Fantasia: Evolved review

After taking on plastic instruments and dancing, will Fantasia: Music Evolved manage to interest you in a new take on the music genre?

Harmonix has decided to bring something new to the music genre. With the help of Kinect and a collaboration with Disney, Fantasia: Music Evolved asks players to conduct along with the music, just like apprentice Mickey Mouse did 74 years ago.

Starting from the Beginning
The game’s tutorials are the best place to start as they gradually introduce you to the correct movements. Players must move their arms in the same direction as arrow-like prompts while circular prompts mean that players must quickly punch their hands forward. The gestures are simple enough until you get several in rapid succession. As the prompts can appear anywhere on the screen, it is sometimes difficult to see your cue and work out what the game is asking you to do before it’s too late.

Harmonix has managed to nail Kinect’s tracking so that missed notes are rarely the fault of the sensor, but you will still feel a little frustrated at first until you become used to the game. Each song does have a difficulty rating out of five, but there are no adjustable skill levels within the game. However, even if you are doing horribly at matching your movements to the song’s cues, it is impossible to fail a song. Eventually you’ll perfect your gestures, your movements won’t be as clumsy and rigid, and you’ll find yourself successfully linking the cues together to create your own masterpiece.

Bring in ‘da Noise
Most players will then progress to the story mode that sees you, sorcerer Yen Sid’s newest apprentice, working to earn enough stars to wear the sorcerer’s hat. Once this happens, Fantasia is attacked by a mysterious Noise. Together with Yen Sid’s previous apprentice Scout, you must defeat the Noise with music and harmonies. You begin with playing along to the original version of each of the 33 songs, but if you earn enough points in a song, you will unlock two further versions of each song for you to play with and remix. What I mean by this is that Harmonix wasn’t satisfied with getting players to simply match their movements to the cues on the screen; there is the option to remix the music to the point where it is completely possible to never play the same song twice.

Mix and Match
The three versions of each song can sound radically different. As an example, the first song that you will encounter, Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”, offers the original classical version, a synth-based calypso version and a dance version. At the start of the song you are given a chance to pick and choose your favourite parts of each mix. If you want the strings from the original version while having the synthesizer from the calypso mix and the rapid beat of the dance mix, then you can do so. If you want to completely ignore the instruments from the calypso mix and pick only from the other two versions then you can do that too — the choice is yours.

At set points throughout the song, usually when the pace slows down a little, the game will display a selection screen that allows players to swap out that instrument for another version so that you’re remixing the songs on the fly. By changing the instrument composition of a song, you also change the prompts that you have to follow. When you add the effects of the sound toys that appear at set points and allow you to add a composition of your own to the song, you really do feel like you’re conducting along to something that you created. The only problem to this is that you can only remix the song at certain points and with the instruments that the game has chosen to replace. You never have full control of the song, but the game certainly succeeds as a beginner’s guide to remixing.

Classical or dance?
The game’s soundtrack includes 33 songs although more are promised as DLC. These songs range from the classical fare that you would expect from a game based on Fantasia, to more contemporary songs from artists such as Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. Inevitably, this does mean that you will encounter a song that you don’t like. If you haven’t got the patience to play through the storyline to unlock the songs for free-play within the campaign itself, or you detest some of those songs too much, Party Mode unlocks all 33 songs right from the start. In this mode, you can even team up with a second player locally to create music together. There is no online play.

The Music Concludes
Fantasia is a sound entry into the music genre and is one of the better Kinect games on offer for both the Xbox One and the Xbox 360. While the game won’t teach players how to conduct an orchestra, it will appeal to players who enjoy music and like to experiment with different sounds. The endless variety on offer, just with the 33 songs on the disc, will keep players going for countless hours. You’ll even get a gentle workout out of it too.

Hit; Remixing means that you rarely play the same thing twice and the game stays fresh.
Miss; For a game with Fantasia in the title, it has very little to do with the film.
Need; More classical music – these were some of my favourite pieces to play.

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I'm an avid gamer across many platforms, and I love to write about them. I'll try most games once, but I draw the line at fighters and racing sims.

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