The only thing disappointing about it (even though I play games for fun and not score) is that when you use up a continue the score will revert back to 0 and act like your previous potential top score seen in the Top HUD never happened, which is wrong.
I know there are people who prefer the more serious shoot'em ups over lighthearted cute'em ups on account that the former games have generally got more challenge going for them while the latter games vie for something that's manageable by comparison--and, you know, fair enough, different strokes for different folks--but with that said, Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% can be really challenging as the difficulty amps up with each stage (with each subsequent difficulty setting augmenting challenge) so you have to be aware of Cotton's surroundings and maneuver her around wisely.  As much as shoot'em ups aren't exactly my strong suit (in fact, I prefer the cute'em ups the likes of TwinBee and Parodius and Star Parodier to name some), this game in all honesty could easily qualify as one despite being a cute'em up (if that makes any sense).  =)

With time flying by so fast, you know Winter's
coming really soon
Is this game Top 10 Super Famicom material?  Well, like Magical Pop'n that's highly debatable and up to personal taste, but regardless whether or not it is it's still a great and well-crafted game.  =D  If you like the shoot'em up/cute'em up genre I think you'll really enjoy Märchen Adventure Cotton 100%; if you fashion some difficulty in your shoot'em up/cute'em up there's plenty of replay value in terms of difficulty settings; if you like colorful Nintendo 16-bit games to look at you'll be quite satisfied; if you want to play games that are lighthearted, humorous, and charming then you should check it out; but above all if you want to play a game that's really fun with responsive play control then I highly recommend it.  If you can afford this game provided you own the means to play it (a Super Famiconsole, modified SNES, or a Super Famiclone),...
IT'S A KEEPER!!!  =D
............... waaaaaait...............  >_>
 
My Personal Score: 8.5/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. I'm not quite sure what the "100%" in the title refers to; maybe it was to distinguish itself from Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams?  That's the best reasoning I can guess.

P.S. 2 I just saw Doctor Strange in theatres in 3D and I loved it!  =D  Marvel Studios strikes again!
 
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think.  Hope you have a great day, take care!  =D

2 comments:

  1. Nice review! I haven't been able to beat this one yet, but I should give it another go.

    ReplyDelete