As a massive Disney fan, I get excited about anything involving the name. When it doesn’t involve your standard “movie game” licensing, I get even more excited. When you combine it with Harmonix, a company known for fantastic music games, it’s really worth checking out.
Fantasia is such a classic. Even if you don’t know it, you know it. It has memorable music borrowed from history and fantastic animation curated by Disney legends. As a huge Disney World fan, PhilharMagic only added another way to appreciate this movie and mix it with films from the “renaissance” of Disney animation.
Needless to say, I was fairly excited to learn what this game would be. The first trailer featured a fantastic remix of Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven,” and while a lot of people remained skeptical, I believed it would be more than that. In many ways, it is.
Fantasia: Music Evolved uses a whole lot of interesting techniques to take a rather simple complex and turn it into a fun experience that is both rewarding and challenging. The Xbox One and Xbox 360’s necessary Kinect take your reflexes and hand eye coordination and test them through the use of arrows on-screen representing swipes. You “conduct” to the beat of the song, swiping in the direction of the arrow. If you miss, the song gets very quiet and you break your streak. Maybe it’s because I can expert all instruments in Rock Band and Guitar Hero, but making slick use of the Kinect, I’m happy to say I rarely had any trouble keeping a long streak. As a bonus, the game doesn’t penalize you for using one arm or the other. In fact, in many cases it is necessary to use both. Other common moves include a “hold,” where you swipe up into a circle, holding your hand in place. More challenging songs will have you hold with one hand and swipe with the other.
It’s for this reason that the simplicity ultimately causes problems when it comes to the main story mode. The game as mentioned features a wide variety of moves. However, there is a tutorial for every single one of them. This also is not just a sample of a song, it’s the entire song. This basically leads to the tutorial being well over an hour in length before branching out into the actual story. While I understand this game is for all ages, I think perhaps keeping the tutorial down to two songs or even less would have been more than enough. The art direction is fantastic and colorful, arming the game with incredibly well made set pieces that really keep things fun. It’s also a bonus that Yen Sid guides you through the game. If I have one other issue with the campaign, it requires you to play many of the songs to unlock them in free mode. I’ve personally never been a fan of this because I play many songs I frankly have zero interest in playing. That’s not to say the remixes aren’t amazing, however.
Mixing in a list between classical pieces found in Fantasia, today’s pop hits, and a little bit of other tunes, the track list in the game is a fine mix with bits and pieces for everybody. One minute you can be swiping vigorously to Avicii’s “Levels” and immediately jumping into The Police’s “Message in a Bottle.” It is the music altering and remixes that make Fantasia Music Evolved super cool. In addition to letting the player mix and match instruments through usually about four different remixes at once, you can physically alter the music. From a player’s experience, it never sounds terrible. For example, in Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” I can choose to play it with an acoustic guitar section and electronic drums, which will boost my multiplier. From there (with enough combo), I can then swipe a 3D shape to bring up a way to give my music its own unique sound. Perhaps it will give me a synthesizer scale to go up and down, or in some cases it lets you physically alter the wave. You then will have this playing over your own remix for the remainder of the tune.
Fantasia Music Evolved takes some of my favorite pieces in rhythm games and provides a fun, unique spin on them. The combos and multipliers are fun and you’re always into whatever song you’re playing, even if you don’t necessarily enjoy it. I managed to five-star almost every song I played while being excited to hear what crazy remix I could make. Party mode is fun and has two player multiplayer, letting you jump in and perform team combos that sometimes provided fun results. While DLC is already out and plenty more planned, I do wish there was a heavier Disney element (more tunes and set pieces from their library). I had almost all the moves down after thirty minutes (without help from the unnecessarily long tutorial) and it never gets unbelievably complex, but it still manages to be a fresh concept that makes great use of the Xbox consoles’ Kinect and being an overall fun time.
*Fantasia Music Evolved was reviewed using an Xbox One retail key provided by Harmonix.*