A series of side-scrolling shooters made by Success, Cotton was one of the earliest Cute Em Ups involving Cute Witches and Beam Spam to pre-date Touhou. Known mostly to hardcore gamers, the games involved the titular Natta de Cotton searching for candies called Willows (not to be confused with the film Willow), and her fairy side-kick Silk who, when not trying to look for help to save some kingdom, encourages Cotton to help her anyway with the promise of said sweets.
To Cotton, Willows are Serious Business, and she will absolutely do ANYTHING in her power to get hold of (and consume) one of these, such as blasting everything in her way, apparently...
The Cotton series spanned over the course of 8 games. These are:
- Fantastic Night Dreams: Cotton (1989) - Released originally for the Arcade, Cotton made its way to the PC-Engine/TurboGrafx-16, Sharp X68000, PlayStation (as Cotton Original) and Neo Geo Pocket and introduces us to our protagonist. After an evil mist envelopes the world of Filament keeping it nighttime forever, a fairy named Silk seeks for help. She happens upon Cotton, who, in the witch's habit of doing nothing but searching for Willow treats, initially ignores her plea. That is, of course, until the fairy makes mention of said candy... This game is also mildly notable for having the first ever Fan Translation of a Playstation game. The arcade version was ported to Sega's Astro City Mini in 2020, and the Sharp X68000 was included in the Reboot.
- Märchen Adventure Cotton 100% (1994) - Cotton's debut on the Super Famicom; rereleased for the PlayStation in 2003 as part of the "SuperLite 1500" budget series. Unlike the first game, it never made it outside Japan.
- Panorama Cotton (1994) - Released for the Mega Drive, Panorama Cotton did not play like a traditional side-scrolling shooter. Instead, it pretty much played like a clone of Space Harrier... The ruler of Filament, Queen Velvet, runs off to "protect her kingdom" after divining an incoming catastrophe (via means of plant petals). Meanwhile, word spreads out of monsters burning any Willow they see, the fumes of which cause sickness among the fairies. As Silk cleans up some of the burnt remains, Cotton appears after eating a charred piece and demands an explanation for the atrocity...
- Magical Night Dreams Cotton 2 (1997) - Like its much older predecessor, this game started out in the arcades, this time on Sega's ST-V hardware; like most ST-V games, it made its way to the Sega Saturn. This game introduces the player to Appli, a princess who runs off with a treasure from her Kingdom of Pumpkin to use its power to grant a wish... except she just got swept by a tornado and now lost it. Upon searching, Cotton and Silk stumbles into Appli and overhears the princess' assistant Needle speak of a "Bluewater Willow". Appli and Needle scout out more while Cotton and Silk give chase...
- Magical Night Dreams Cotton Boomerang (1998) - A re-release of Cotton 2 for the same systems. Graphics and level design are mostly the same, but the character selection and abilities are very different.
- Rainbow Cotton (2000) - Released exclusively for the Sega Dreamcast, this is another into-the-screen shooter.
- Magical Pachinko Cotton (2003) - A pachinko game featuring characters from the series.
- Fantastic Night Dreams: Cotton Reboot (2021): A reboot of the Cotton series developed by game store Beep in collaboration with the original developer Success released for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Also includes a port of the Sharp XK68000 version of the original game.
- Cotton Guardian Force Saturn Tribute (2021): A Compilation Re-release for the Nintendo Switch and PS4 featuring Cotton 2, Cotton Boomerang and the unrelated Success-developed shooter Guardian Force.
Cotton and Silk also made a playable appearance in Studio SeistA's Trouble Witches Origin as DLC on August 10th, 2017. Cotton herself is also a playable character in Umihara Kawase Fresh! as well as Umihara Kawase BaZooKa!!note alongside Appli in 2020.
The games provide examples of:
- Anti-Frustration Features: In the remake, you get unlimited continues. Also, Cotton's and Silk's hitbox is clearly visible which makes dodging bullets much more bareable.
- Attack Drone: The Fairies can be used as such to do quick damage to enemies.
- Autobots, Rock Out!: The PC-engine soundtrack to the first Cotton contains a disproportionate amount of electric guitar set to what's otherwise a Cute Witch and her fairy's quest for sweets.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: The arcade release, very much so, with lines like "Please down with the evils."
- Bullet Hell: Reboot on it's hardest difficult settings comes really close to being a proper bullet hell.
- The Cake Is a Lie: Silk promises Cotton a giant Willow that doesn't actually exist to get her to avoid eating the seven Willows and keep searching, thus saving the two worlds. Silk isn't a villain, though; she's just working with what she's got.
- Crossover: Cotton along with Silk became playable DLC characters for Trouble Witches Origin. Cotton herself also makes another crossover appearance in Umihara Kawase Fresh as well as BaZooKa!!.
- Cute 'em Up: Quite possibly one of the earliest examples, along with the Kiki Kai Kai series.
- Cute Witch: Cotton herself, complete with pointy hat casting colorful spells as she flies on her broom.
- Difficulty by Acceleration: Panorama moves at such high speeds that the level's scrolling into walls might kill you more than the enemies. There's an option to turn up the speed regardless.
- Everything's Deader with Zombies: The cemetery stage in the first game has a zombie boss.
- Fairy Companion: Silk is this to Cotton, almost always seen flying alongside her broom. Amusingly, if you beat Panorama Cotton with a million points, Cotton becomes Silk's Fairy Companion.
- Fairy Sexy: In contrast to Cotton's innocent witch getup, Silk more often than not is clad in a a bikini, especially noticeable on the box art. In Magical Night Dreams: Cotton 2 & Magical Night Dreams: Cotton Boomerang, Silk sports Absolute Cleavage as well.
- Feelies: The Sega Saturn of "Magical Night Dreams Cotton 2" came with a full-color 1998 Cotton calendar.
- Gainax Ending: After unlocking and completing a playthrough in Swap Mode, Panorama Cotton ends with a fourth wall-breaking apology by the devs for a lack of an ending or any kind of reward because of a lack of space on the cartridge. So instead, the player's treated to a brief monologue musing about the struggles of peoples' suffering juxtaposed by the size of Silk's breasts, and a thanks for playing.
- Left Hanging: What became of the Fairy Queen after the Hard Mode ending of Panorama Cotton is never addressed.
- Lighter and Softer: The first Cotton game was pretty dark in the visuals. Marchen Adventure Cotton 100% is almost a remake but much lighter in content, e.g. the zombie/demon boss in the cemetery became a pretty doll in a Gothic dress, and so on.
- Ms. Fanservice: Silk, as explained above. She's featured up front and center in most official art, skimpy clothing and all in what's otherwise a very tame series.
- Nintendo Hard: Not nearly as much as some shooters, but the series can be quite challenging with lots of enemies on screen, Cotton's generally fast movements, and limited continues make this a pretty tough series at times.
- Nominal Hero: Cotton is pretty much a one-note character, and that one note is "eat Willows." She doesn't care about saving the world, and has to be bribed into fighting.
- Not in This for Your Revolution: Cotton isn't trying to save the fairy kingdom or the world. She's looking for Willows to eat.
- Plot Coupons: Parodied with the Willow candy; they really have nothing to do with being able to save the world, but collecting them is the real reason Cotton is fighting. Actually, they're the crystals of light needed to save the fairy kingdom, but Cotton doesn't know or care about that.
- Rebellious Princess: Appli runs away from home with a wish-granting artifact for her own rather less than selfless actions.
- Scenery Porn: Not at first, but as soon as the first game was upgraded to more capable hardware, the backgrounds became much more vibrant and crisp, starting with the Sharp-X port. This especially shined with Panorama and Boomerang.
- Self-Deprecation: Finishing Panorama Cotton in a subsequent playthrough after getting a million points without a continue gives you a note by the developers where they lament the lack of cutscenes and a longer ending due to the limited cartridge space. They also state they'd like to give you a reward, but again, there's no space for it.
- Surprisingly Good English: The Japanese version of the original Cotton ported to the PC-engine features the option to keep the Japanese voice acting with a translated script in perfectly clear English. In contrast, the American version just removes the voice acting.
- Theme Naming: Almost every character name is a reference to tailoring: Cotton, Silk, Velvet, Needle, Knit, Filament...
- Trademark Favorite Food: Cotton really, really loves her willows, to the point of being her main motivation in most games. This just so happens to include saving the local populous as a bonus.
- Video Game Remake: Cotton Reboot! is remake of the first game, more specifically the X68000 version.
- Weird Moon: The skull-shaped moon right at the beginning of the first Cotton game.