Now available on iOS and Android, Disney and Aniplex of America have brought to mobile gamers of US and Canada the new JRPG Disney Twisted-Wonderland.
Disney Twisted-Wonderland takes players to the magical academy of Night Raven College–an institute of learning in many ways similar to Harry Potter‘s Hogwarts, if the different houses were based on the characteristics of each of a group of Disney villains known as “The Great Seven.”
In this reality, the villains are considered exemplary legends who are idolized. Students are sorted into different houses based on how well they identify with each villain’s characteristic traits:
- Heartslabyul, based on the strictness of the Queen of Hearts twisted from Alice in Wonderland.
- Savanaclaw, based on the persistence of the King of Beasts (Scar) twisted from The Lion King.
- Octavinelle, based on the benevolence of the Sea Witch (Ursula) twisted from The Little Mermaid.
- Scarabia, based on the mindfulness of the Sorcerer of the Sand (Jafar) twisted from Aladdin.
- Pomefiore, based on the tenacity of the Beautiful (Evil) Queen twisted from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- Ignihyde, based on the diligence of the Lord of the Dead (Hades) twisted from Hercules.
- Diasomnia, based on the nobility of the Witch of Thorns (Maleficent) twisted from Sleeping Beauty.
The story begins as your character awakens to find that they have been transported to Night Raven (in a coffin!) as a matriculating student. Unfortunately, the Dark Mirror that sorts students into their respective houses picks up that you are distinctly unmagical and therefore ineligible to attend their academy. Even worse, no one has any idea of how to return you to your home so you are pretty much stuck there until the Headmaster Dire Crowley can research how to send you back.
Adding to the general chaos is Grim, a creature who looks like a cat but who adamantly insists he is not. As adorable as he is bad-tempered, Grim can use magic (unlike you) and subsequently winds up more or less being your avatar in the various battles and musical rhythm challenges peppered throughout the game. He constantly picks fights and otherwise demonstrates poor impulse control which keeps your life busy.
The home screen features easy access to the three main facets of gameplay: Stories, Lessons, and Exams.
“Stories” represents the main route of the game, which is divided up into different books, each of which is subdivided into chapters. Any given book seems to focus on a specific house and the game starts out with a prologue and two chapters–one each on Heartslabyul and Savanaclaw. Each chapter either reads straight through like a visual novel or features a challenge that has to be completed before progressing to the next chapter.
The musical minigames, called Twistunes Rhythmic Challenges, are pretty standard games where the player needs to tap the screen as a moving symbol just as it reaches a circle. The difficulty increases with speed and rhythm, as well as requiring different combinations of simultaneous taps in specific areas of the screen.
Turn-Based Battles require the player to accumulate and build up different playing cards of different characters to combat various antagonists as the story progresses. Not only do the cards’ levels have to be high enough to beat the opposing team, but each battle usually revolves around a specific magical element (Fire, Water, Flora, and Cosmic/No Element) so it’s an advantage to have a variety of cards ready to go.
Cards are made stronger through “Lessons.” There are three different types (History, Flying, and Alchemy) which each increase your cards’ stats in different categories. Each lesson consumes a certain amount of stamina that automatically refills throughout the day. While you can automate the process (you will be taking a lot of lessons) by turning on the “loop” function, the animation and character design of the little chibi figures are entertaining in their own right.
“Exams” are more or less tests of the same turn-based battles used in the story. Players are given a certain number of chances per day to engage in battles of specific elements. After a designated number of days, players earn rewards of Exam Medals depending on how well they fared in battle, which can be traded in for different things at the store.
The store, manned by what looks like a descendant of Dr. Facilier, has some areas where players can trade in currency earned in-game, but is largely for people who would rather pay money than spend their time grinding on lessons or battles to further their progression in the story. The game is quite playable on a free-to-play basis, but there is no denying that it will go slower than if you are willing to invest in better cards and items to upgrade them.
On the whole, I think Disney Twisted-Wonderland is a solidly entertaining game. The story is fun, although hard to judge from just the two chapters that have been released, but the subtitle localization is excellent and the writing is often much funnier than you’d expect. The character design is gorgeous as you’d expect from Black Butler‘s Yana Toboso, and the animation is very smooth and fully voiced which is a surprising amount of work to put into a free mobile game. The Japanese voice cast is terrific even if, like me, you do not understand Japanese, and really adds a lot to the presentation. The one part that could be improved is the amount of explanation for all the different aspects of the card stat-raising process, but if you are a novice at such things (again, like me) there are a lot of web pages out there with guidebooks on the more involved details. The battles are fairly easy-going until each book’s boss battle at the end which generally requires your cards to be leveled up a bit, but at least at this point it is a pretty straightforward process.
If you enjoy RPGs, or Disney villains, or just a cute story, Disney Twisted-Wonderland is a great option. I would encourage anyone interested to download the app and get started, as Book 3, based on Octavinelle is due to be released this month with various login bonuses and experience boosts. See you around Night Raven!
To learn more about Disney Twisted-Wonderland, visit the official website at https://disneytwistedwonderland.com
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