Gaming

Twisted-Wonderland looks like a Disney anime version of Hogwarts

An image of students in the Queen of Hearts dorm.

Screenshot: Aniplex / YouTube

Disney Twisted Wonderland I’ve been in Japan for two years now. Yesterday, gacha mobile anime academy finally came out in English. The best way I can describe it is: “What if Disney Japan hands over its intellectual property to the manga creator? Dark Butler and asked her to develop an anime game about Hogwarts?” The result is a delightfully gothic card novel for wimps who dream of Halloween lasting 365 days a year.

If you ever played mobile academy like Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, the structure here is very similar. The game takes place in Nightcrow College, a school of magic where, as a new student, you attend classes, make friends, get into intense competition with members of other houses, and sometimes engage in magical duels that play out as turn-based card matches (in which your classmates, not your character). While only magicians are normally allowed into the boys’ school, you play as a prefect without magic who got into the academy by mistake. In the end, the principal accepts you in the hope that you can stop the magically gifted students from accidentally burning down the place. There are main story chapters that make up the bulk of the narrative content, but most of your time will be spent on lessons and extra-curricular mini-games.

But let’s be honest: the art and the way the characters look are more appealing than the gameplay itself. Luckily, the character designs are great. Instead of including existing Disney villains directly into the game, how Kingdom Hearts, the designer used them as visual inspiration for themed houses such as Savanaclaw (based on the treacherous Scar from The Lion King) and Octavinel (for the little MermaidUrsula). The students from the Hades dorm have bright blue hair, and the students of the Queen of Hearts wear clothes inspired by poker card suits. At least half of the cast at this all-boys school wear bright eyeshadow. None of them would look out of place in an Asian boy band.

I chose Diasomnia (Maleficent) because these sullen teenagers seemed the most collected. However, your choice does not actually affect the availability of the character. It seems to be purely aesthetic, and everyone goes through the same main plot. As at Hogwarts, each house must embody certain traits—in this case, the traits of its figurehead. For example, Scar is seen as a persistent king who loves equality, while Ursula is seen as a benevolent wish-granter.

An image of four Diasomnia students.

Screenshot: Aniplex / Kotaku

As I progressed through the story chapters, I began to prepare for the fact that my chosen students of Diasomnia would prove to be just as troublesome as the rest of the cast. Just like the villains their homes are based on, these kids chaotic. Lead Artist and Game Writer, Dark Butler creator Yana Toboso is known for creating wacky characters who often misbehave, and her influence can be clearly seen in the Disney villain-themed rules that these houses enforce. For example, the Queen of Hearts requires white roses to be dyed red. If you have ever looked at a person and thought “I can fix him”, then this gacha game is for you.

The gacha itself is mainly focused on the selection of clothing options (for example, sports uniforms), and not on the characters. Personally, I don’t feel any compulsion to participate in the gacha other than spending whatever free currency I get just by playing. Frequent gacha players will also be happy to know that the game has a built-in reroll system. This means that you can re-roll the starting gacha as many times as you like and choose the roll you like best. In other gacha games, most hardcore players do it manually by deleting and re-downloading the game or creating a new account, which also means having to go through the tutorial again. If that sounds like a huge annoyance, it is. Till TV not the first to implement the reroll system, I was glad that it became easier for me to control who I started with.

Two students of Diasomnia fight against a magical creature.

Screenshot: Aniplex / Kotaku

Combat is a relatively simple card battle in which you choose cards of a type that is more profitable than your opponent’s. If you ever played lawyer gacha Tears of Themis, turn-based combat is the same here. Since there are no major stat modifiers other than the inherent benefits of bundling certain students together, I don’t expect TV development of complex combat meta. TV there’s also a rhythm game component where you progress through the story by doing “Twistunes”. The rhythm game aspect is more varied than the combat, but there’s nothing revolutionary about it. You can also attend classes, but they don’t have a real game component. Basically you watch little character animations and listen to a few lines about studying. You spend energy to create a random number of stars, which can be exchanged for EXP items, which in turn can be used to increase the combat abilities of your cards (which are apprentice clothing options).

You won’t find a community that does a lot of combat theory work, but that’s not the main attraction of the game. Twisted Wonderland. While the game feels like a spin-off from Hogwarts, it features a variety of original worldviews, and new main story content and events will be released frequently. The first chapter introduces characters from Heartslabyul, a dorm based on the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. All future chapters will have different villain dorms. So, if you want to get to know your boys early, don’t repeat my mistake and pick the latest villain.


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