What happens when you mix Animal Crossing with Disney licensing and a B-team developer? You get games like Disney Magical World 2 for Nintendo 3DS. Bandai Namco’s second attempt to bring players into a fantasy land full of Disney’s most recognizable faces both succeeds and fails at creating a memorable experience.
Disney Magical World 2 is the kind of game that will get entirely neglected by mainstream Western audiences, and that’s a shame. The game isn’t fantastic, in fact, if you haven’t played Animal Crossing: New Leaf yet, that’s the game you should be picking up. However, Magical World 2 is a wonderful homage to all things Disney, and as any fan of the Walt Disney Company can tell you, personal and wonderful Disney experiences are invaluable. Luckily this game has plenty of those.
Here is the rundown. Players create their own character (or import a pre-existing Mii) and are dropped into a world that greatly resembles a Disneyland/Magic Kingdom park. Mickey and friends show up to greet you and run you through the basics of the world. From there, players are free to roam the game, discovering new worlds themed to popular Disney films, as well as take on new jobs, complete tasks, buy and create unique clothing, or at least, that’s what the game should do. Instead, DMW2 spends hours taking you by the hand to guide you through each and every aspect of the game. Oh the tedious amount of dialogue that one must endure to actually play the game! Developer Bandai Namco Games does the one thing all modern Japanese games do, talk profusely. The amount of dialogue and tutorial that the game demands is enough to turn most players away, and that’s too bad because the game gets really fun afterwards.
Disney Magical World 2 probably dedicates the first four five hours to slowly guiding players through all the activities and options that the game has to offer. By the time I was finally cut loose to play the game, I forgot half the things that were crammed into the beginning part of my adventure. Luckily after a good amount of time playing on my own, I developed my own play style that had me hooked deep into the sheer amount of content the game has to offer. It is unfortunate that I was unable to discover how the game worked on my own, I personally believe the game loses a lot of its charm by hand holding when it should be letting you figure things out for yourself. Of course I understand that the game is probably intended for younger players, but even with that in mind, the amount of pointing and showing this game does it almost insulting to even the youngest of players.
What kind of activities and fun things can you do in this game? Well in short the answer is tons. The main hook to the game is centered around collecting stickers. Stickers are rewards you’ll receive by completing specific tasks and missions. The more stickers you unlock, the more items and missions that become available to you. The process can become addicting very quickly. I constantly found myself thinking “alright, I’ll stop playing after I reach this number of stickers in my collection,” only for me to continue playing even after achieving that goal. Watching your various sticker books grow is satisfying, and the game rewards you be unlocking new worlds to explore.
Worlds in the game include Lilo and Stitch, Winnie the Pooh, Snow White, Frozen, and more. Within each world, players meet new characters, complete a whole new line of missions, and learn additional skills. Despite each world being small with not much room to explore, there is still a lot to do. The skills and items acquired from the various worlds will then help you in other worlds, or in the game’s main hub. The main hub is essentially Main Street, U.S.A. and the various shops are where you go to buy and make clothes, buy and sell goods to Scrooge McDuck (eerily similar to Tom Nook), and operate/decorate your own cafe (mine is called Casey’s Corner). In Daisy’s clothing shop, you’ll be tasked with making and designing new outfits that will help you on missions, as well as gain you style points from townspeople. Customizing your character with new outfits adds an additional layer of uniqueness and personal taste to the game that makes the experience more personal.
At the cafe, guests will constantly request new menu items, themed to iconic Disney worlds, but supplies run out fast so you’ll have to constantly be trying to keep up with the demand. Running the cafe makes earning money so easy that I never felt like I had to sell goods or complete other tasks with the intention of earning money. The economy is very imbalanced so it is easy to afford any item you may want to buy. Once all the guests in your cafe are happy, you’ll earn enough “Party Points” to throw a party. Parties seem like a fun feature at first but there is not much to do. Essentially you pick a theme for your party based off a Disney property, then, depending on how many points you have available, characters from that universe will show up at the restaurant to do meet and greets with the customers. Special music is played, the food and cafe are decorated accordingly, and you are presented with many photo opportunities. After that, the party is over. There is not much more to do, which makes the party feature seem a little dull or half baked to me.
Photos are one of the game’s biggest attractions. At any time in the game, you can take a photo by holding down the L and R buttons at the same time. The photo will then be saved to your SD card. This is a really great feature that makes it easy to capture that perfect moment in the middle of a party, or during a dream sequence. The best part is that you don’t even need a Disney PhotoPass to keep your favorite pictures! All joking aside, the photo taking ability is really great. I just wish there was an easier way to get all my favorite pictures from my Nintendo 3DS to my phone or computer.
Photos also make their way into a number of other aspects in the game. Dream sequences are a key feature that are all about getting that perfect picture. Throughout the worlds, characters will give you puzzles pieces. Each world features a handful of unique puzzles, and once you successfully collect all the pieces in a puzzle, you can enter a dream. By placing your new puzzle in your character’s house, you’ll be transported to a dream where you can dance to “Baroque Hoedown” from the Main Street Electrical Parade, along with an array of characters. During dreams, players can fly in a plane with Mickey, float on a bench with Minnie, as well as do other interesting activities, all while dancing and taking photos. At first, I thought the dream sequences were weird and slightly unwarranted, but I see why younger kids may think it would be fun to get silly pictures with their favorite characters.
Aside from having out-of-body experience-like dreams, you can also decorate and arrange items in your house. Like any good life simulator game, this feature is fun! It’s a blast going to Scrooge’s store once a day to check out the new furniture and wallpaper available for purchase, then going back home to make your house look like a Disney crazed hoarder’s paradise. Much like buying outfits and accessories, decorating your house adds another deep layer of personalization to the game.
Unfortunately not all of the features in Disney Magical World 2 are fun. Among the most uninteresting features are fishing and ghost hunting. Fishing is a direct knock off from Animal Crossing. You cast your poll, wait for the fish to bite, and press the A button to reel in your catch. The thing that makes fishing unnecessary in this game is that it’s mainly used as a means to gain items to sell for money. However, you’ll be making plenty of money from your always booming cafe, so there is never any real incentive to go fishing. Some clothing items require materials that can only be acquired by fishing, but this ends up being a tedious task of catching fish until one drops the material needed. I’d rather collect all my materials from harvesting crops or searching plants, similar to how every other material item is collected.
Ghost hunting is the other weak feature in the game. Throughout the various worlds you visit, a number of ghost missions will be introduced. In ghost missions you use a magic wand to fight off a handful of waves of ghosts. The final wave is always a giant boss ghost battle. At first the ghost battles are actually fun, but they never change much, and it gets old very quickly. Aside from earning better outfits and magic wands for combat, each ghost mission feels just as dull as the last one. The Luigi’s Mansion-looking ghosts never fit the theming of any of the worlds, and the whole feature just feels forced for the sake of including combat in the game. Thankfully, the ghost missions are short and easy to get through, though I wish Bandai Namco decided to add more thoughtful missions that are unique to each world.
That said, each world does feature an activity that is specific to that themed world. For example, in the Winnie the Pooh world, Rabbit teaches you how to plant and harvest crops. This activity is only available in this world. In the Snow White world, the Dwarfs take you to the mines to play a rhythm mini-game that will help you earn special minerals and crystals. These unique missions add variety to the various worlds that helps set each one apart from the others. They are a lot of fun to play, but unfortunately, I found myself having to take on ghost missions more often then I would have liked.
One really special thing Disney Magical World 2 has going for it is all the little touches put into the main world. Everything from the castle to Main Street screams Disney Parks, and it makes the experience that much better. The game includes seasonal theming and events that run in real time, so currently the game is decorated for Halloween. The streets are decorated in adorable Mickey jack-o’-lanterns, and the shops include a number of Halloween themed items for sale. The charm of including real wold events into the game helps to bring the world and characters to life.
All in all, Disney Magical World 2 is quite a lot of fun. It is clearly intended for a younger audience, making it come across as a baby’s first Animal Crossing, but there is enough depth that any big Disney gaming fan should be able to have fun. There are a handful of addicting and creative features like completing tasks, running a cafe, buying and selling goods, picture taking, and more. On the flip side, there are also a handful of dull features to counter the good ones. While fishing and ghost hunting may not be the most fun, they do not take up too much of the spotlight from this otherwise fun game. If you can get through the painfully long introduction, I really think you’ll see a game worth your time. It is the perfect bit sized experience in a world where most of those kinds of games exist solely on the mobile phones in our pockets. However unlike a mobile phone game, Disney Magical World 2 is fleshed out with much to do, and doesn’t constantly bug you for real world money. Check out Disney Magical World 2 if you love all things Disney, and want to play a fun and relaxing game that is easy to drop in and out of as you please.