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Released: 2000

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Neo Geo Pocket Color

Publisher: SNK

Developer: Success

Submitted by: Chris Murphy

Cotton (or Fantastic Night Dreams Cotton to give the game its wonderfully Japlish full title) on SNK's dinky handheld is a version of a game that appeared in 1991 on such formats as the PC Engine, Saturn and PS1, but you'd have a hard time finding anyone who has played them, considering the game never saw a release here, or even in the States. Due to the NGPC version being fully English though (and region free), this poses no problems to anyone who fancies sampling Cotton's enjoyable experience.

It's a horizontally scrolling shoot-'em-up with a charming main character, who is a witch – the eponymous Cotton. She has an arsenal of magic to help her fend off the nightmarish (but still oh-so-cute) creatures that will attack. Also lending a hand is a fairy named Silk who flies around and also shoots at your command, effectively working as an 'option'. The power-up system of Cotton is worthy of praise – how many times have you cursed a great shmup's design after dying once and losing all your hard-fought power-ups?  This won't happen in Cotton, as you'll drop one level in power when you croak. The price for this leniency is that each power-up you collect only adds to a sort of experience bar, with each level requiring more of the yellow crystals to fill it. The yellow crystals also double as extra weapon ammo: shoot them a couple of times and they'll turn red or blue, giving you access to a flame or lightning spell respectively.

For such a small screen (160 by 152 pixels, fact fans), the graphics are excellent, with lovely detail, and a fair amount of enemies on screen. The sound is awful though, a problem which is down to the NGPC's weak sound rather than the game itself.

Cotton certainly can't compare to the original version, but plays excellently (bar the odd difficulty spike) if you enjoy shoot-'em-ups. Beware though, this game can set you back a fair few quid online, due to its scarcity. And no, you can't have my copy!