What's it like to live in the Magic Kingdom?
To many, the thought of Disney brings mixed feelings, and a multitude tune out and turn up the snarky comments before giving it a chance. At first glance, Disney Magical World brings to mind the usual fodder from the House of Mouse: sparkly princesses, unending cheerfulness, and cuteness all around. However, it’s easy to see the effort the developer put forth, and may even sway a few skeptics over to the Disney side.
Magical World, in its most basic form, is best described as Rune Factory meets Kingdom Hearts. In fact, the developer, h.a.n.d., worked closely with Square Enix to develop two titles in the popular Disney series in the past. However, with over half a million copies sold in Japan, and a special edition 3DS XL both overseas and stateside, Magical World is not simply a rehash of a successful formula. The game makes the genre its own while firmly keeping Disney fans in mind.
Players use their custom Mii as their avatar for the game as they move into Castleton, a place where dreams come true, by invitation of Mickey. While players are free to play as they like, certain things, like the four worlds connected to Castleton, are locked from the beginning and require a certain amount of collectable stickers to open. Stickers can be earned through various achievements, such as catching new fish, or completing a number of battle campaigns.
It’s important to note that the game follows real time, but not to the extent of a game like Animal Crossing. It adheres to the current time of day, resetting certain events and actions twice a day and changing from day to night accordingly. However, once you exit the game, time virtually stops except for quests and activities that rely on a timer. No character will notice an extended absence, your room will not fall to ruin, and the town will continue functioning as normal upon your return.
Magical Worlds has a little something for everyone, with a lot of the usual choices found in simulation games. It’s really the added touch of Disney that gives these activities new life. Donald teaches players to fish, Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh’s world lends players part of his patch to farm while you also go on quests to help Pooh find honey, Yen Sid bestows the gift of magic, and with it, battling quests, and Daisy helps create outfits while Chip and Dale build furniture. Things all fit together and it’s fun to cross through worlds and work together among your favorite Disney characters.
While most worlds focus on small stories that center on battling, they also are sprinkled with mini-games from time to time, such as rhythm-based dancing events in Cinderella’s land. Battling is quite easy to pick up as characters only use wands to attack. A special, stronger attack can be dealt if you have your star meter filled, and the addition of a quick dodge is incredibly useful as enemies grow in number and strength throughout missions. Characters never level up, but rather create stronger wands in Castleton and gain health by constructing new battle gear.
The café is the player’s main source of income, which can be spent in Scrooge McDuck’s department store or for crafted items. The café is even fully customizable, right down to the staff’s clothes and appearance (a Mii can be used to put friends to work!). Fun dishes can be made and small quests can be completed here. Bringing in good business and completing the mini quests will fill up a party meter for the café. If a party is thrown while a certain theme in followed, special characters such as Stitch, Snow White, or Hercules will make an appearance. These are perfect moments to talk with your favorite characters, pose for pictures, or collect cards for your collection.
Card collecting is a simple pastime in Castleton. The king of the land (no, it’s not Mickey), loves card collecting and socializing. He’s agreed to teach special greetings every time you collect five new cards by greeting other characters twice a day. These cards are all beautifully designed, with silly character poses, glamour shots, and even original Mickey Mouse cartoon posters. Greetings are basically a mixture of simple things like hand waving or jumping, to more pose-like actions such as bashful looks or a heroic stance.
There is a small use for StreetPass and local wireless. Players can show off their avatars and simple greetings with others they pass, or visit friend’s cafés and rooms. Paid and free DLC will also be available after the game releases, featuring new outfits, furniture, and extra worlds. Disney themed AR cards can also be used through the Magical AR option to grant presents.
The best part of Disney is the small touches of detail that really put their brand over the top. Magical World is filled with little bits of magic thrown in throughout the game. For example, every night from 8:30 to 9:00pm, fireworks are set off above the castle, just like in the real Disney parks. Music changes to match the world or mission players embark on, original character voice work is peppered throughout the game, and hundreds of outfits and furniture range from silly and traditional to impressively trendy and stylish.
The graphics and music quality are pretty good, but have a small room for improvement. Rough edges are apparent at times and the use of 3D seems like an afterthought while the songs can become repetitive, relying on short loops of music. The biggest issue, unfortunately, was the loading times. When compared to other games, the loading times between areas was about average length. However, this is a game where players need to quickly run in and out of stores and check on things between worlds often, so these load times quickly add up and interrupt an otherwise smooth game.
The game brings exactly what it promises and doesn’t spread itself too thin. Players who enjoy the genre will find themselves right at home and there honestly isn’t too much lacking in the game. Hours upon hours of gameplay are in store for any type of player, and there’s always something to do and each month brings new décor and themed items to collect and create. The use of achievement stickers to unlock harder missions also will keep players on their toes as they will have to master every element of the game to truly unlock everything, especially the mysterious guarded dungeon under the castle.
Disney Magical Worlds isn’t groundbreaking, and its lack of a central story arch, while liberating, strips it of a certain depth found in the Rune Factory series. However, this is a game that will surprise and appeal to a wide audience, not to mention keep players occupied for a long time. It’s fun and innocent, staying true to the Disney message and aesthetic while delivering a quality experience that will certainly ring true to the young and young at heart.