Game Review

Disney Magical World Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Ron DelVillano

A magical world indeed

To anyone familiar with the handheld’s lineup, it may seem like a bad business decision to make a life simulation game for the 3DS at this point. Three years into the console's life we've seen two Harvest Moon titles, a Rune Factory game, and The Sims 3. All that, and we haven't even mentioned Animal Crossing: New Leaf, a game that has arguably set the standard for the genre and continues to suck up more hours in our day than we’d like to admit. So how do you go about making a game in the same genre that stands a chance against the adorable Goliath? Take some of the key elements, add some of your own, then create something completely different.

From the periphery, and based on its own advertising, Disney Magical World looks to be in direct competition with Animal Crossing, but there are major differences in gameplay and tone that make this one a good companion rather than a competitor. In place of the quirky animal inhabitants and oddball charm are Disney's legacy properties and bottomless pockets; like in the case of Disney Infinity versus Skylanders, Magical World already has an established fan base in gamers familiar with its characters rather than having to rely on its own merits to generate interest from the audience. Clearly aware of this advantage, the game has been designed to focus on your interactions with the characters that you already know and love, thrusting you into both their worlds and their lives.

Beyond "life simulator," it's not easy to pinpoint what type of game Magical World really is. It has a tendency to frantically shift genres at the drop of a hat, but this frenetic style works to the game’s advantage, providing an experience that continues to feel fresh. It strikes a familiar chord with Animal Crossing in that your actions directly affect those around you, but in terms of gameplay this title is much more goal oriented. It doesn't open with exposition about your new life, and it doesn't put you in charge of a town in desperate need of resurgence, instead it casts you as yourself – albeit a version of you capable of using magic to fend for your life – and allows you to become part of the Disney canon. It gently guides you through the lives and worlds of Disney characters who are in need of your help. You may be new in town, but your childhood heroes already depend on you to save the day.

Early on in the game you receive the deed to the recently reopened café in the heart of Castleton, your new virtual home. While the café mainly serves as your source of revenue, it also solidifies your connection to the extended Disney universe. As your business grows various food recipes will become available for you to make and entice new customers to your town, including Disney characters who haven’t already been represented by one of the several explorable worlds. The café is, in a sense, a representation of you, so you are often encouraged to decorate it however you see fit, swapping out and rearranging furniture, decorations, and the uniforms of your employees. While the café does play a prominent role in your Magical World experience, the gameplay here is limited, usually only calling for a short visit or two during any given session.

The main goal during gameplay, beyond growing your café and finding new recipes for food, furniture, and clothing, is to collect Happy Stickers. Stickers are earned by completing specific tasks, such as catching so many fish or defeating a particular enemy, and the more Stickers you have the more quests become available in the various Disney-themed worlds. Forcing the Sticker mechanic on players can feel like a burden, pressing you to complete tasks that you might not otherwise be interested in, but the game makes it easy to see which Stickers you are closest to collecting at any given time. The Sticker system is set up to allow you to work on multiple tasks at once, meaning that you can always be in motion, picking and choosing which goals you want to complete in any order that you see fit.

Depending on which world you're in, you could be doing anything from farming to dungeon crawling, with a little bit of dancing sprinkled in. Almost everything is controlled with the 3DS’s face buttons, but the rhythm games instead make use of the console’s touchscreen. Whatever the gameplay calls for, the controls are tight and work well despite constantly changing their demands. It's no easy task finding the right balance in difficulty, but Magical World stands firmly on a foundation perfect for its target audience; even when the gameplay shifts between rhythm game, farming sim, and dungeon crawler, it provides varying challenges without becoming overwhelming. Though older gamers are sure to breeze through the majority of missions, especially early on in the game, the younger crowd who might not yet have a grasp on the nuances of Harvest Moon or Rhythm Thief will find comfort in the accessibility offered here. The variety in gameplay and welcoming difficulty levels also make this the perfect jumping-off point for younger gamers interested in exploring different genres.

Whether masking itself as a button masher or a rhythm game, one thing that won't go unnoticed is that the whole experience is one big collection fest. Everything that you do, from growing a special flower for Winnie the Pooh or fending off the ghosts invading Argabah, it's all done in the name of feeding the needs of those around you. Even your own goals in earning Stickers and opening up new areas to explore are based around collecting objects to further enhance your café and home. Residents of Castleton have a tendency to ask for very specific items, such as soap bubbles or pieces of cloth; then it becomes your responsibility, should you choose to accept the request, to venture out into the various worlds and find the treasures.

It's not just others that you'll be collecting for, because you will also need a vast variety of items to complete your own projects. Sometimes a quest will call for a specific costume to be worn or a special table to be placed in your café. If you don’t have the materials necessary to fulfil the recipes to create these objects, you'll have to seek them out. Some items can be purchased, and others can be found hidden around Castleton, but most of them will require the playing and replaying of missions that you've already completed. This can become tedious work, especially when you don't actually find the item you were looking for by the end of your quest, but it does provide a sure way to extend the hours that you'll get out of this game. Every quest is replayable at any time, making it easy to revisit ones that you particularly enjoyed, but the other edge to that sword is that it’s quite possible you'll find yourself getting bored of seeing the same old scenery time and again.

One of the more polarizing aspects of this game is this presentation. While the character models are detailed and animated well, and many of the environments are lush and do well to exemplify the Disney properties that they represent, the visuals are not without their flaws. Many of the set pieces look flat and pixelated, an issue that is exceptionally prominent when they’re carelessly dropped in the middle of the otherwise attractive three-dimensional environments. It’s also not a seamless universe, but thankfully the load times are quick enough to not be annoying or disruptive to gameplay. The handheld’s ability to display images in 3D is also put to particularly poor use, adding simulated depth to the environments but mostly just slowing the frame rate down to an irksome pace — it looks just as fine without the effect, so this is an issue that can easily be avoided.

One key element borrowed from Animal Crossing, meanwhile, is the use of the series’ signature real world clock. The time of day and year during which you playing Magical World is directly reflected in game, and it can alter your experience. As time progresses throughout the day characters move around Castleton and ask for different favours; depending on the time of year that you’re playing, the centre square of the city transforms to reflect an associated holiday or changes in the weather. The effect that time has on gameplay is minimal, providing mostly aesthetic shifts or changing the available tasks, but the alterations in the scenery are indicative of an evident care that was put into crafting the game.

Expanding beyond Castleton and the outlying realms, Magical World gives you the opportunity to visit the cafés of other players who have uploaded theirs to the game’s server, or those locally around you. It’s a far cry from cooperative gameplay, but it does allow you to see what other players on your 3DS Friend List or random strangers from around the world are doing with their shops. Visiting other cafés and uploading your own to have others visit you is also a good way to receive special items and quickly build up your wardrobe. Other players can also visit your town bearing gifts via StreetPass, further opening the game’s social features.

As a game mostly about collecting and trading, it’s no small wonder that the developers brought these aspects into the real world through paid downloadable content and AR cards. DLC was not accessible at the time of writing, but it’s safe to assume that more costumes and recipes will be available for purchase through the Nintendo eShop shortly after launch. Reminiscent of Kid Icarus: Uprising, AR cards can be read via the Magical AR feature, unlocking even more costumes, café decorations, and recipes to cook up. DLC and collectable cards can easily become a parent’s worst nightmare, but their presence does point towards the developers’ continued support, hopefully with them regularly churning out more content to continually make the game feel fresh and new.


Every young gamer needs a place to start. Disney Magical World isn’t going to appeal to everyone with a 3DS, but it’s a fantastic way to introduce its audience to a variety of genres in an easily digestible and family-friendly package. There are minor technical hiccups and imperfect visuals, but these are far from game breaking and are issues that can easily be overlooked when considering everything else offered here. Disney fans are sure to love interacting with their favourite characters and exploring their worlds, and those who enjoy life simulators will get a kick out of the variety in gameplay. If you’re beginning to get burnt out on Animal Crossing and you’re seeking something similar that also manages to feel fresh, Magical World is the perfect way to start a new life once again.

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User Comments (53)



Whopper744 said:

Question: can you have more than one 'file' on one game? I don't want to have to buy the game twice if I don't have to (me and my wife).
Still not sure if we are getting it at all. I love Disney, and usually have no shame, but this may be pushing the kiddie level... Even with us having played through Epic Yarn...



therick112 said:

I love Disney and have no shame, was just waiting for the review, so I'll be downloading Day 1.



Ron_DelVillano said:

@Joshers744 I hate to say it, but the game only supports one file.

You can change your character at startup, but it's a shared file. It's sort of like AC:NL in that you can use a different character, but you still inhabit the same town and you share progress.



MamaLuigi said:

It looks like Nintendo is using DMW and the Mickey themed 3DS XL to exploit Disney much like they tried to exploit Square Enix and JRPGs with Kingdom Hearts.

Hey still better than the Rareware made Mickey racing games...



Melkac said:

So...is the game Paper Mario: TTYD/Super childish, Pokémon childish, Animal Crossing childish or...backyardigans childish?



rjejr said:

As much as Ild like to write this off as Disney licensed shovelware it looks and sounds pretty good for a kids game and/or Disney fan. And it certainly looks more Disney than Pixar base Disney Infinity. Kingdom Hearts was a great Disney themed game.

Not for me, but kudos for Disney for making a 8/10 game that could have been 3/10 and sold just as well.



Whopper744 said:

@supremii I wish, but the games save to the cart itself on the 3DS.
Still a tough choice... Love Disney, and I'd like the AR cards, but just not so sold yet... I hate to judge a game like this (being a Mario and a Disney fan especially) but is this clearly aimed just for kids?



Dark-Link73 said:

Now I wanna go to Disneyland!

"It's a small world after all,
It's a small world after all,
It's a small world after all.
It's a small, small, world!"



NintyMan said:

I'm not getting this game in the foreseeable future because of Animal Crossing and maybe Tomodachi: New Life. The Disney fan in me would like to have this, but I'm going to have to wait for a long time if I ever come around to it. Still, I appreciate that this sounds like a good, solid Disney game.



ShadJV said:

I'd really like to know if I'll enjoy this, being an adult. I love Disney and, as a Nintendo fan, I play E rated games all the time. Is this really just geared towards little kids or can it appeal to all ages?



TantXL said:

Europe release? Im in Sweden and we don't get to much news and stuff about Nintendo games here.



Yai said:

Not going to lie, this sounds really fun. I would probably buy this if it was in Europe. :c



Tasuki said:

@Ron_DelVillano: You forgot to mention Hometown Story in your list of life simulation games, although I can't blame you lol.

DMW looks like a great game and being a Disney fan I just might have to pick this one up.



mostro328 said:

I want to get this for my daughter but would like to know if there is more then one save file



IanAlbarn said:

I want to get his for myself lol but I don't know if it appeals for older players or not. Defnitely like Disney but don't know if it'll be fun.
I believe it's only a file.



Ron_DelVillano said:

Just to clear up the question about the game targeting kids:

I enjoy playing this, but it's easy. The game does a fair amount of hand-holding to guide you from one goal to the next, but you still have to put in the effort. It's not insultingly easy to the point of making its players feel dumb, but it definitely wants you to succeed, and it's willing to make sure you do by providing all of the information you could possibly need very directly.

I know that's vague, but I don't want to delve too deeply into details. It's also a little difficult to explain. Let's just say that I wish I was younger so I could fully enjoy this game more than I already do.



IanAlbarn said:

Ok. Thank you. I guess I get what you said. Makes me wish I was younger, too. Maybe I'll get this game just to relax for a while.



Windy said:

I was going to cancel my pre buy but you sold me and made it sound like great fun. Sometimes us old guys need to be kids again



AkinaChan said:

This makes me want to go to disneyland :3 I'm going this fall, but its not soon enough T_T

I'm probably going to rent this on Gamefly to try it out, and maybe buy it if I really enjoy it, I'm kinda burnt out on simulation games for right now though. I've played soooo much Tomodatchi Collection lately ~_~



Windy said:

I got the call today from GameStop that they would have this in on Friday morning. I'm going to roll the dice and hope I can like it. I have a close friend of mine getting it too so we can try out the streetpass. I'm sure it will be fun. I was hoping for a online co-op extravaganza.

Wouldn't it be sweet if they made a game that was just Disneyland or Disney World that was online and you could join people on your friends list in real time and go on rides and just walk around the park? we can only dream about that one.



pariah164 said:

Day one download for me. Watched some gameplay videos and it looks awesome. Will tide me over till Kirby comes out in a month.



Aaronzord said:

I'm an adult (supposedly), but I love Disney so this game looks awesome to me. I really hope this gets a European release. Namco are pretty good to us, so I'm hopeful!



bluecat said:

Question! Are the accessories and outfits gender locked? I'm a bit of a tomboy here and I'm not to keen on dresses and frilly stuff. ACNL was great on this point, nothing was restricted.



Windy said:

omg is this game fun. good review thank you so much because I almost canceled my pre order. Your review got me to reconsider and I'm here to tell ya I am so glad I did cause the game is a hoot.



Windy said:

@bluecat I don't think they are gender locked I will look for you in a bit. I was able to make dresses in the game but I didn't try them on I guess I will try one on for you in a bit. I would say because they are in my inventory I can try them on. Give me about an hour I will check if it is so. the game is so darn good. I was really surprised its surpassed what I was thinking it would be. I almost canceled getting it.



Windy said:

@Aaronzord I'm also an adult and if you get a chance and you really like Disney. get this game its very good. I hope you guys get it in Europe



Windy said:

@bluecat Yes you can wear any of the clothing you make. I um put on a MiniMouse dress but don't tell anyone OK lol. No restrictions on Disney either. Great game BTW. a lot like Animal crossing but also throw in a bit of Harvest moon.



Dbiano99 said:

I must be stupid but I can not find the king' s card been looking and asking for hours - any help would be appreciated.



bluecat said:

@Windy Thanks for checking! I have a road trip coming up, this sounds like the perfect game to kill time with.



DadOfFour1972 said:

Bit bummed that there is no sign of an EU release date. Damn region locks ( used to import plenty of US DS/PS3 games ).



therick112 said:

I'm 35, big Disney fan, super addicted to this game. Is it aimed more towards kids? Slightly, but I can't say how young, due to the amount of dialogue and reading involved, so definitely not for super young kids, but maybe for 8+?



kirbydude47 said:

I don't know what to get Disney's Magical World or Kirby Triple Deluxe, what do you think, both games look really good



therick112 said:

@Dbiano99 She won't take it if it is the wrong color. Look at the diamond next to the request (in my game it was red). I initially made her a pink one and she wouldn't take it.



WhiteTrashGuy said:

I am loving this game! For Disney fans it's easily a 9/10. I do wish there was more voice clips for the various characters, though.



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SeVok said:

Only recently came out here in Europe. It may not be earth shattering innovative, it's quite an ambitious project mingling different genres together making no moment in the game ever feel the same, always something new or different to do. And all of this with classic iconic characters, I truly hope this was a worthwhile investment for Disney, sure like to see a similar approach on their future 3DS games.

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