Developer: Bandai Namco
If you’ve read or seen impressions and reviews for Disney Magical World, you’ve probably seen another game title pop up pretty often in relation to it, that title being Nintendo’s own Animal Crossing. Having played through a considerable portion of Magical World, I’d say that comparison is pretty apt. However, there are a number of differences, besides the license used, that make Disney Magical World stand out as unique. It’s also surprisingly addictive, and perhaps a bit less surprising, absolutely charming.
In Disney Magical World you’ll either take your own customized Mii from the 3DS, or start a new character from scratch based on the slightly different human models within the game. At the onset you’re tasked with exploring Castleton, a magical, Disney Castle themed area populated with characters like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy. The cast of Disney characters, and worlds used, expands quite a bit the deeper you go. Chances are you’ll be introduced to a personal favorite sooner or later as you advance through the game.
The main progression found in Disney Magical World comes from collecting stickers, done by completing quests or tasks laid out by the residents of Castleton and its surrounding worlds. The opening prologue introduces you to a number of tasks that will earn you stickers, such as creating clothing, outfitting the local cafe with food and decorations, and patrolling nearby forests while combating ghosts. Other tasks involve fishing, finding hidden items, snapping photos, constructing furniture—the list goes on and on.
While the prologue structures your sticker gathering across a strict progression formula, outside of the prologue you’ll be able to tackle sticker gaining tasks however you please. Different parts of Castleton and it’s outlying worlds are blocked off depending on the number of stickers in your possession, but you’ll gain stickers fast enough that you rarely feel as if your forward progression has screeched to a halt. The sheer variety of tasks to accomplish also prevent the game from feeling too repetitive, one of the key elements the developers did a great job of emulating from Animal Crossing.
I found myself especially surprised at how fun the combat and questing element could be. Towards the tail end of the prologue you’ll gain the ability to take on quests for villagers. This tasks you with equipping a wand gained from Yen Sid, and moving across a small map filled with ghosts to fight. The wand fires off bolts with a single button press, but can also perform a charged up attack and a limited, super-powerful attack. You’ll even gain access to a dodge function, which actually becomes useful the further you get. Ghosts spawn in at different points on the map, usually in groups. At the end of the map you’ll encounter a tougher boss ghost to defeat, and can then warp out of the dungeon area. These sections are filled with loot to find, some of which is randomized, and offers one of the more engaging ways of locating rare material.
There are a few quibbles I have with the game. One is that the framerate can be absolutely horrid at times. I’m not sure what seems to be so taxing on the hardware here, as it’s not an overly busy world with incredible graphics, but you’ll often see your character hitch up when running about from task to task. I was also disappointed in the musical score, which fails to capitalize on classic Disney themes. I can appreciate the need for original music, but there’s a rich history to mine from the Disney archives besides characters and voices, and I was surprised to see the music aspect largely ignored here.
Still, it’s hard to deny that Disney Magical World has a remarkably addictive quality to it. This is clearly a title aimed at a younger crowd, but I think there’s a fair amount here that adults can enjoy as well. If you’re any kind of Disney fan, you’ll be pretty pleased by the roster represented, and the worlds available to explore. But it’s also a great game for children in the household, offering easy to figure out menus and simple gameplay mechanics, oftentimes feeling like a “My First RPG” style experience that could open up a younger player’s mind to a whole new genre of gaming. I certainly enjoyed my time with the title, and look forward to playing a bit more.