Rainbow Cotton Review – Charming Yet Frustratingly Clunky

    Unfortunately, Cotton's jump to 3D is messy, frustrating, and bug-riddled.

    After twenty-four years, Cotton’s first 3D Adventure is now available on modern platforms. Years ago, I was first introduced to the franchise during vacation, which allowed me to learn about the charm of the series beloved by many. Predominantly a side-scrolling franchise, Rainbow Cotton was the first foray into the world of 3D for the beloved series. The title was originally released exclusively in Japan for the SEGA Dreamcast, where it has now returned worldwide for the first time thanks to ININ Games.

    This new remaster of Rainbow Cotton features many quality-of-life upgrades, but does the core experience of the game hold up today? Unfortunately, I’m afraid the new features weren’t enough to distract from the frustrating gameplay experience. 

    With this new remaster, Rainbow Cotton now provides widescreen support, stretching more corners for Cotton to traverse. Cotton 2‘s dynamic portrait also makes its grand return in this remake. A new lock-on targeting made it easy for me to target fairies whenever I needed to track homing attacks; with five, I could reduce more enemies with charged fire.  Arrows pointing to the branching paths can either appear at the start or one-third of a stage. Further, boss battles now feature a health bar placed at the bottom of the screen alongside the bosses, dimming with each attack.

    The largest and most obvious new feature of this remaster is the enhanced visuals. I was impressed by these, which are vibrant and extremely eye-popping. Combined with Keichi Hirata’s catchy jingles and tunes, which have been remastered for the entire experience, you’ve got an excellent audial and visual experience.

    However, not every addition was welcomed. The cutscenes have thick black borders, which can detract from the experience as the washed-upscaled image feels empty. Perhaps adding an image would help fill the space, but that doesn’t seem an option. On this issue, the options menu only adds certain basic functionalities while removing what wasn’t broken, like disabling the cutscenes entirely. This setting was replaced by the show subtitles option and volume sliders. As a result, it only creates needless inconveniences in the finished product when comparing the remaster to the original release.

    In total, Rainbow Cotton features three modes in the overall package. The standard mode enabled when you start the game is Modern Mode, which is the remastered version of the game featuring the aforementioned upgrades. Retro Mode, the second mode, was lackluster, offering the same game with the original aspect ratio, simpler UI, and a thick scanline filter. It only caused unnecessary frustration, as the mode removed the quality of life features, making me switch back to modern.

    As a result, this truthfully reminds me where the game could’ve been if certain features were not removed or omitted. It is a puzzling decision, as the settings not present in the Modern Mode are present in Retro Mode. Despite these grievances, it is nice that the original game without modifications can now be played outside of Japan. Since Co-op Mode is strictly local multiplayer, I was unable to test it thoroughly for this review. However, I do expect it to function as you would expect.

    This Will Cost You Three Credits

    Rainbow Cotton opens with an explanation of Willow, a rare yet powerful candy, but none are more powerful than the Legendary Willow found in Lasha Castle. The evil Tweed and his forces invade the land, Queen Velvet of Filament rounds up her fairy kingdom to discuss the oncoming thread, and Silk devises a plan to lure Cotton the Witch with some deception. It works as Cotton now believes a Willow Festival is occurring, so she takes off to satisfy her Willow craving.

    The gameplay features are linear yet accompanied by the varied stages of Filament’s towns of residence. To complete each stage, you must shoot everything that gets in your way. Collecting spells and fairies is necessary, as carrying five at a time expands Cotton’s abilities. However, they are limited to five credits per run, and you cannot recover any credits during gameplay, so make them count. Each new run feels brutal, as it resets your score from the entire session. There’s also a non-existent checkpoint system that either resumes after the mid-stage encounter or sends you back at the start. 

    While trying to be the center of attention, Cotton covers most of the screen, making it hard to see what’s in front of you. The camera speed can restrict any additional movement. This leads to unnecessary damage either from an unseen bullet or the geometry itself. Reaction can be key, but the game fails to communicate that in any given way. Stages can range from detailed to flat, easily making some enemies blend into the background. Each is also tightly designed, which results in more room for error, given the game’s breakneck pace. 

    There isn’t much enemy variety, as stages are filled with palette swaps. The branching paths can also provide some replayability, which changes the encounter of the mid-stage boss. This can range from stationary bosses to eliminating ads to obstacle courses that test your reflexes. Ultimately, the stage boss provides the most challenge and character as they’re also introduced with a cutscene. Each boss tends to provide the most unfair encounters between the mid-stage boss and the stage boss after they eat some Willow. Reading patterns and paying attention are requirements for some of the encounters, as the attacks can cover most of the screen. These attacks also provide an unfair weight, as the overlapping hurt box can deal much damage. 

    I’ve encountered some game-breaking bugs, such as when casting charged fire. Instead of eradicating anything it looked for, they instead chose to fly towards the ceiling, leaving you open to attacks. Most notably, the fairies stopped homing entirely on Cloud City, soft-looking to the point that you could not cast spells. There’s a brief frame window where, after being dealt damage, the game breaks the lock-on charge, spending the spell slot. Moreover, items and enemies fall through the levels, and this was a common occurrence in my experience. Due to Cotton’s size, sometimes she collides on every corner or even takes damage because the camera is far ahead. Locking on is also rendered useless by the camera, as the target bypasses outside the reticle.

    Unfortunately, these bugs ultimately render the core experience useless. A great example of this in play is when facing off against another jar enemy, as there are no indications of its contents. It took me three initial runs to rescue one fairy, as the Jar enemy housing a fairy tends to be a more formidable opponent for Cotton’s bullets, requiring me to launch another fairy. I could write dozens of more examples of the game suffering as result of these issues, but I’ll end off by saying that I do hope these challenges are faced and conquered. The core experience of Rainbow Cotton is quite unique, and I’d like to experience the title with a proper camera and no apparent glitches or bugs.

    Frustrating and Unforgiving

    I found myself playing this game for what seemed like hours. It was challenging yet frustrating due to the lack of polish in many areas. As someone who has not played the original, I find it unclear whether these bugs and technical happenings are directly pulled from the original game or new to the remake. Overall, the passion and love for the title are apparent through and through, as the development team did an excellent job breathing new life into things like textures for 2024. This also includes the updated ease of access. 

    However, things like the meaningless credit system pans the experience further as it only artificially inflates what could be an hour-long session into a grueling experience. In my opinion, I believe Rainbow Cotton is a firm reminder that the highs of the Cotton franchise are its 2D entries, and that is where it should remain. While it is undeniably clear why Rainbow Cotton is beloved by fans for its charm and unique style of gameplay, my experiences left me disappointed. It feels that the title is yet another example of a 3D mascot that received a botched polygonal debut.

    Disclaimer: ININ GAMES provided Final Weapon with a PlayStation 5 copy of Rainbow Cotton for review.


    Rainbow Cotton is ultimately a unique title with lots of charm. However, the experience is filled with bugs, camera issues, and decisions that left me scratching my head. With so many great ideas, it is a shame the controls and bugs plague what is otherwise a charming and colorful experience.
    Luis E.
    Luis E.https://gmbt.exe
    Also going by Gambit, I've been a long-time supporter of Final Weapon. I tend to find ease in learning about newer franchises and experiences. Some of my favorite genres include RPGs, Puzzle, Platformers, FPS, etc.

    Latest articles

    Latest Articles

    Rainbow Cotton is ultimately a unique title with lots of charm. However, the experience is filled with bugs, camera issues, and decisions that left me scratching my head. With so many great ideas, it is a shame the controls and bugs plague what is otherwise a charming and colorful experience.Rainbow Cotton Review - Charming Yet Frustratingly Clunky