Disney / Aniplex
Adventure / Gacha
Android / iOS
The magical academy Night Raven College is ready to welcome its new students. Except, one individual who has been whisked away to this school can’t use magic! And a talking cat-like thing wants to enroll? Tap to the tune of the music and employ powerful cards in hopes of guiding the wayward Yu home, and maybe unravel the mysteries of magic along the way.
Wow, I’m trying another gacha game? Well, Disney + Black Butler + the upcoming anime + all the merch already available in Japan = I had to try it out.
Disney Twisted-Wonderland is a mobile game available for both Apple and Android tablets and phones. It’s on the large size, but it can be trimmed down if you don’t want the voices. Voice acting is in Japanese only, but I imagine most people will be animanga and/or gaming fans who will already have some exposure to the language and won’t want to skip out on hearing performances. But be aware — you can’t have the same account on multiple devices. So if you download it originally on your phone but want to play on your tablet at home, you can’t. You’d have to actually migrate your account, and then if you want to play again on your phone, you’d have to migrate again. This applies no matter which ecosystem you’re on or want to swap between. Sometimes there are limits on how often/many times you can do this, so just avoid the hassle and stick to one device. Major bummer.
After completing some opening introduction tasks, eventually, you’ll have access to the main menu.
The Stories section is just as its name suggests. The main plot of Twisted Wonderland has several Chapters made up of short segments in the style of a visual novel. Players take the role of Yu, which is a clever name in a game like this. Unlike in a lot of these types of adventure games, Yu’s appearance is fully in the mind of the gamer. Yu is never seen onscreen and is always referred to generically, like “you” or “the Prefect”. Yu can be imagined as male, female, or even nonbinary.
Players will, at times need to provide Yu’s response. The two options are usually divided into combinations like polite versus snarky or changing the subject versus get a final comment in. You can replay chapters so you can always go back and select the other option if you wish, but from what I’ve seen, it’s a waste of time. The two options don’t or barely change the dialogue, so feel free to pick whichever dialogue choice you want. Sometimes, you don’t even have a choice — it’s a single option!
Since Night Raven College is an all-boys school, in my humble opinion, Yu being male makes more sense. Especially since, in one portion of the game, other students offer Yu to stay in their room. That being said, some of the dialogue selections, in my opinion, have a more feminine tone (either in terms of mother-like kindness or mean girls sarcasm), and the fact Yu ends up winning a lot of friends (who also happen to be good-looking young men) plus a cat-like mascot has a more of a reverse harem feel. But Yu is literally who you imagine Yu to be.
It’s also fairly easy to create your own Yu because they have amnesia. Yu suddenly finds themself in a land called Twisted Wonderland at one of the world’s schools for budding magicians. Non-magical Yu, as it turns out, was accidentally summoned here with Grim, a black, flying cat-like creature who has been desperately trying to get into Night Raven College. The school’s principal, Headmage Crowley, has no idea what happened, and since Yu doesn’t remember anything about their past, they don’t know where Yu needs to go back to. Grim, meanwhile, is rejected for not being human, a fact he does not take well. While Yu and Grim are sent to live in an abandoned dorm temporarily, Crowley realizes Yu has good natural instincts and tolerance for the mischievous, immature Grim, and he agrees to let the two of them enroll as one student.
Night Raven College is devoted to the Great Seven. In our world, these are Disney villains, but in-universe, they’re a group of renowned, influential figures in Twisted Wonderland who all worked hard for their fellow citizens. Each of the dorms at school honor one of these individuals. For instance, Heartslabyul represents the Queen of Hearts, who prevented her land from devolving into chaos thanks to her rules. Yu doesn’t know of Disney (just like Sora of Kingdom Hearts), but is this a world similar to the musical Wicked or is the truth different from what the students know?
Have to play the story to find out. You can can fire up Twisted-Wonderland and play non-stop through as much of the story currently available in English, which is Chapter 3. I’m avoiding spoilers for myself as much as possible, so I don’t know how long the main tale is.
While each Stories segment has visual novel portions with dialogue skip and autoplay features, some feature other types of play. The first is the Twistunes rhythm minigame. Magical sigils appear on the screen and travel toward a circle. Tap (or hold) your device when the sigil is inside the circle in time to the music to score points. There are a few different ways the notes will appear/be tapped, like tap anywhere or all notes coming in from the corners. Each note can be rated as Perfect, Great, Good, or Miss. The first two add to your chain and the other two break it. Keeping chains boost your score, so the longer, the better. The game tells you not to worry about them during the story, but you’ll probably want to do your best and eventually replay them to earn rewards for Cards. The tap left/right side stages were the most difficult, especially when notes flowed in all from the same direction.
Cards are the centerpiece of the game. These are used for in-game battles, and if you’ve played any sort of RPG, trading card, or gacha game, a lot of the mechanics will be very familiar to you. Cards, which each feature one of the 22 male leads, are either R (rare, aka common), SR (super rare, aka uncommon), or SSR (super super rare, aka rare), and of course, SSR cards tend to be the most powerful. Cards are classified as Attack, Defense, or Balanced types, which affects its HP and power (POW) stats. Each card has two spells which are classified as either fire, flora, water, or cosmic. Cosmic is neutral, but the other three elements operate in a paper-rock-scissors order.
Prior to a battle, elements used by the enemies will be highlighted. You will need to choose five cards to make a team, so ideally, you want to have decent cards covering all element combinations for the three main elements. But for fights in Stories, only four will be from your collection. The fifth you will either choose from ones provided by the game (based upon characters nearby during the event, like Grim) or a completely different player. Each player of Twisted-Wonderland will select a card to connect to their Profile. The game will randomly generate a list of these cards, and you can choose one. Once you play a battle with someone’s support card, you can send a Friend Request. If they accept, you can use this same card in the future. Players also have a Player ID number to disseminate to directly connect with someone. Since people currently have cards at level 40, 50, even 80+, depending on your luck (or if you know someone who has or is investing a lot of time into Twisted-Wonderland), you can dominate a lot of the currently available battles just with a Friend card.
Note that the cards you choose will send a chibi version of that character into battle, but these are meant to representative of Yu and company fighting, and yes, you can have two or more versions of the same character in-battle. Opponents though will reflect the current events in the plot. So you, for instance, can have a Riddle in his Dorm uniform and Riddle in his lab uniform fighting against Riddle, have Ace when he’s elsewhere, or Ortho before he’s introduced.
Anyway, battles can have different goals. Some you will need to just survive for five turns, other times you will need to keep playing until the enemy’s HP has been depleted. Your HP is the total HP of your five-card deck. Battles are turned-based and made up of two attacks per side per round. Out of your 10 possible attacks (2 spells per card), five are randomly “drawn” at the start of the battle. You will need to choose two, and after both sides attack, two from the remaining pool will replace them. If the battle goes beyond five rounds, your “deck” is reshuffled.
You and the opponent (the AI) alternate who moves first. In each round, you will see the element of either the first or second attack. The other spell will be a mystery, but you will see the element “hand” of the opponent. For best results, you will want to use the element that trumps what your opponent is using (except for neutral Cosmic) to deal extra damage and take less in return. Sometimes, the computer may only have one element to play, so you know what the mystery attack is going to be. Othertimes, you’ll just have to play the odds. As with any game, luck is involved, and sometimes, you just may have a bad hand.
Besides HP, the game also measure the damage flow. The bar starts out perfectly in the middle (50%), but the gauge will show which side is doing more damage. So if I inflict a total of 2000 HP damage but the enemies do 1000, the bar will show something like 60% for me and 40% for the opponent. I’m making up numbers, but you get the idea — you want the % to be higher on your side.
In Stories, you don’t get any rewards for completing a fight besides the right to go on. Five-round battles are also available in the Exams section of the game, which aren’t available at start. You can earn rewards here, but you are limited to at most five per day. These also have spell themes and/or goals and rotate every two weeks. Easy, Normal, and Hard levels are available and affect your grade. Be warned: the scoring is very complicated, and it seems like even those who have played this game since it debuted in Japan don’t know all the ins-and-outs of grades. You’d think that, say, winning in three rounds is better than winning in four rounds, but that is not necessarily the case! I went researching since I was scratching my head at while one round I earn, say, 3500 points but one where I felt like I did better turned out to be only 3000 points. I didn’t find too much, at least not without having a lot of top-tier cards and buffed levels.
So improving your Cards is important. The most obvious is level, which affects its HP and POW stats. R cards can go up to level 40 by default, SR to 60, and SSR to 80. You can acquire items to go beyond these limits. You can also improve spell levels from level 1 to 10. At least one of the two attacks will get a boost at level 5. Finally, upon reading/watching an individual’s cards story segments and completing some other requirements (including acquiring items), you can give it a permanent boost (Groovy).
To do these, you will need to complete Lessons. This is where the game’s playtime limits come into play. You earn 1 LP every 15 minutes, up to a max of 10. 1 LP can be used to complete 1 Lesson. There are three types: History, Flight, and Alchemy, and they all involve the adorable chibi characters.
History earns experience for Cards. Flight increases Vignette levels for Groovification. For these Lessons, you choose a main card and four additional ones of different characters. Unlike in fights, you cannot have two Cards featuring the same character in class. Lessons will click down from 7, with each one randomly selecting a character to earn one, two, or three stars. The main card (your study buddy) has the highest chance of being picked. At the end, stars go to boosting the character’s gauge. Each Lesson also gradually increases a special gauge which makes the next 5 turns automatic three stars. Completing either Lesson earns up to three items to use to further level up Card Level and Vignette.
Alchemy Lessons are basically the same. However, unlike History and Flight, you are limited as to which students you can pick that day. The characters are divided into five groups, and they rotate. For instance, one group is Deuce, Cater, Floyd, and Kalim, so if you want to work on your Riddle card, you will need to check the calendar for his group’s appearance. Alchemy Lessons can earn spell upgrading items, but the four element types rotate each day. In addition, you only select one additional card to complete the Lesson. This is based upon which Card you choose to do Alchemy with. Every Card has at least one Buddy (SR two, SSR three), and if you send in any card with the Buddy character, either the card’s HP or POW stat will increase a bit. So for instance, the card Ace School Uniform (R) has a Buddy Bonus with Deuce. So put Ace School Uniform with any Deuce card into battle, and the Modest HP Boost ability will activate to give you a some extra health. Buddy Levels can only be increased by Alchemy and go up to 10.
Optimally, you want your teams in battles to not just have the right spell elements but synergize well. So say, Character A gets a Buddy Bonus with B, and B with C, but C also gets a Buddy Bonus with A. You particularly want to plan your teams and turns well with your SSR cards. Level up their key spell to level 5, and the spell will name one of the card’s Buddy options. If you activate that spell in the same round as the listed Buddy, the spell will become more powerful (Duo Magic).
Beyond that, you need money (Thaumarks) to make upgrades, and there are items to increase your LP, change the homescreen background, and, most importantly, draw more cards. Like other gacha games, Twisted-Wonderland features events where certain cards have a higher chance to appear or can only be acquired there. Every 100 draws in a banner is a guaranteed SSR, and if you draw 10 at once, one is guaranteed to be at least an SR. The game will give you an SR card to start, and then you will get 10 more cards. Of these 10, one will be an SSR card, and you can keep redrawing freely until you get the one and/or combination you want. You can look online for recommendations, or you can go with what you like. According to what I’ve read, you don’t need elite cards to complete the game. But as someone who wants to spend little-to-no money, I decided to go with a popular suggestion.
Completing Lessons earns experience for Player Rank, which you must raise in order to be allowed to continue the story. This is capped at the moment. Player Rank will also refill (and overflow if applicable) your LP and increase your friend limit. The game also has goals (Missions) that award goodies, from one-time-only events to a small batch that refreshes weekly. These include everything from completing a Story segment the first time to doing well on Twistunes to just completing a number of Lessons with a character and more. You can also check out the Shop section to spend Lesson drops and other items for things you need, some of which are limited to one forever or per month. Shop guy talks too much by the way — let me browse in peace!! There are also limited-time events, like boosted card upgrades for certain cards or completing the next part of the story before a deadline.
Now, there’s little doubt the Disney backing serves this game well. The graphics are gorgeous, complete with character designs drawn by the creator of Black Butler. Of course, they’re all handsome — I did mention the harem/reverse harem-like atmosphere after all! But we have beastmen, delinquents, overly serious types, wannabe NEETs — all clad in their unique versions of Night Raven College’s uniforms. Character sprites are vivid and have some dynamics to them (blinking, mouth flaps, rising/falling to simulate breathing), and there are some great shock faces. NPCs with their grayed-out eyes are a bit freaky though. Anyway, anime fans will likely recognize many of the names voicing the characters and/or their previous roles, from Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba‘s Tanjiro to Uta no Prince-sama‘s Ai and Naruto‘s Sasuke starring as Grim the mascot. Character names and backgrounds all reflect the Disney atmosphere — go look for some Hidden Mickeys!
The story so far is very intriguing, and I enjoyed a surprise development. I’m a little worried things may be a bit repetitive though. There are seven dorms, and it seems like the story is going to rotate through them as Yu gets to know the main characters from each one. Well, true, it’s hardly uncommon for a story (especially a harem-like one like this) to concentrate on one character/group and then move on to the next to introduce everyone or get them close to the protagonist. However, I wish the main story had at least done a better job of providing some introductions for at least most of the case. As you complete Lessons, you unlock little stories for Cards, but when I watch them to get rid of the nagging in-game notifications, I don’t feel as invested as I should in many of them since Yu hasn’t met them. Like, the fact one of the 22 is a robot isn’t a surprise to anyone who has eyes, but one card (and no, not featuring him) features someone I thought would have been an unlikely ally working on him.
Obviously, it’s going to be impossible to avoid some of these spoilers/things set in the “future” because players need to upgrade their cards, but I wish it didn’t feel like it’s going to be quite a while to meet people beyond the dorm at the center of each Book. Or even like have Yu go on a dorm tour where there’s an unofficial introduction to everyone to kind of get a vibe of everyone instead of so much of the initial exposure coming from the Cards and Lessons.
Another downside is that since this game only has Japanese voiceovers, there are some comments that don’t have text boxes. Even though they’re usually just throwaway lines like finishing a Lesson, they still will be missed by non-Japanese speakers.
Most annoying though is the fact you can’t play on multiple devices. Especially since 2 1/2 hours can fly by to refill your LP. This is one of the game’s many ways to try to prevent players from becoming overpowered. But it’s just as annoying that, while you can put Lessons on repeat, they still can be rather slow. There’s an auto function and a loop option, but honestly, x5 speed or even a screen of just the game calculating the randomness would be better. Characters have to say a line, the stars (and item if lucky) has to go to their bank, and then repeat several more times. Even though I usually just walk away and do something else, it still seems to take longer than needed. Just a waste of time and device battery.
Also, Lessons as a way of leveling your Card starts plateauing very quickly. Like, the number of stars needed for Card EXP dramatically increases around level 6, and it just keeps climbing. You are basically grinding for items, and even then, the cost to upgrade jumps a lot. Same with other Card stats. Yes, I’m sure the makers don’t want OP players after a month or two, but trust me, the first Boss will give players a very rude awakening if they don’t rely on a Friend’s Support Card way above the game’s default level 5-7 ones.
Unless, of course, you’ve gotten a lot more cards outside of the ones you are given to begin with. Cards are drawn either by using Keys (which can be bought with Gems) or, with restrictions, Gems directly. Twisted-Wonderland unfortunately separates the Gems you receive from playing the game (such as through Missions) and the ones you paid for. Upon release, there was a promotion where 300 Gems could be spent to get a second SSR — but they had to be bought. So while there is a one-time-only pack of 300 Gems for $11.99, only 148 are paid; there was no way to avoid spending almost $25 to get that second SSR, and that’s with all the one-time-only deals!
So yeah, this game can be very expensive very quick. Gotta pay for that Disney-ness. The game does give players freebies outside of the stated Missions including 10 free Keys on one of the main characters’ birthdays. (Which, coincidentally, appear to be the only banners with a guaranteed SSR card.) Still, the chances of getting what you want in 10 cards is rather low, especially since you can’t draw individually and potentially save a few summons if you get a lucky break. According to this analysis, gamers have about a 30% chance to have pulled the featured card in a banner in under 50 draws, but again, 10 individual pulls is not the same as 10 at once. Plus, even at 200 summons, there’s still about a 5% chance you’ll have missed out on the card you are fishing for. Ouch!
I will add there are some R cards that do come highly recommended, but that also means there are some SSR cards which are evidently not that great. Either way, while you probably can’t just invest in your SR/SSR cards, you
At the same time, while you can stick with your initial batch until you are ready to try for a new SSR, you also want to make sure you’re not investing in Cards you may want to replace one day. Maybe they don’t give a Buddy Bonus to your main cards, or you have too many Balanced cards when you need Attack cards. You don’t want to be spending rare spell upgrade materials when costs soon rise to 30, 40, even 50 of the common and uncommon materials. It’s a balancing act, especially since 2 1/2 hours pass by quickly and limit your grinding capabilities.
Twisted-Wonderland is a localized game. Some of the changes are typical of localized releases.
No honorifics are used. Some of the typical Japanese politeness is removed altogether. For example, “Clover-senpai” is just “Trey”.
Madol (From mahou or magical dollar) – Thaumark
Unique Mahou (Magic) – Signature Spell
Magical Shift – Spelldrive
Takoyaki – Corn dog
Megane (Glasses, used as a nickname) – Specs
Tanuki – Weasel
A-Deuce combi (A-Deuce combo/pair) – Hunting Season, Ace Deuce
Senpai (upperclassman) – Mentor, sir
Ryouchou (Dormitory Leader) – Housewarden
Gakuenchou (Principal) – Headmage
Tako-yarou (Tako [octopus] + yarou [bastard], pun on “takoyaki”) – Cephalo-punk, octo-twerp
Tsunotarou (Tsuno [horn] + tarou [male name ending]) – Hornton
A lot of lines are altered, usually ending up being longer in English than their Japanese equivalents. I read pretty fast, but sometimes I swear was only about 1/3 of the way through when the character stopped speaking! For an example of added dialogue, one character in Japanese notes how another is really serious (as in honorable). In English, he adds a comparison to another character. Some dialogue is just made up. In one case, the character just screams. In English, he’s given a line: “Woe is anemoneee!” (Gotta admit, that one is funny.)
In general, most of the longer lines are due to adding jokes or insults (whether slight or rather blunt). One character loves social media, but his dialogue in particular is punched up with a lot of lingo.
There are a few typos, like “gotall”. One battle was missing the enemy line, so their dialogue box was blank.
Some of the English names and terms being changed can cause discombobulation between what you hear and what you read. Some of these changes I wonder if they were localizations based on Disney films that are being un-localized back to English? Like “Nandemonai no Hi” (literally “ordinary day” or “nothing special day”) for “unbirthday”.
Disney Twisted-Wonderland is a treat for the eyes and ears for Disney and anime fans, but with that comes rather strict limitations and high prices to buff your card collection. Fortunately, for players who aren’t looking to dig deep into their wallets, at least for now, it looks like the main game can be cheesed with the help of an invested player, but that also ruins the sense of accomplishment. Not having a defined protagonist kind of affects the visual novel portions thanks to its limited branching choices and generic dialogue.
Disney+ announced the upcoming anime adaptation.
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