Review by Overdrive

Reviewed: 11/17/05

Even without a great deal of substance, this game's style is enough to make it respectible

Marchen Adventure Cotton 100%, if nothing else, is a pretty fantastic journey. The seven stages of this Super Famicom shooter showcase some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen on a 16-bit system, without resorting to overdone Mode 7 trickery to “impress” the player. Statues, fountains, trees and more beautifully-drawn background elements served to place me in a lush and fantastic world that provided a wonderful distraction from the pressures of reality.

As is the norm in Cotton games, the hero is a youthful witch using a broomstick to fly through a variety of stages. Marchen Adventure, to my delight, was one of the horizontal-scrollers in this series (other games are displayed from a “sort-of 3-D” perspective). As one might expect from a cute game, things aren’t overly challenging for the most part, although the final stages have their fair share of tricky spots. To be honest, the majority of the few deaths I suffered during the early levels were caused by me losing track of enemies or their projectiles against the colorful and (at times) cluttered backgrounds.

I quickly discovered that Datam Polystar wanted me to enjoy gazing in wonder upon those backgrounds, as the programmers made controlling my witch an easy, low-maintenance affair. Before starting my game, I was given a handful of different magic spell set-ups. Those spells worked much like temporary power-ups, as I could flip between them and (if I had collected scrolls dropped by certain enemies) cast them for a short-lived, but potent, special attack. I also didn’t have to worry about collecting power-ups for my basic attack. Marchen Adventure has an experience bar that rises as enemies fall. As the witch gains levels, her shot gets larger and more powerful. She also gains allies, as certain demons drop fairies when shot. These helpers act like the options in Gradius, providing a good deal of additional firepower.

A few minutes of playing taught me that Marchen Adventure also provides a good number of purely memorable moments. Regardless of whether they go down with barely a whimper or if they’re tough as nails, nearly every boss exudes personality. From the giant tree and its acorn-kicking squirrel sidekick to the lava-dwelling chicken, these fights kept a smile on my face and made me look forward to each subsequent baddie.

And some of them provided exciting and fast-paced battles. Until taking on the game’s final boss, I can’t remember ever being in a fight where the ONLY way to have a chance of winning was to unleash an aggressive, non-stop barrage of attacks — defense be damned! If I tried to play it safe, well, it would creep towards the left side of the screen and unleash a bolt of lighting which I wouldn’t have room to dodge. On the other hand, keeping up my attack would keep it on the right side of the screen, giving me the space to backpedal away from the deadly bolts. Now, that’s how to make an exhilarating battle!

A few of the stages provided their share of thrills, as well. I found the sixth level’s aquatic cavern to be a non-stop roller coaster ride. Not only had the number of enemies besieging me picked up dramatically by this point, but they were getting a helping hand from the forces of nature. Throughout the cave, nearly every grotto spit out bubbles on a regular basis — bubbles that, if they came into contact with my witch, would lift her toward the top of the screen. The entire level was a non-stop battle to maintain control of my heroine, preventing a bubble from propelling me into a stray bullet. And the boss fights were even trickier, as both major foes had the ability to send massive currents of water my way, making it nearly impossible to maintain even a semblance of precise control.

If only the earlier stages possessed those same thrills. While they were beautiful and fun to play, the first few stages of Marchen Adventure simply didn’t deliver much challenge. Generally, all I had to do was constantly move my witch up and down on the screen, firing a non-stop barrage of bullets and nothing would be able to touch me. When I got to a boss, well, they couldn’t stand up to intense gunfire for long and few had the firepower to cause me to rethink my “all guns blazing” strategy.

Fortunately, Marchen Adventure has its atmosphere to fall back on when aspects of the gameplay felt a bit too simplistic. As mentioned before, this game is simply gorgeous, with beautifully-detailed backgrounds. However, some questionable music did break the mood in a number of stages. The worst offender was the “too-cute” tune in the fifth stage. Taking place in a volcanic cavern, everything about this level seemed perilous, as I found myself constantly being forced to dodge fireballs erupting from the ground, oftentimes in cramped corridors (as well as the usual assortment of foes). Meanwhile, a light-hearted tune more suited to a carnival played endlessly. Things like poor music selection are quite capable of disrupting the mood, slightly blemishing this game’s most noticeable strength.

Marchen Adventure never will be considered a great shooter on the merits of its gameplay, but it’s still a fun game that offers some amazing 16-bit visuals. It might not be the best game for hardened shooter vets to pick up, as it likely would be considered too simple and easy to offer them more than a quick diversion, but the charm of this title might be enough to win over fans. It might have more style than substance, but sometimes that’s sufficient to create a good (if not excellent) game.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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