It ain’t such a small world after all.
It was decades ago, but I can remember my first trip to Disneyland like it was yesterday—the marching band, the flowers planted to reflect Mickey’s gigantic face, the castle, dear God, the lines, and finally the rides coalesce into a screaming whirlwind of overwhelming joy. Those hooks never really let go. Disney is as universal and far reaching as the Good Book and even today I look at the media empire behind the man and see stuff to get excited about, especially as the company folds Marvel and Star Wars in for good measure.
Disney’s imprint on society is so strong and so international that Namco Bandai commissioned Disney Magical World for Nintendo 3DS in the land of the rising sun. Seeing as software on Nintendo’s handheld has slowed since its blistering 2013 calendar, Nintendo of America decided to bring the title to the west. While plenty of younger gamers will find a lot to love in collecting goodies, outfits, and meeting tons of beloved Disney characters, I’m too old for this.
When you start Disney Magical World, you can choose to bring your Mii lookalike in from the Nintendo 3DS hardware or create a new avatar that meshes closely with the game’s graphics. I decided to use the in-game creator, but don’t expect to Elder-Scrolls your way to a new you. You can choose hair and skin color, a different face, and whichever gender you like, but how you look won’t change the game in any way. Characters react to in-game outfits you can buy or craft, and you’ll even tally up how many times people said you looked great, but Magical World starts in the shallow end and leaves you there until you realize you’re actually sitting in the kiddie pool.
The ultimate goal is to gather stickers that open gates into different areas of the world, including settings inspired by Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, and more. The game’s tutorial teases this out with mind-numbing repetition. It’s almost as if developer h.a.n.d. saw the success of Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s reconfigured mechanics and said, “Well, now we can rip off the mundane chore-running people used to avoid.” The game’s systems seem like they have depth, but it should be abundantly clear who the title is aimed at.
You’ll be tasked with meeting characters, collecting material for crafting, and hunting down stuff people lost before you move on to themed areas. I barrelled through the opening sequence as fast as I could, but little about Magical World feels as lively as a Disney theme park. I’d say the title feels more like the shoebox diorama I made to tell my fourth grade class about my trip, except Mickey and Minnie aren’t constantly falling down like the Lego figures I used.
You can run your own cafe and invite friends into your game to explore together. You can go fishing. Magical World makes use of StreetPass to add others into your hub so you can see what everyone else is wearing around town and it’s one of the few games that makes use of AR cards as well. You can also fight through Kingdom Hearts-esque dungeon crawls, but it’ll feel like another distraction as opposed to a main attraction.
Regardless, the cheerfully infectious graphics, sound, and characters make Disney Magical World an endearing title you could play with a child especially as they’ll need to understand the basics of collecting, crafting, dialogue choices, menu options, and very light battle mechanics if they’re ever going to graduate and follow you into gaming. This is My First RPG for a new generation of gamers, one that spells things out, repeats everything as many times as needed, and generally waits patiently as you scour the map for the one thing you need to move forward.
The potential for frustration is high, but gaming is a step-up program. If you’ve reluctantly lent your 3DS to a backseat driver to pacify them on a long road trip, Disney Magical World will do the trick. It might even be naptime before you know it.
Code provided by publisher. Exclusive to Nintendo 3DS.