Title: Panorama Cotton
Developer: Ratalaika Games
Release Date: October 29, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: ININ Games
Space Harrier by legendary designer Yu Suzuki and his team at SEGA AM2 was a true trailblazer, offering a 3D rail shooter experience long before 3D polygons were used in mainstream gaming. Even today, the experience holds up exceptionally well, and it’s still worth checking out the SEGA 3D Classics version of the game if you still happen to use your Nintendo 3DS. Better yet, travel back to 1986 and visit the local arcade in Yokosuka, Japan, where you can play the original arcade cabinet, all made possible thanks to Shenmue I&II HD remaster collection.
But why am I talking about Space Harrier and not the game I’m supposed to be reviewing, Panorama Cotton? Well, because it’s miles better than this cloned attempt of a shooter.
Although part of the Cotton series, Panorama Cotton was far removed from the typical 2D side-scrolling shmup action, and it now joins the numerous other Cotton releases of 2021. Of all the games to bring back from the past, this one was completely unnecessary, because to be honest, it just isn’t a fun game, and it’s not worth even checking it out as a curiosity.
No doubt, as a 1994 16-bit console release, this would have been a pretty cool title to experience at the time. Gaming was just at the cusp of having real 3D on home consoles, and so something like Panorama Cotton would have been a fascinating piece of novelty for gamers back then. Sadly, the novelty barely holds up in 2021, if at all.
Much like the accompanying release of Cotton 100%, this port of Panorama Cotton does the absolute bare minimum, with lazy menu presentation, the ability to rewind gameplay, and the option to play a slightly modified version of the original game. Unfortunately, there’s really not much to explore here, and so this is a pretty underwhelming conversion of a game that was already underwhelming to begin with.
Initially, when you start up the game, things look promising, as even now, it’s hard to believe this was running on 16-bit Genesis hardware, especially with the level of color density and detail in the character sprites, all generating on a scrolling path. Yet, moments into the experience, things start to fall apart, and the whole thing just turns into a complete mess.
There is no sense of depth perception here, as objects pop up on screen entirely out of thin air, and the barely existent framerate takes a dive as you progress through the stage. It moves fast, but it feels like a mess of pixels and sprites, where it almost feels like you accidentally activated the game’s debug mode or something.
The core shooting gameplay does indeed resemble the aforementioned Space Harrier, but only barely. However, there is enemy variety, and some measure of level design as players need to navigate various paths, obstacles, and open fields.
Despite a genuine effort to create gameplay variety, there is no rhyme or reason to the flow, and the technical issues make it almost impossible to make sense of anything. It’s really a bunch of flat 2D sprites barely resembling anything close to 3D. Perhaps gamers in 1994 were willing to adapt and accept as they had no other choice, but in 2021 we’ve all experienced enough authentic 3D not to have to force ourselves to believe in the foolish charade on display here.
Panorama Cotton isn’t a fun game, and what may have once been a technical showpiece for the Sega Genesis simply has no relevance today. This probably isn’t something you want to play; regardless of the cute character sprites, enjoyment takes a dive moments into the experience. You’re better off playing Space Harrier.
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