Review: Disney Magical World for Nintendo 3DS

What if you could start a new life in the magical world of Disney?

Nintendo and Disney– can you imagine any more powerful partnership in the world?

It’s nothing new, either; the two entertainment juggernauts have worked together as far back as… well, when the former wasn’t such a juggernaut. Back in 1959, then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi visited the United States and came away with the license to use Disney characters on the company’s primary staple, playing cards. Along with other products, these would prove quite profitable and popular. Later, as Nintendo began to enter the video game industry, some of their Game & Watch devices from the early 80s would feature Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

From that point, however, years would pass as other companies such as Capcom, Virgin Interactive, and even Disney themselves would try their hand at creating games based on the world-renowned properties. Meanwhile, Nintendo would go on to use its own original properties to achieve its own fame and success, with its mascot Mario at one time even being more recognizable to American children than Mickey Mouse.

But now, after all these years, the two have reunited for Disney Magical World. Well, sort of.

Disney Magical World was developed by h.a.n.d. for Bandai Namco, who published the game in Japan in August 2013, but Nintendo of America has taken up the publishing chores on this side of the ocean. As a result, it’s a little difficult to say how much– if any– input Nintendo had on the development of the product before releasing it here.

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At a glance, the style of Disney Magical World seems familiar: Take Animal Crossing, but instead of setting it idyllic little town, have it take place in a kingdom reminiscent of Disney’s famed theme parks, itself a hub to other lands based on popular Disney films.

As you get started, you’re given the opportunity to create your own avatar for this world. Choices include using a Mii from your system’s Mii Maker, or creating something slightly closer to the Disney aesthetic. As the game progresses, you’re given more options for customizing your character’s appearance, and it doesn’t seem to favor gender roles; if you want your boy to wear a dress, then that seems to be quite alright here. However, you are limited to what the game provides for you– no Able Sisters-style clothes designing here.

With that done, you’re whisked off to the town of Castleton, “a place where dreams come true,” apparently named for the enormous castle which overlooks to town square. Funny, that; I always did want to own my own restaurant, but more on that in a bit.

You’re greeted by Mickey and Minnie, and soon meet other Disney mainstays such as Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Daisy, Chip, and Dale. What’s cool is the genuine Disney voice actors for the characters lending their talents to their usual roles once more. Unfortunately, this only seems to apply to the core of main characters; others, such as Uncle Scrooge (who is more reminiscent of his appearance in older Disney fare than relatively newer material such as DuckTales), remain disappointingly silent.

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In the early goings of the game, which takes the form of a somewhat-lengthy “prologue,” you’re guided along a rather linear path as you follow the story set before you. There is a little bit of freedom involved, but your main goal is to perform the task necessary to gain the next “sticker” in a sequence.

It’s a little slow to get going at first, especially as the fetch quest-centric style of gaming will require you to gain certain materials before being allowed to proceed. Some of these can be a bit tricky to find, requiring you to revisit certain quest-based areas to try your hand at getting what you need. A further, albeit mild, complication comes in the form of items in a similar category (such as different kinds of bark) looking identical, which can have you cross referencing what you have versus what you need to see if you’re making progress.

On the bright side? Your inventory isn’t nearly as limited as in Animal Crossing, meaning that you don’t have to look for ways to cheat the system, such as shoving your tools into envelopes and keeping a stack of letters on you at all times. Instead, you just grab and go, with each item having its own stock counter.

Once you make it through the prologue, however, things open up and allow you a bit of breathing room as you decide your next move and how you want to proceed.

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One of the key parts introduced early on is when you are put in charge of the local cafe. A light business simulator, you’re in charge of naming the place, selecting menus, gathering recipes for new dishes, and cooking everything up. Once you’ve done that, you can leave the rest to your staff and reap the monetary rewards later, which you can use to aid in your other endeavors. The only downside is that the game restricts the quantity of what you’re able to make to one set of dishes at a time, so you can’t stock up on anything.

In addition to selecting which dishes you want to serve and adjusting according to what sells best, you can also customize many of the aesthetic attributes of the restaurant. By choosing from different types of decorations and furniture and placing them where you wish, you can create a cafe that is distinctly yours. Plus, if you follow a given theme well enough, certain Disney characters may decide to drop in, thus allowing you the opportunity for a group photo, which ties into another of the game’s goals.

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Another key activity are the quests, which you’ll take on after receiving a summons from the great and mighty sorcerer, Yen Sid. You’ll discover that you’re capable of using magic, and with the wands he grants you, you’re able to visit questing areas of different worlds accessed through portals from Castleton.

The combat is rather light and not at all complex, as you use your wand to cast mystic bolts at gaggles of ghosts who occupy these areas. The quests can tie in to the needs of townsfolk from these worlds, but you’ll also want to revisit in order to acquire some of the tougher-to-find items needed for certain requests and other objectives.

In addition, you’ll find that some of these areas have fishing holes. You learn the basics from Donald in Castleton, but other areas have their own to partake in as you attempt to land ever-bigger catches and claim ever-greater prizes.

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One other neat element to the game is that it runs on a real-world clock, much like Animal Crossing, yet is much less rigid. Though day may turn into night, you needn’t worry about business shutting down or anything of the like, allowing you to play as you wish without having to worry about frequently adjusting the in-game or system clocks to work around your schedule.

Despite allowing you one less thing to worry about insofar as when you play, the clock does still have significance. One of particular note is that McDuck’s, Scrooge’s in-town store, rotates its stock of goods, clothing, and materials twice a day, at 5am and 5pm. Certain events are also triggered by the clock, such as the nightly fireworks display which occurs around the castle from 8:30pm to 9pm.

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One thing I found personally disappointing was in some of the character selection. You can’t go wrong with Mickey, Donald, and the gang, but I would have liked to have seen some more contemporary Disney characters such as Rapunzel from Tangled, Elsa and Anna from Frozen, or Fix-It Felix and Wreck-It Ralph from the latter’s eponymous feature. (That’s without even daring to hope for some of the wilder possible additions, i.e. anyone from Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, or even Phineas and Ferb.)

Some selections tend to feel rather traditional/safe, classics or no, such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan, though I’ve no beef with the likes of Beauty and the Beast and readily welcome Aladdin and Hercules. However, there are some pleasant surprises, such as Winnie the Pooh and Lilo & Stitch, and then some which might make you do a double-take by their inclusion, such as Pirates of the Caribbean and, of all things, A Nightmare Before Christmas.

Okay, so the selection isn’t bad at all– I’ll just admit that I would more than readily welcome some Disney creations (or adaptations, whatever) who originated within the last ten years.

On a related note, while the Disney characters are endearing, the other more generic townsfolk tend to be just a little too generic; beyond working with them as a means to and end, you don’t really get very invested in any of them, and they really feel kind of like filler. It definitely lends a sort of “class” feeling to the whole thing, with the Disney mainstays feeling like the cool kids everyone pays attention to.

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Unlike Animal Crossing, Disney Magical World doesn’t do much with the idea of multiplayer. You have a StreetPass and local wireless options, which allow you and those you encounter to appear in one-another’s towns with a greeting, or visit a friend’s cafe and rooms.

Other online features include paid and free downloadable content, scheduled to be available after the game’s release. With this DLC, you can gain new outfits and furniture, as well as extra worlds (meaning there may be hope for Frozen or Wreck-It Ralph, after all; those do seem like the sort of thing you could charge for).

Suffice to say, as I’ve played this prior to release, I can’t honestly attest to the quality of any of these features thus far.

One other related item of note is that the game also incorporates the use of Disney-themed AR Cards though a “Magical AR” feature which allows you new presents. The full extent of AR Card implementation is slightly confusing, however; one is printed inside the game’s instruction manual, but I’m not sure whether or not they’re being sold separately.

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Disney Magical World is not an overly complex game, but it is an enjoyable one. In particular, it seems to be aimed at a younger audience, though fans of Disney are sure to enjoy it as well. There aren’t too many serious grievances with the game, either, though the load times are just frequent and just long enough to be a collective nuisance, while other issues (such as the absence of certain characters) may be more subjective.

If anything, the biggest concern about Disney Magical World isn’t the game itself, but rather, the abundance of similar games coming out around it. Animal Crossing: New Leaf was released just last year, while Tomodachi Life is set to come in just two months from this game’s release. Given the long game these titles tend to play, one has to wonder if it might all be too much, even despite their unique qualities.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in just picking one and sticking with it, a bit of variety and choice isn’t the worst thing to have. Fortunately, Mickey and the gang make this one a pretty solid option.

DisneyMagicalWorldBoxartUSADisney Magical World was released for the Nintendo 3DS on April 11th, 2014 at a price of $34.99.

A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.


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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.