Cotton Boomerang has finally made it to modern hardware after a long (very long…) life exclusively on the Sega Saturn. As far as Shmups go, Cotton 2 and its sequel, Boomerang, are more or less considered royalty. Unfortunately, the port of Cotton 2 came with some baggage, such as input lag. Does Cotton Boomerang suffer the same fate.
It pains me to say this, but yes, Cotton Boomerang is riddled with input lag. What does this mean to the casual coin-popping Shmup fan? Honestly, not much. Despite Boomerang sometimes hitting double digits when it comes to delay, the game is still more than playable for those who are not looking to invest tens of hours into perfecting the 1CC. Of course, the hardcore Shmupper is going to be in for a rough ride.
Like with Cotton 2, this is just a crying shame because Cotton Boomerang is an excellent game under all that delay. As is to be expected by any horizontally focused game in the genre, the aim of the game is flying around left to right auto-scrolling levels and peppering every enemy in sight with bullets, bombs, and other genre staples. Boomerang goes a few steps beyond your typical shooter, however.
This becomes apparent almost immediately, as instead of selecting one character, you choose three. These characters act as your lives, bombs, mobility, and projectile options. You have three variants of Cotton, three variants of Appli, Silk, and needle. Despite six of eight characters being reskinned, they all feel a smidge different, especially Silk and Needle who are comparatively tiny, making bullet dodging in particular, much easier.
Once you have your team, the game starts getting interesting. Whichever character you choose has a bunch of offensive options available to them. You have your standard shot that powers up as you gather crystals. Inputting Street Fighter-esque commands will result in specialized shots, such as ones that fire diagonally. Holding down the attack button for a second or so conjures an elemental spirit to blitz across the screen. A lot is going on here, and that’s not even all of it.
At any moment, providing you have the resource required, you can drop a screen-clearing bomb and change your character. This not only gives you some breathing room, but it prevents you from losing one of your valuable teammates and allows you to take advantage of each character’s strengths and elements. You can even play local co-op and bring a friend a long for even more character shenanigans.
One of the best features of Cotton 2, the Seal system, returns in Boomerang. Hitting an enemy with one of your command inputs will lock them in a magic ball. You can knock, or throw, this ball into groups of enemies to cause chain reactions which result in points gains and all that good stuff. It’s been downplayed somewhat in Boomerang since your characters are significantly more powerful when not using Seals, but it’s still a valuable tool and hodds of fun.
Prepare To Die
Due to Cotton Boomerang’s increased offensive arsenal, the game is not afraid of filling the screen with enemies and bullets to compensate. Cotton Boomerang, despite its cutesy looks, is tough as old boots. Each character dies in one hit, their sprites are (mostly) massive, and death will come swiftly and often to those not prepared for a good scrap. The game has many difficulty options to play around with, but I suspect even the easiest mode will be quite the hurdle for less experienced fans. There is a very handy rewind feature that allows you to erase your mistakes, or practice difficult sections, which is pretty darn nice.
As is to be expected with any game in the Cotton series, Cotton Boomerang looks and sounds magnificent. The Sega Saturn had a knack for producing stellar sprite work, and Boomerang is no different. It’s bright, colorful, and full of charm and energy. It does take most of its sprites from Cotton 2, however, so it does sometimes feel like a remix as opposed to a full sequel, but that’s hardly a significant negative when it looks this good. Musically the game is top-notch too. Cotton leads the charge when it comes to genre-defining soundtracks, and Boomerang follows through with some boppingly catchy tunes.
Like Cotton 2, Cotton Boomerang is marred by a poor port. It’s impossible to ignore the input delay on display here. It not only makes the game harder than it already is, but it cuts away at the game’s longevity. Highscores and 1CCs are possible, they just aren’t pleasant to achieve when the port handicaps your control. This one is for the less serious Shmup fans and Cotton mega fans. Other than that, wait for a patch.
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