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'Disney Magical World' Review: It grows on ya

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Disney Magical World (3DS)

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Is “Disney Magical World” the new “Animal Crossing”? Although we weren’t quite sure after our initial playthrough, we are now- this game is fun.

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For over a decade, “Animal Crossing” and “Sims” are two series that set the standard for social fetch-quest filled adventure titles with fun and lots of engaging characters.

“Disney Magical World” adds themselves to the fray with their own unique spin on the genre that makes the most of the Nintendo 3DS’ graphical and technological abilities. With their one of a kind characters and Mii integration, “Disney Magical World” is a blast, even if it takes its sweet time getting the gamer to enjoy the game’s cool world.

And although it doesn’t add anything particularly memorable to the social-sim genre, it definitely has a place in the console of any “Animal Crossing” or “Sims” fan.

The strongest thing going for “Disney Magical World” is the visuals. In 2D and especially 3D, it looks great on the 3DS. Walking around Castleton and interacting with all of your favorite characters inspires a warm and endearing set of emotions. As you play through the game and other worlds open up, so will more characters. Seeing them every day and interacting with them feels eerily similar to “Animal Crossing,” but with the company’s rich history and engaging characters, there’s an extra element at work here.

The reason why it feels so close in scope to “Animal Crossing” is because well, it is. From fishing to growing fruits and vegetables and running errands, it’s the same bag of tricks.

In the beginning however running around performing tasks and customizing your character is tedious. Lets be fair, it has been done before in plenty of series and with the same exact premise- a newbie being placed a town and trying to find their way and place, it’s hard to connect a gamer who’s seen it all before. After an hour or so of gameplay, a nice-sized chunk you’d experience by renting the game, it feels like “Disney Magical World” doesn’t add anything particularly memorable to the genre.

To make things worse, through the prologue, “Disney Magical World” is essentially simple fetch quests. Grab this, find this, talk to them, go here. While small children will eat this up and will be entranced with how adorable the character models are, as well as seeing their Mii in this Disney-inspired world, older gamers will prefer to play “Animal Crossing.”

But then that all changes.

After the prologue, the linear gameplay takes a backseat and you can begin to not only explore, but make the game play the way you want. Enjoy hanging out in 100-Acre Wood more than Wonderland? Then you don’t have to necessarily go there anymore. While certain quests require you to go to specific places, there’s never any real need to do anything you don’t want to do. Simply put, managing your café, a gift from Castleton’s King after the prologue, will keep you busy enough. It’s up to you later if you want to be an adventuring magician or the other occupations and cool quests that come along later.

What hurts the fun at times are wonky menu structures that make an easy exchange items quest a complete nightmare. For one quest, the exchange of items was set to take place and even with the correct items in our inventory, the trade would not go through. At times completing simple challenges in the café is also troublesome, as quests completed aren’t registered until you speak with your manager, an unnecessary and sometimes annoying extra step that didn’t need to be there.

But regardless of a few gameplay blemishes, “Disney Magical World” still proves to be a worthy time killer on the bus or train for more than just a cool license. Tried and true, many of the gameplay elements and the story hold up well enough for anyone to enjoy them. The added StreetPass functions and the ability to travel to other gamers’ towns add another level to the fun as well.

In the end, while it tries hard to be an “Animal Crossing” clone and succeeds, behind its visual strengths and iconic characters, “Disney Magical World” is able to wish upon a different type of star altogether.

The Good:

Excellent 3D: While many of the 3D visuals are bothersome, the shadows, light and other elements are well proportioned and are easy on the eyes.

Solid Sound: The audio for many handheld games is an afterthought, but “Disney Magical World” has more than just background noise. Simply put, it’s a nice companion on your journey.

An Immersive Story: Over the course of a few hours, your character will interact with some of the most popular characters in Disney history and get to a point where they truly depend on them. If you’re a fan of any of these characters, this is something you’ll enjoy.

Plenty to Do: From fishing, planting, running your own café and fighting ghosts with a magic wand, there’s plenty of things to do in “Disney Magical World.”

The Bad:

Takes a While to Get Going: The first hour of this game is a tedious and annoying linear experience that could rob years from your gaming life.

A Blatant Animal Crossing Rip-Off: From a gameplay point of view, “Disney Magical World” is as close to “Animal Crossing” as you can get without Nintendo getting peeved. Think “Saint’s Row” and “Grand Theft Auto.” Even Donald Duck’s “attitude” feels “borrowed” from a certain “Animal Crossing” Character.

The Bottom Line:

For all of its shortcomings, “Disney Magical World” is a fun “Animal Crossing”-inspired title that makes the most of its license. If you have a forgiving and patient heart and can get past the prologue, you’ll find it a rewarding and fun experience.

“Disney Magical World” is scheduled for an April 11 release on the Nintendo 3DS.

Does this Disney mash-up strike your fancy? Let us know in the comment section below.

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