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Fantasia: Music Evolved

Platform(s): Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Developer: Harmonix
Release Date: 2014


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Xbox One Review - 'Fantasia: Music Evolved'

by Adam Pavlacka on Oct. 21, 2014 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Fantasia: Music Evolved transports players to a breathtaking world where music and magic combine to transform extraordinary interactive landscapes in entirely new and creative ways!

Buy Fantasia: Music Evolved

Building on the premise of the original "Fantasia" film, Fantasia: Music Evolved mixes both classical and contemporary music into an experience that transcends traditional music games. Sure, games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band had us playing music, but when you break them down, those games were little more than evolved versions of "Simon." With Fantasia: Music Evolved, you're not just playing pre-recorded music, you're making it.

If you want to know what it feels like to play Fantasia: Music Evolved, all you have to do is watch the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" short from the original "Fantasia" film. The bit where Mickey is standing on the cliff, conducting the stars? Put yourself in Mickey's place, and you have a sense of what the game is like. Somehow, Harmonix has managed to capture the magic of that moment and distill it down into a game. It's more fun than you ever imagined as a kid.

The game is structured around a basic plot, which has you training as Yen Sid's new apprentice. His previous apprentice, Scout, was brilliant but unfocused. She decided to drop her training early in an attempt to master the music. Instead, she inadvertently introduced the Noise into the world. With Yen Sid missing, it is up to you and Scout to save the world from the disruption of the Noise.

Each game realm is built around a theme. For example, one is underwater, another is in a forest, one is on a winter mountaintop, another has an old city and a dragon, and so on. Within each realm are two or three songs as well as some hotspots and hidden items. In order to progress, you must unlock the remixes for each song and discover whatever is hidden in the realm. Once you've found the goodies, you can unlock a composition spell and clear the Noise from that realm.

There are five composition spells, one in each of the primary realms. Unlocking the composition spell in each realm unlocks a secondary realm with additional songs. Although they move the story along, the song remixes and the composition spells really give Fantasia: Music Evolved its magic.

When you first start playing, you only have access to the default mix of each song. As you unlock more mixes (each song has three mixes by default, and more can be purchased as DLC), you gain the ability to switch between them on the fly. This happens multiple times in a song, essentially guaranteeing that each playthrough is different. What's more, each time you switch, it is a specific element of the song (such as vocals, guitar, bass, etc.), so the mix blends nicely, rather than suddenly jumping between different styles.

In addition to the mix switching, the composition spells allow you to record your own loops by interacting with the track that is playing. Once recorded, these loops are added to the music that is already playing. It is possible to have multiple composition spells active in a song, so what you hear is most certainly different than what I hear while playing.

Controlling the game is done solely via Kinect. When you're in a song, the interaction is sublime. Notes can appear anywhere on-screen, but location has no bearing on execution. Rather than trying to mimic the exact position, you merely have to make the indicated motion anywhere within the Kinect's field of view. When I first started playing, I felt a bit awkward but soon realized that was because I was trying to play each note individually. The "magic moment" happened once I realized that the on-screen notes were designed in a choreographed pattern.

Rather than try to play each as a single instance, Fantasia: Music Evolved wants players to move in a flowing motion, much like a conductor does. Sometimes this means one arm will be moving about while the other is frozen in place. At other times, it means both arms will move in unison, either together or in opposite directions. As soon as you let go and let the music flow, the game starts to feel natural, and you start to feel like a musical badass.

As fluid as the controls are during the songs, the Kinect does stumble every now and then when exploring a realm. It's not a big issue; it's the kind of thing that you'd probably overlook in any other Kinect game. The only reason the exploration hiccups are so obvious here is because the Kinect controls are so spot-on everywhere else.

In addition to the single-player game, Fantasia: Music Evolved also has a two-player mode. To play, a second player just needs to walk up, and the two need to shake hands. In two-player mode, the game is a mix of co-op and competition. You are playing co-op because you both need to work together to open the composition spells and maximize score potential, but it is competitive because you're still competing to see who can get the higher score.

Playing co-op is slightly more difficult than playing single-player, if only because not every note is meant to be hit by both players. You need to hit your own notes as well as the combination notes, but you can ignore your opponent's notes. On the plus side, since you're not moving around, you don't have to worry about accidentally smacking your opponent in the head while playing (that's a risk when playing Dance Central).

One big plus to Fantasia: Music Evolved is the party mode option. This allows you to ignore the story mode and just jump into playing the songs. When you enable party mode, nearly all of the songs are unlocked. Goals are disabled while party mode is on, so you won't progress in the story, but other than that, you're free to play.

The music selection in Fantasia: Music Evolved is excellent. As you play through the realms, you move between classical selections (including iconic songs from the original film) as well as current music from artists like AVICII, Lady Gaga and Lorde. It's not just all super old and super new, though. Queen is here, as are Depeche Mode and New Order. When it comes to music games, there are usually a few "bad" songs that don't appeal, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a "bad" track here. Kudos to Harmonix on the selection.

Harmonix plans on releasing DLC for Fantasia: Music Evolved. The full DLC list was revealed on Oct. 10, when the tracks were inadvertently posted on Xbox Live. According to Harmonix, songs will be released in groups of three, and individual songs will retail for $1.99. The remix expansion packs will each cost $3.99.

When "Fantasia" first premiered in theaters in 1940, the film was a celebration of both music and visual artistry. Fantasia: Music Evolved continues that concept, with the added twist of making it all interactive. If there's a "must-have" game for the Kinect, this is it.

Score: 9.0/10

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