Harmonix is a company that I’m always willing to place a lot of faith in, as they’ve impressed me time and time again with their addictive music machinations, from Frequency and Amplitude, to the original Guitar Hero and their original vision of Rock Band as a music platform. Fantasia may be a Kinect-only game for the Xbox One, but if there’s one company who can pull it of, then surely it’s the guys who made the original Kinect tolerable with the Dance Central series.
Fantasia, as the name suggests, is a collaboration between Harmonix and Disney to bring the famous motion picture to life on Xbox One. As the representative from Harmonix mentioned at E3, the game takes after Walt’s vision for the original Fantasia film, which was to bring classical music to a young audience through animation and spectacle. Music Evolved takes a broader selection of music, ranging from the classical to the modern, with everything from Dvorak’s ‘Symphony No.9 from the New World’ to Fun’s ‘Some Nights’. All of these tracks contain several remixes, opening the door for future DLC which might include further different versions of existing tracks. They can also all be split into their component instruments, which is where the gameplay of Fantasia begins.
Most of the gameplay in Fantasia: Music Evolved sees you hitting targets on-screen with motion from both your hands, and following their paths in time with the music. The effect, to the outside observer, is obviously meant to reflect Mickey Mouse from the famous Fantasia short, ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’, where Mickey conducted the forces of magic with his bare hands to do his bidding. It’s not surprising then, that to many including Tommy Tallarico at Video Games Live at E3 2014, the game is known as ‘Conductor Hero’. However, that’s not all there is to it. At certain moments of the song, you’ll have to select an instrument, or section of the symphony, you want to amplify – such as the percussion, the brass, the electric guitar. This changes the on-screen colours and graphics, as well as letting you ‘remix’ the song on your own. Occasionally, gimmicks appear on the screen like a cube you must swipe to unlock its contents, or a mini-game that lets you play your own notes or create your own loop.
The Kinect was a little sensitive on the showfloor demo when we tried it out – too quickly interpreting subtle movements (or even no movement) as a choice when selecting an instrument, but for the most part the game worked really well. At E3, in front of a crowd of people taking photos of you that will no doubt be uploaded somewhere embarrassing, you do feel a little exposed, but at the same time I was so engrossed by the appealing visual design and sound mixing that it didn’t seem to matter. Anyone can download all the tracks on offer in Fantasia: Music Evolved on iTunes, or listen to them on YouTube, but what this game offers that’s unique is the ability to remix the song your own way, making the music yours in an interactive way that not many other games have managed to accomplish (the last game which almost achieved this was probably Harmonix’s own Amplitude). And it all manages to sound great too!
If you buy one game for your Kinect, Fantasia: Music Evolved is shaping up to be the game to beat this year, when it’s relased on 21 October.