Platform: PlayStation 4
Review Date: 12/30/22
This collection contains the arcade and Saturn ports of "Cotton 2: Magical Night Dreams", "Cotton Boomerang: Magical Night Dreams", and "Guardian Force." I'm not sure what "Guardian Force" is doing in this collection, except that Success originally developed it. Overall, it's a fun package of retro shooters from the 90's, but "Cotton 2" is easily the best of the bunch.
"Cotton 2: Magical Night Dreams" (1997) - This is a direct sequel to the original "Cotton" game, even though it's the fourth game in the "Cotton" series. It introduces a rival witch named Appli, and once again Cotton and Silk have to retrieve the magical Bluewater Willow to save the fairy kingdom. Or something. It's impossible to follow the story because it's all in Japanese, which is unfortunate because you miss out on all of the endearing character humor. Regardless, you play as either Cotton or Appli, flying on your broom through seven stages of horizontal scrolling shooter action. The controls are very basic and consist of a shoot button and a magic attack. You can also catch and throw enemies, but I was never able to pull that off. The various levels include forests, haunted houses, subterranean caves, and underwater grottos (which I always appreciate). While Cotton and Appli play identically, I preferred Appli because she's cuter and less annoying. On the easiest setting it's possible to complete the game with the limited continues that you're given, and overall it takes about a half hour. I thought it was a fun and colorful game as well as a definite improvement over the original "Cotton," but the revised "Cotton Reboot!" is a superior experience.
"Cotton Boomerang: Magical Night Dreams" (1998) - This is simply a remix of "Cotton 2" with the same levels and enemies, and while it's graphically impressive, the new gameplay features drag the experience down. It introduces eight playable characters and you get to choose three when you start the game. Unlike "Cotton 2," there's no life bar, so your character dies with a single hit and the next one in your selected roster takes its place. This enforces added difficulty, as each character has different strengths and abilities. Overall, I found "Cotton Boomerang" to be underwhelming and not very enjoyable.
"Guardian Force" (1998) - This is a typical vertical scrolling shooter, but what sets it apart is its clunky controls. In addition to the standard shoot and special attack buttons, you can also rotate your turret left and right with the Square and R2 buttons, which is highly unintuitive. And in practice, it's usually better to just keep aiming straight up, or you'll just end up confused and disoriented. I found the experience to be lackluster and immediately forgettable.