Getting horizontal with Cotton Reboot and Dariusburst

Two more shmups for your Shwitch

Hello. It's been a while, and I apologise for that. I was trapped inside a whale. No, no, I don't mean some sort of metaphor for my own struggle with overeating, I mean I was literally stuck in the belly of a whale. Yeah, like in Veggietales, or something. At any rate, my time within the Orca allowed me plenty of time to check out some new horizontal shooters on the Switch. And, wouldn't you know it, the first one actually has fish in it. Like whales! Which are fish, despite what science will tell you.


Anyway, first up is Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX+, which seems to be a revision of a revision of a revision of the 2009's PSP entry Dariusburst, and to be entirely frank with you I have no idea what the lineage is there. I tried to look it up but the wi-fi in the whale is very bad, and also it shouldn't really affect your experience unless you're exceptionally au fait with Darius' various little foibles and mechanical tweaks. Which I'm not, so it's feet-first, straight in with my impressions.

And it's good! It's a good shooter! The stages are dramatic as heck with boss battles somehow becoming even more epic. It's cinematic as you like, the usual Darius ethereal music and booming explosions all present and correct. And that's the thing, really - it's all quite familiar, but it's very good - just, you know, it's been 13 years since Burst and (grits teeth) this isn't all that different, is it?

There's also the issue of the game having been designed for a double-sized screen; the field of vision is just way too small for the Switch in handheld mode. You really need to play this one on as big a screen as possible. Chronicle Saviors on PS4 had a special mode adapted for TV displays, but this version doesn't for reasons unknown. So, yeah, a very good game, but also quite a disappointing package.


Cotton Reboot, on the other hand, is a glorious little thing - packing the Sharp X68000 port of Fantastic Night Dreams: Cotton as well as a spruced-up remake of the same. It's interesting that the X68000 version of the game was remade instead of the arcade original, but it's a sensible decision as the computer take features far superior pixel art.

The remake is actually a little closer to... let's say half a sequel, such is its sprucing. You've never seen such spruce, it's quite the thing. Every single sprite and effect is shiny and almost toyetic. It looks great though some people may find that there's something of a clash of styles going on - I found it akin to something out of Monty Python.

It's also a much busier game in its "Arrange" mode, with sensibilities closer to the modern Touhou or "Bullet Hell" shooter, where the original is much more sedate, while still challenging. I think I preferred the original game overall, though that's not to slight the effort that's gone into reimagining it. There's the usual, baffling "Caravan" mode, but without an actual caravan in sight - instead it's a two-or-five-minute bespoke stage in which you've got to rack up the most points possible before time runs out. Never had that at Kelling Heath*.

Optional CRT-style filters and online leaderboards complete the package and it's one I can recommend to shmup fans without reservation. That's right, absolutely no reservations whatsoever. Fantastic Night Dreams: Cotton is one of the better shooters I've played on Switch and I can only hope it's going to be followed by more Cotton action. (Checks) It is! Cotton Rock N' Roll: Superlative Night Dreams is coming to a system near you later this year, apparently! Also, I was lying about the whale. Made that whole thing up. Sorry.

*This is the stupidest, most obscure reference I've ever done, and I'm leaving it in to alienate everyone just because I'm so pleased to be writing on Retronauts again. Hurray!!