Hey Harvey!

Posted on May 16th 2021 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under Shmups, Raiden IV X Mikado Remix, R Type Final 2, Cotton Reboot

No, nothing on a Threshold Reboot/Remake.  One can dream.

If memory serves (and at my age, sometimes memory drops the ball and just kind of wanders aimlessly) I think the first "shmup" I ever played was Threshold on my C64.  It was on a combo diskette with headliner Saboteur, and I only got to Threshold out of curiosity after clearing Saboteur a few dozen times.  When I finally did, I was hooked!  Something about Threshold still really clicks with me.  There are plenty of other favored games of its ilk from the early eighties, from granddaddy Space Invaders to other favorites of mine such as Spider Fighter.  Yet there's always something about your first, right?

So I've been a shmup fan since pretty much the beginning of my gaming days.  Not that I was that great even in my youth, mind you.  I did 1CC a few in my day, mostly SNES classics such as U.N. Squadron, Gradius III, and Axelay, along with my favorite of all time, the Turbo CD classic Gate of Thunder.  Even at my best I was never Battle Garegga material.  These days I still play and enjoy the genre, but I'm not as capable (and therefore not as interested) at threading bullet-hells, keeping twitch reflexes, or buying rare arcade PCBs to professionally compete.

Thus while it is not difficult for me to buy and support modern releases (and rereleases) of shmups, it is rare that I find one that I will actually sit down and devote myself to for any real length of time.  So when three come out within a relatively short window of each other that I can really sink myself into, well, an article is born!  (Actually an article is first gestated, goes through several failed variants, runs out of time, and gets sent to my Beloved editor so it can be born, but enough about the messy details.)

[Fantastic Night Dreams] Cotton Reboot!

Cute-em-ups aren't as much my style, but I like a good game regardless of the window dressing.  I was always curious about this series, but due to the price and unavailability, I didn't pick any up until recently.  Seeing the trailer for this one gave me the desire to correct such an oversight.  After putting some time into it, I'm glad I did!

Cotton Reboot!, as the name and exclamation point implies, is a return to the X68000 port of the original arcade game.  A touched-up version of that original is here alongside a modern take on the same game that has been almost completely reworked, to the point of really being a different experience altogether.  If this is your first time in the series, it is an extremely colorful side-scrolling shooter featuring an unfortunate candy-addict on a broom who recruits 'option'-like fairies to help her invade and destroy a haunted kingdom for the sake of her next fix.  I think.  After a mandatory patch I lost the ability to revert to English, so I'm just going off memory and bizarre cutscenes.

First off, while I appreciate the new arrange mode and the fact that it practically serves as a sequel of sorts given the faster pacing, reworked mechanics, different shot power, altered item and scoring setup, and modernized graphic design, I personally like the touched-up X68000 Original mode better.  It is cleaner, a little slower, and much easier to parse the visual noise.  It is a matter of personal preference, and I think it is fantastic (and great for series fans) that both are on here, along with 2- and 5-minute caravan modes that are surprisingly addictive.

There are some slight unfortunate oversights, such as initial broken leaderboards and scoring mechanics. There is the aforementioned fact that post-patch my import Switch version is unable to go back to English menus.  While I appreciate the modern Reboot mode, it gets overly cluttered in a bad way; enemy bullets easily get lost in the kerfuffle and the scoring crystals no longer drop but instead hover and block shots.  The easily visible hitbox added to the new mode is the one feature I wish they included in the X68000 mode, but alas it is not.
Still, this release gets more right than wrong; it never quite reaches bullet-hell intensity, the control is tight and responsive, both graphic modes are beautiful, and it is an easy game to pick up and have fun.  If you like scrolling shmups, cute-em-ups, or just a fun arcade-style game that is tough but manageable, I'd go for it.
Oh, and as of this writing, a new "Saturn Tribute" compilation was announced with two Cotton sequels and Guardian Force.  Now that will be a day-one!

R-Type Final 2

This one is an odd beast to be sure.  Kickstarted over a decade after R-Type Tactics II: Operation Bitter Chocolate (a Japan-only game I'd have bought for the name alone if it were translated), Final 2 was announced to the world on April 1, 2019 and had to immediately also announce it was not made-up.  About two years later and I'm playing the real deal. 

I don't have the storied history with the R-Type series I'd like; I've only clocked about 20 minutes with an arcade cab of the first game, and the first home version I played was the SNES Super R-Type.  I did play that a ton, though I never cleared the last stage.  Next was the original port for the Game Boy, which I did very much enjoy.  I didn't get the rest of the series until many years after release, so I haven't gone back to them (yet) with the exception of PS2's R-Type Final.  I really liked that one, although I was somewhat of an apologist for it.  I struggled with the long pacing, uneven gameplay, and slog of going stretches without unlocking anything.  Still, it definitely felt like an R-Type in gameplay and tone, I enjoyed the art design, the music was moody and ambient, the variety of ships to unlock was staggering, and it even released at a budget price that let me scoop it up immediately.  If it weren't for the glorious Gradius V, it would be my favorite PS2 shmup.  Incidentally, the unexpected turn-based R-Type Command is easily one of my favorite PSP games and one of my favorite strategy games of all time.

So how did Final 2 turn out?  The good news is that I have less to be an apologist about.  The bad news is that I'll still have to be.  Many will balk at the price of $40 for digital and $50 for physical versions, even though the day-one "Inaugural Flight Edition" does come with a music cd and a flimsy few-page artbook.  The textures in some sections of the game are fuzzy, undefined, or of simple enough design as to be easily mistaken for placeholders before the real detail was to be added.  The frame rate, especially for the Switch port, is not where it should be for a game that is not exactly pushing the envelope.  Perfectly playable, but we have examples of locked 60fps with a whole lot more going on than this.  Speaking of the Switch version, another annoyance beyond the subpar graphics is the extended load times in between deaths.  It really kills the momentum and prolongs the time getting back into the groove.

Sounds like a straight-up avoid when negatives are written down, right?  Actually, R-Type Final 2 is still a wonderful edition to the series, including the Switch version, even as it fails to hit the highest notes of earlier games.  The somber mood, the classic stage pattern memorization, the signature bio-organic themes of enemies and stages, recurring enemy concepts, interesting boss fights, alternate routes, and signature "Force" mechanic are all here in spades.  The pacing and checkpointing are not the best in the series but much better than Final (and actually exist, unlike in Super R-Type.  Ugh.  Flashbacks.)  Despite some of the disappointing graphics, the lighting and particle effects almost make up for other deficiencies and look brilliant and sharp.  If I had to choose between what's here or better textures, I think the developer spent their limited resources in the correct place.  I enjoy the progression system and the different ships, loadouts, and customization gives far more replay-ability than the majority of shmups.  Most importantly, for me at least, it has that "one more try' hook of a great shmup and the content unlocks keep me playing.  In the end Final 2's issues will keep it divisive even amongst fans, but I think it is a case of the game being far greater than the sum of its parts.  I'm really glad I picked this one up, just beware of some caveats.

Raiden IV X Mikado Remix

OK, so I'm new to the Cotton series and have only really delved into about half of the R-Type games, but Raiden?  I know Raiden.  I played the first two in the arcades a ton.  I bought and played the abysmal home ports on the SNES, Genesis, and even the Lynx and Jaguar.  Then the PSX's Raiden Project became my favorite PlayStation disc for a long, long time.  I was quite let down by PS2's Raiden III for a variety of reasons.  I imported Raiden DX and fought my PSOne's region lock to play it.  I played and enjoyed the offshoot Raiden Fighters Aces games on the 360, although I didn't like them quite as much as the first two in the original series.  Heck, I even imported Raiden V back when it was an XBox One exclusive, and while I had a puzzled look on my face while playing I did really enjoy it, and also the later PS4 and Switch versions.  But before V, there was IV on the 360.  And it was glorious.  I spent as much time on it as the Raiden Project, working on a never-realized 1CC, and had a blast with it.  I even picked up the download-only PS3 upgrade Raiden IV Overkill which debuted in 2014, six years after the 360 version.

Since Raiden V already released two years ago on the Switch, I was thrilled and surprised at the announcement of Raiden IV X Mikado, complete with the PS3/PC Overkill mode and optional new soundtrack.  I looked to import it and then a limited western release popped up, which was even more surprising.  Even better, both the physical and digital versions debuted cheaper than Cotton Reboot! or Final 2.

While the first two games in this article are very enjoyable if you can overlook a few flaws, I really have nothing negative I can say at all about Raiden IV X Mikado! It runs great on the Switch, looks nice and vibrant with clean and visible bullets to dodge, and it hasn't lost any of the intensity of the original game.  This isn't the shmup to convert non-fans, it ramps up the challenge right out of the gate even on normal difficulty and pretty much goes into bullet-hell territory.  I do miss the extended scrolling to the sides from the earlier titles as the action here can get very cramped.   But if you at all enjoyed a Raiden game in the past this one is a blast.  It is pretty much the definitive version of the game with the Arcade, Overkill, Additional, and Score Attack modes as well as the rockin' namesake Mikado Remix soundtrack option.

The only major issue I have isn't the game's fault, but a known complaint with the Switch itself.  Cotton and Final 2 are horizontal scrollers, so my Hori Split Pad Pro works great in portable mode (which is my preferred Switch setup.)  Raiden IV is a horizontal scroller, and thus to preserve the aspect ratio the playable screen is much smaller.  Between Raiden IV's Tate mode and the Flip Grip I can adjust accordingly and have much more playable screen real estate, but the Hori Split Pad Pro doesn't work without being directly connected to the Switch, making it incompatible with the Flip Grip.  And let me tell you, Raiden IV is not the game for the default JoyCon button-dpad.  I tried going between the mushy analogue and the painful d-buttons, and neither gives the responsiveness needed for such a fast-paced and precise game.  I ended up sacrificing screen size to go back to the excellent Split Pad Pro, and thankfully on the original model Switch it is still big enough to play just fine.  One day I should look into a good d-pad that works with the Flip Grip, which would open up a whole lot more Tate-mode games I like.

So there you have it, three Switch shmups that this amateur fan has really enjoyed lately.  All three have western physical releases and are of course on the e-shop.  I'm very glad to have added these to the collection, as even though my reflexes aren't what they used to be, fun games will always be welcome.


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I knew you were a shmup fan, but it seems someone has been holding out on us, as it pertains to participation in the Shmup Club. You've got some 'splaining to do! Wink

In all seriousness, I'm with you on Final 2. It's not everything I hoped for, but it's still solid enough, and I'm going to keep at it. Raiden IV X Mikado I just got, and haven't dug in yet, but with all the time I put into the 360 release, I'll definitely be firing it up soon. And I'm holding out for the Strictly Limited Games release of Cotton Reboot, because I'd rather have the English translation, so it will be a while before I'll be able to play that one. I'm okay with that, though, because I'll have it in my hands soon enough.
@MetalFRO:No no, that's fair Smiley  I've always wanted to join in on the gaming clubs at RFGen, but I'm already in two other longstanding weekly gaming commitments, not to mention our weekend local co-op.  I've waited to find a reliable opening on the schedule, but it hasn't happened yet. Sad

I've got the PS4 Cotton coming from SLG myself, but I had ordered the Switch import before SLG announced theirs.  There really isn't much of an issue if you don't care about the story, but it would be nice. Smiley 

Hope (and assume) you enjoy RxM as much as I do.
@slackur: I'm just razzing you a bit. I know most of us are pretty busy, so I'm grateful when anyone joins in. But we're here when you have time & opportunity Smiley

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