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Fantasia: Music Evolved (Xbox One) Review

 
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At A Glance...
 

Formats: Xbox One, Xbox 360
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
8.0
8/ 10


User Rating
1 total rating

 

We Liked?


  • Innovative gameplay
  • Gives you the tools to explore the musical compositions
  • Moments of real creativity
  • Wide ranging soundtrack

Not So Much?


  • Lack of actual Fantasia tracks or real cohesive inclusion in the original movies world
  • Gating the songs in your music exploration game is a puzzling decision
  • Sometimes visual actions are lost in a sea of activity and animations
  • Soundtrack seems to struggle for an audience demographic


Final Fiendish Feelings?

Fantasia: Music Evolved deserves our respect and our pity.  Once the forefront of next generation Kinect 2.0 development, this title now stands as possibly its swansong.  Thought if someone was writing your final act, Harmonix would be a safe bet. Synonymous with the rhythm game genre since before Amplitude, Harmonix have taken a pinch of […]

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Posted November 1, 2014 by

 
Final Fiendish Feelings?
 
 

Fantasia: Music Evolved deserves our respect and our pity.  Once the forefront of next generation Kinect 2.0 development, this title now stands as possibly its swansong.  Thought if someone was writing your final act, Harmonix would be a safe bet.

Synonymous with the rhythm game genre since before Amplitude, Harmonix have taken a pinch of their older franchises and laced it with a little Disney magic to try and bring us something a little unique.

This time out rather than wielding plastic instruments or dancing like a drunken gazelle you conduct the music onscreen using a series of hand gestures.  Rather than a rolling note-lane or a silhouetted dance figure you have small arrows, circles and pathways appear on screen.  Matching the direction of the arrow, thrusting out when a circle hits or sweeping a hand in a direction to hold a note will keep the action flowing.

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The basics of Fantasia: Music Evolved are shown to you, almost exhaustively, over the initial hour of play.  The initial song you play will give you a glimpse of each mechanic, then you’ll play a song for each one in turn.  Thorough this may be but it’s not exactly exciting and feels a little drawn out to say the least.

Past this initial guided tour you will be faced with the mighty sorcerer Yen Sid.  Those familiar with the inspiration behind the game, the original 1940s movie Fantasia, will recognise Yen Sid as the Sorcerer that teaches Mickey Mouse.  Yen Sid is just starting to guide you in your training when he suddenly disappears.  Suddenly the realms that Yen Sid looks over are overcome with “The Noise”.  An all engulfing sound that threatens life in each realm.  With the help of Scout, another of Yen Sid’s apprentices, you need to visit each realm and collect enough sound waves to break through The Noise.

So story wise it’s not going to set the world alight, but it serves as a loose premise to visit each distinct region and perform an eclectic mixture of tunes.  Mirroring the look of Fantasia when Mickey Mouse if “conducting” the heavens your shadowy outline will be stood at the base of the screen on an elevated section.  It’s a nice touch.  As a song plays out you sweet a hand to mirror the directions of the arrows on screen.  A ball appears and flies towards a target on screen, so you punch out at the point it meets the screen.  Other moves include holding certain poses to prolong a note or performing a series of rapid actions to unlock the in-game mixers.

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These mixers present an opportunity to use freeform sounds of your own devising and have them mix in with the backing track.  You could be moving around a sphere, each line playing a different note, or brushing past gem stones that each play a note.  These sections allow you to record a small snippet and then save it.  This “saved” sequence then plays along with the rest of the tune.  It’s a nice break of pace and works more often than it doesn’t.

As well as these chances to add loops you can also determine the style of the song playing back.  When given the opportunity, usually after reaching a score based goal, you can alter the style of playback.  Each of the 30 or more tracks comes with two remixes.  These remixes can be weaved in and out throughout the course of the level simply by gesturing towards the required mix at key points.  This can lead to some interesting musical mash-ups.  Not all of them work as well as they should but for the most part they offer a good variety with some sounding even better than the original compositions.

Whilst talking over the music, the heart of any rhythm game, I have to say I was a little disappointed that more of the actual music from Fantasia was not included in Fantasia: Music Evolved.  There are some solid musical pieces in the mix, yet not all of them make sense for what should be a family/child oriented game.  How many kids like watching motion fireworks whilst a remix of Message in a Bottle is played?  The tunes on offer do, however, appeal greatly to me – whether I’m really their target audience or not though I’m unsure.

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It must be said though that, despite your views on the suitability, the music on offer is well produced and thoughtfully mixed.   Laying an 8-bit track over New World Symphony isn’t something every game offers you the tools to do.  It’s Harmonix’s musical prowess that pushes Fantasia: Music Evolved through the tough times.

As Harmonix demonstrated with arguably the only viable Kinect franchise, Dance Central, they know how to get the best out of the Kinect hardware.  Most of the time failures to hit notes in the game can be blamed solely on the player themselves rather than Kinect fudging up.  That said there are times when things fail to register and that can lead to frustration, which can lead to you being thrown off your rhythm and losing a load of points.  The only area where the game struggles is during navigation around the realms.  Holding up one hand you then move a glowing orb to investigate portions of the screen and select your next level.  This can sometimes be a frustrating mess as you gesticulate wildly trying to get the ball in place.  Also to move around the realm you must take a step or two to either side, thus moving the viewing area around the realm.  This can prove far too sensitive at times with you taking several tries just to line up the screen.

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Visually the game is strong, as you might expect from a Disney back project.  The game leans heavily on the abstract nature of some of the sequences from the original movie opting for movement and light over coherent shapes and structure.  That said there are many brief scenes played out in the background as you perform your song.  These are, mostly, lost on the player as they concentrate solely on the screen prompts.  For by-standers the repetition of the sequences soon grate.

Exploration around the actual realms reveals more and more of the whimsical Disney vibe of the movies era and help tie together the two parts of Fantasia: Music Evolved.  Without these areas and the attention lavished on them it would feel distinctly like you spliced two separate titles together.

A general question has to be levelled about who’s this game actually for?  The initial premise is highly accessible, bright and colourful.  Yet you’re then forced in to a restrictive and elongated tutorial.  The colourful visuals and perky character of Scout almost screams out traditional Disney child magic, yet the song mix seems aimed at the 30-something plus crowd.

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Final Thoughts

Fantasia: Music Evolved is a more than reasonable attempt by Harmonix to make a “conducting” game.  Unfortunately it never really gives you that some “I’m a god!” feeling you used to get from pulling off a guitar solo in Rockband.  What it does though is offer a unique and inviting way you experience music.

The intricate and intriguing mash-up nature of mixing instrument types dynamically as a song plays is inspired.  Allowing you to experiment and have fun with music, making it feel a little like your own.  The slow progression through the story, which holds back access to the song library until completion, is a puzzling decision at best.  Sticking a wall between your audience and what you’ve created seems almost like a tactic to prolong game time.  Yes, you can enter party mode, slip a switch, and the songs are available, but you’ll get no achievements whilst in this mode.  It just makes it a little frustrating is all.  For a game that wants you to explore music, encourages you to experiment with the tools at your disposal, it just jars considerably to hide large amounts away from you.

Regardless of these niggles and quirks Fantasia: Music Evolved is a wonderful musical experience.  And audio experience like no other.  If this indeed the last hurrah for Kinect then Fantasia is certainly a high note to go out on.


Zeth

 
Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.