My old band didn’t do many cover versions, but when we did we’d put them together from memory rather than trying to copy the song, so they always sounded more like us than the original. With this unboxing feature, I’m taking a similar approach, although perhaps a step further because while I know unboxing videos are quite popular, I’ve never actually seen one!

I’m not one for videos anyway, but what I did want to do is share the excitement of digging through this Cotton Fantasy Collector’s Edition together and having a look at everything in the box, as it comes out, gathering some thoughts and then moving on to the next bit of nerd-tat! What I’m not going to do is go nuts on the game itself though, because you can find an in-depth review of the PS4/5 version right here already, back from when the regular edition of the game launched earlier in 2022. And just to note, while I was given a review code for that, I bought this monster you’re reading about now with my own money!

That said, I should still set the scene… After a welcome flurry of Cotton rereleases and reboots to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the iconic cute ‘em up series, after two decades we finally got this brand new entry with modern aesthetics and varied mechanics (including some borrowed ones like Psyvariar‘s “Buzz” system and Sanvien‘s “Time Attack”), but it’s still very much true to its gothic fairytale horizontal (mostly) scrolling roots. As usual, we’re joining the little witch Nata de Cotton and her bikini-clad fairy friend silk to find out why the magical willow candies are disappearing from Fairyland. By shooting stuff! There are sixteen stages to unlock, some of which are genuine thrill-rides, and six (but maybe more!) playable characters from both Cotton’s past as well as guest appearances by the likes of Umihara Kawase and Luffee from Doki Doki Poyacchio.

While I still feel there’s some missing depth to the game modes on offer, there’s now no doubt that those six characters just about make up for it, bringing multiple unique ways to play that can genuinely turn it into a whole new experience. It starts out pretty accessible, but there’s plenty more challenge in the two harder difficulties even if you do manage to wear out all the characters. We’ll come back to the soundtrack when we get to it in the box, but several months on I’m still preferring the slightly darker and edgier tones of last year’s Reboot’s visuals however good this one looks. To avoid this turning into a repeat review, let me just close on this recap by confirming everything performs fine on Switch, both docked and handheld; for the latter especially I did struggle to keep track of my character when things got hectic a few times, but I think that’s probably as much down to my colourblindness as anything. My only minor complaint really are the loading times for each level seeming on the long side, but it’s not a big deal – if you’re a fan of Cotton or shoot ‘em ups in general, there’s more than enough to sink your teeth into, and if you’re not yet, then there’s no better place to start. And there’s no better place to start our unboxing and finding out what our 109.99 Euros has got us…

Everything comes in a 21 x 30 x 12cm premium Collector’s Edition box with a magnetic clasp and slip-case; well, almost everything because the tea cup came in its own box, which I get kept in extra safe in transit, but it did annoy me far more than it should have that I had two boxes! Anyway, the box is heavyweight and looks good – actually reminded me of the Nintendo Store boxes with the big glossy picture of Mario inside that you use to send back Amiibo because they don’t know how to pack them properly!!! Anyway, this one has a big picture of Cotton and Silk both inside and out, which makes it way better than Nintendo’s!

As the cup is in its own box (temporarily!), we’ll start there. Can’t believe I’m trying to review a tea cup here, but anyway, it is indeed a 230ml Yunomi ceramic Japanese tea cup, it’s thick and heavy, and if I drank tea I’m sure it would taste great from it! Actually, what I’ll probably do is use it for storing pens and crap on my desk – it’s black with a well printed and very detailed game logo on the side, which isn’t the most exciting design but you can’t have sexy fairies on everything I suppose! The unwanted second box does have a cool “Tea Time” bonus level reference on one side though, and you can easily fold it down and store it in the proper box, so I suppose I’m not too annoyed to own it anymore!

Back in more familiar territory now! The game itself comes in a regular Switch game case, but does have a reversible cover and a manual, no less! I love still getting a manual in 2022, especially one as colourful as this! It’s a pocket-sized 20 pages, ideal for getting out on the bus home after buying it, in the unlikely event that’s what you’ve done! Regardless, after the controls are explained the majority of those pages go into detail on the six characters, covering the basics of gameplay for each and then a very clear explanation of their regular shot, charge shot, specials and how the coloured crystals behave for each when collected. This is actually really useful because while they are explained visually in-game when you make your character selection, some of them are way simpler to get your head around than others! Finally, there’s the all-important notes page at the back, which takes me right back to old Atari 2600 manuals where you’d have to record your own high scores there! While this one isn’t quite as mad as they used to be, it’s full colour and full of some great artwork too. Did I mention I love a manual?

Speaking of great artwork, one of the highlights of the package is definitely the A5 hardcover art book, with a very generous 84 pages of full colour, beautifully laid out and printed game art. That said, the first part of the book is more like the best-looking instruction manual you’ve ever seen, going into loads of detail on the story, the game systems and double-page profiles of each character; there’s even a page of messages from the developers. The bulk of the book is then a mix of single and double-page portrait and landscape promotional, development, cutscene and general illustrations in various different styles by various different artists that I’d love to reference for you, but it’s all “Illustrated by…” and a load of Japanese text. As informative as a lot of it actually is despite that, it’s mostly just some really fun images that any fan of the game or the series as a whole is going to get a kick out of. And even more so if you’re a fan of a noticeably more buxom than ever before fairy!

While a man who could be accused of being middle-aged should have no problem secreting away an art book on his favourite gaming bookshelf, good luck explaining away the big A2-size double-sided poster that’s suddenly appeared on the wall! Firstly, although there’s no chance this is ever leaving the box, if I’m splashing out on a collector’s edition I’d have appreciated a few extra pennies being spent on a second sheet of paper rather than it being double-sided! I mean, how do you choose between the full-frontal Silk in her skimpiest bikini yet imagery over a vividly gratuitous backside shot? I do love my Silk, and for a hundred Euros I shouldn’t be made to choose!!! I’m sure that any fellow fans that don’t have a wife on their back (which, let’s face it, in reality is going to be the case) will manage though!

Let’s jump to the original soundtrack CD next. I’ve got a massive old Sony hi-fi stack with a 5-CD carousel set up in the garage. It replaced what had been the last word in ghetto blasters in the mid-nineties! And that’s now my only proper CD player, and that’s why I’m never comfortable getting anything on CD anymore – there’s more than enough unwanted plastic in the world as it is. Okay, I guess that a 12-inch slab of black vinyl is a much bigger ask than a pervy poster was, but whatever, I did buy a cheap DVD / CD drive for my laptop recently to rip a few out of print movies from DVD so I whacked this into iTunes and have had a lovely time listening digitally instead. There is a nice picture of Silk on the back of the CD case too, so every cloud…

Away from the media format, as we mentioned in the PlayStation review, the music itself is like a Cotton’s greatest hits re-recorded by a J-pop techno electronic orchestra of some kind! In soundtrack form it’s 22 tracks lasting an hour, comprised of title, menu and so on tracks plus stage and stage boss music for all of those. I’m not sure I’ll ever really intently listen to it as a standalone album like I might something like some of the Castlevania soundtracks, for example, but I’ve already had it on in the background a couple of times while doing other stuff and it works just about as great for that as it does in-game! As I also said in the review, the main Cotton theme has never sounded better, but aside from that I’d pick out the Ancient Ruins theme as a highlight, with its high-octane synth and rock guitar interplay that, thinking about it, is probably completely inappropriate in the context of its setting, but who cares. It works! Everything else mostly screams Japanese shoot ‘em up, with boss melodies tending to be on the more frantic side, and the rest a real mix of cosmic, progressive electronic rock if such a thing exists! Whatever my feelings on CDs, I still own over a thousand of them (and that’s a conservative estimate!) so I suppose one more doesn’t hurt, and to have this soundtrack inside the box here in any format was always going to be essential.

Still plenty of fantastic tat in the box, so let’s make our way through some of that next, starting with just about the worst of it… The rubber keychain shaped like a willow candy! And a pink one at that. Now, it probably doesn’t need saying again, but I’ve been a Cotton fan for long enough to want to spend 110 Euros on this stuff, and it even took me a minute to work out what this thing was when I pulled it out of the box! If I’d have had to come up with a shaped rubber keychain, I’d have made it a saucy Silk the fairy one. Maybe too saucy though, so how about cartoon Cotton and Willow from the box? Or the game’s logo, like on the tea cup, but all cut out and that. Or get really creative, and make it a still from one of the game’s insane cutscenes, simply presented on a flat bit of rubber with a key-ring attached! It’s a pink willow candy though.

The Fog is one of my top ten movies of all time. I watch it at least a month, and while I’ve not gone wild on memorabilia for it, I did recently spend more on its rare novelisation than I’ve ever spent on a paperback before, and I do own a nice collectible pin as well as a collectible coin, both from Vice Press. And what they did is go to the trouble of putting both inside a nice sleeve – in the case of a coin, it’s a kind of rigid plastic blister pack, about 15cm high with the coin and film’s logo on the front, then an image of both sides of the coin on the back of the quality card insert. It even has my favourite quote on it too, from the very end of the movie… “To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water, into the darkness. Look for the fog.” Beautiful, and it even stands up nicely on a shelf! In contrast, the Cotton Fantasy metal collector’s coin is shiny enough, but it’s just been dumped in the massive box, all loose and unloved, and what am I supposed to do with that? Lay it flat on my nerd shelf? Stick it in the big box of old and foreign coins and notes I’ve been collecting since I was a kid? I guess it will stay in the box for now, and that saddens me!

I didn’t know that A7 was a size until just now, but apparently the eight character cards next out of the box are that big! It’s about playing card size, and once again leaves us in the realm of stuff that’s really nice but I don’t really know what to do with! I do have a few modern Garbage Pail Kids and Star Wars cards propped up on top of box-sets and wide book spines on the nerd shelf with the collectible coin of The Fog so maybe I can find space there. They are quite nice, you see! It’s all the characters you might encounter and more during the game – Cotton, Silk, Fine, Ria, Appli, Tacoot, Kawase and Ruffee – beautifully drawn and vividly coloured on matching castle in the clouds backgrounds, with the trademark Cotton moon looking down on them. Okay, I might not know what to do with them yet but I like them, so there!

I was disappointed when I pulled out the next items – I thought they were the transfer tattoos you used to get with chewing gum in the early eighties! They’re just stickers though, both die-cut, so high class swanky stuff, with Cotton and Silk on one and the game logo on the other. I’m terrible with stickers. In about 1978 someone gave me a whole pack of stickers that said “This belongs to Steve” and I was so worried about running out that to this day it’s still sitting here unopened! And I’m afraid that these two lovely things will share the same fate. See you again in 2066!

Proper high class swanky stuff with our penultimate item, which is a “Nata de Cotton Nendoroid figure” and I have no idea what that means, so we’ll call it a little action figure! Actually, what it might mean is one of the most sinister things you ever saw because not only does it come with swappable limbs and accessories, but it also comes with two swappable faces, and they’re staring out of the box at you like they’ve been skinned and preserved in some weird voodoo juice! Once they’ve stopped staring at your soul, apart from not being particularly well balanced, this is another highlight. It’s about 10cm high once you’ve got it out, and it’s of excellent quality. I am a little nervous about snapping stuff apart and exchanging bits all the same though! Really great, and makes me pine for the hours I regularly spent in Tokyo toy shops before viruses and lockdowns spoiled our fun!

The last thing is a quick one to cover. It’s a numbered certificate of authenticity. This edition is limited to 2.000 copies worldwide and mine is number 1182. I don’t think I’ll stick it in a frame and hang it on the wall, but again, it’s a good quality print on good quality paper, and it’s a nice touch.

That’s everything in the box unboxed and more now, so the only question left is was if worth 110 Euros or local equivalent? Well, the answer is obviously absolutely not! But will this total Cotton nerd get 110 Euros’ worth or happiness out of it? Yes, I will! It might be totally unnecessary, especially when you’ve already got a free copy of the game, but I’ve more than enjoyed the brief time I’ve spent with it so far (especially this unboxing thing!), and it’s something that will be within reach to open up and have a browse of whenever I need a bit of a cheer up for years to come. And the game itself will be a permanent fixture in my Switch for a while yet, and it’s not like these Strictly Limited Games releases ever go down in value, which is what I’ll keep telling myself for a while yet too!