Genre: Shmup Developer: Success Corp. Publisher: Sunsoft Players: 1 Released: 1993
About a year ago, I decided to hunt down a copy of Panorama Cotton to see what all the excitement was about. After weeks of scouring ebay and finding only inflated prices from dubious sellers, I was delighted to find a mint copy from good ol’ VGD for only $150.
Sounds like a lot, right? It depends. Supposedly, PC is worth so much due to its rarity (only about 5000 copies were made). That sounds fair, as were quality the deciding factor, PC wouldn’t sell for more than $50 mint and gems like Monster World IV and Gunstar Heroes would cost a kidney and your youngest child. The game is good, mind you, as good as the high price tag suggests if you’re a fan of the series and forward scrolling on-rails gameplay.
Panorama Cotton is a forward on-rails shmup that revolves around a little broom-riding witch named Cotton. She and her fairy friend Silk are out to uncover who it was who poisoned the Willows (supposedly the best candy around). There are two modes of play, original and score attack. Originally just lets you play normally through the game to its end, while score attack has you challenging the top twenty best scores in the game as you play.
You can choose from easy, normal, or hard modes, and can configure your controller in the option menu as well as reverse the up/down control. In game, each of the three buttons lets you adjust your speed, use magic, and shoot.
The game plays much like Space Harrier and Burning Force. It looks much better than the Genesis versions of those two titles and its pseudo-3D line scrolling hasn’t aged all that badly. Each of the game’s five stages is divided into multiple areas, all having their own types of obstacles. Little Silk does help in your battle, but she really doesn’t do all that much. Your magic and firepower are what gets you through each area. Beat a stage and you’ll get the chance to collect scrolling icons for bonus points.
Enemies release little floating scrolls that are what give you your magic attacks. Each color represents a different magic and you can change the type of magic in each scroll by shooting them before you take them. You need to fly close by to them or they’ll zip right past you. That presents an interesting challenge as you’re also shooting enemies and avoiding oncoming fire.
As you rack up kills, an experience meter fills up. Each time it fills, your magic goes up a level, giving it a longer range and making it more potent. Also, collecting little star orbs can increase your total life bar, which is indispensable for getting through the long stages (and they are long!).
Panorama Cotton is gorgeous to look at. The game makes some of the best use of the Genesis’ color palette I’ve ever seen and the backgrounds are ripe with detail. The line scrolling effect is still impressive, even if the overall scaling may seem slightly choppy to a modern gamer’s eye.
The game’s enemies are pretty funny to look at, considering the game’s relatively “cutesy” design. Pink horses and bubbles with eyes are some of the creatures that will make you say “aww” before you put a fireball between their eyes. Cotton herself looks nice, but I would have liked some more animation.
The music in Panorama Cotton fits the graphics perfectly, with the same warm and fuzzy style. While there aren’t any outstanding compositions, the music sounds clear and pleasant. Sound effects are standard fare, with Cotton letting out a little yelp whenever she’s hit. Where’s the booming bass? You can’t have a shmup without some booming bass!
I can honestly say that while I love PC, the price sometimes irks me. I’m more than happy with the game, but I can understand why some gamers will shy away from the high cost. Still, it’s a great conversation piece and a worthy purchase for Space Harrier and Cotton fans alike.
8 out of 10