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Fantasia: Music Evolved (XB1) Review

"Kinect's Next Killer App is Here"
When Fantasia: Music Evolved was first announced by Harmonix and Disney Interactive, fans were obviously skeptical how Harmonix will tackle such a classic Disney franchise. They should of known Harmonix’s past experiences in the rhythm genre from Rock Band and Dance Central to have faith with Fantasia. In addition, the Kinect’s killer app has been the Dance Central series and with the device reduced to not being bundled with the Xbox One, it seems that Kinect’s days are numbered. Fantasia: Music Evolved is indeed the next killer app for the Xbox One’s Kinect camera and it is an one of a kind experience once you start playing.

This Fantasia game has a main campaign with a storyline besides just conducting classical and modern songs. The story itself isn’t much but it is essential to play to unlock songs and mixes. You’re Yen Sid’s next apprentice and the Noise is disrupting the various realms, so it is up to you and another apprentice by the name of Scout to clean up the realms with mixing the game’s 30+ songs and unlocking composition spells. It is underwhelming for Fantasia fans expecting a similar story from the films and it is over in a few hours, but the interactive realms you explore are the stars of the campaign.
The realms like the Shoal pictured above have magic fragments for you to find to unlock it’s composition spell. These fragments can be gained by unlocking mixes in the songs provided in the realm and making music in various hotspots. These hotspots allow you to interact more with the environments like the fish in the Shoal to come up with a melody. Besides the underwater realm, more realms range from forests, urban cities, power plants, and even a space capsule. Besides interacting with the realms providing melodies, the real meat of Fantasia: Music Evolved’s gameplay is in the actual songs you play.

Fantasia is all about conducting a song with various mixes by hand motions. Most cues are simple sweep motions while there are also cues that require a push, hold and a trace motion. The game is also pretty forgiving in the motions you use as long they’re going in the appropriate direction shown on screen. The gameplay videos in this review thanks to the game’s YouTube upload feature may seem daunting at first glance, but once you actually play it, it is something special. The game’s tutorial does a good job of teaching the basics, but it lasts a hour longer than it should in the campaign. It does take a while to get going and the unlock progression is not surprising assuming if you played past Harmonix games where the original mix is only playable the first time you play a song. As long as you meet the score goal to unlock a pink or green mix, which is pretty easy, that mix is available to switch from now on. While playing these songs encourage multiple playthroughs to unlock the mixes, it is well worth it just by messing around with them in a variety of ways.
In many aspects, Fantasia: Music Evolved is Harmonix’s “DJ Hero” except you don’t have a turntable to manipulate the music and you’re using your hands alone instead. When a switch cue comes on screen, you can switch from one mix to another with the instrument highlighted to increase the score multiplier. Ever wanted to mix in some dubstep in a classical song or add more orchestral flavor into something you hear from today’s mainstream radio stations? Well this Fantasia game is your answer and boy some of the mixes Harmonix came up for the soundtrack is truly impressive. It made me appreciate most of the songs in a whole new way and who would of thought a ska remix of Bruno Mars’s “Locked Out of Heaven” would that be awesome.

I mentioned composition spells earlier and not about they’re used when playing a song. These spells are like Rock Band’s big ending and Dance Central’s freestyle mode where you have some time to mess more around with synthesized effects for a song’s instrumental or vocal. From the beat chopper to the FX sculptor, these mini-games are a good quick break from the songs but I wish these can be turned off like freestyle in Dance Central. You can spend as much time trying to find a perfect combo of effects to use for the rest of the song, but these sections can last seconds if you feel like it.
The soundtrack is a great mix of classical and modern tunes, but for Disney fans, it is lacking on the Disney song department. There is “Let It Go” from Frozen as a download code, but it is the Demi Lovato version assuming you’re hoping for the actual movie version (which Just Dance 2015 has). On the classical department are the most popular songs you’ll know just by hearing them from the “Nutcracker Melody” to “Night on Bald Mountain” (video below) and more. In terms of modern music, you got today’s hits that you’re probably sick of hearing on the radio from “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons as well as songs by Lady Gaga, Drake, Nicki Minaj and many more. For those that prefer earlier stuff but not classical, there’s also some Elton John, Depeche Mode and Queen too.

Fantasia: Music Evolved has multiplayer up to two players where a second player can join up by shaking the first player’s hand. Each player has their own cues to follow on the gameplay screen. Similar to Rock Band and Dance Central is a 5-star scale on how well you score during a song and gold stars for only 100% As mentioned earlier, performances can be saved and also upload to YouTube via the game’s official channel. Even if you’re tired of messing around with the 30+ songs available on disc, DLC songs are available to purchase on a regular Harmonix schedule just like how they did with their previous games unless you already the deluxe digital bundle on the Xbox Store where some are only out on that for now.
Harmonix has done it again delivering a rhythm game and Kinect experience unlike no other with Fantasia: Music Evolved. From the gameplay being special when performed, the impressive mixes contained in the soundtrack and the simplicity of the Kinect controls, this game is definitely a hit when playing alone and also at parties with friends. The experience may seem intimidating at first just by watching someone else play, but you’ll be conducting with ease once you actually play it for yourself. The single player campaign is a little underwhelming and the tutorial is longer than it needed to be, but this is the best way Fantasia can be brought to for the modern crowd. It probably won't have the same word of mouth effect that Rock Band got in it's glory days, but I do hope Fantasia recaptures that feeling. Xbox owners that have a Kinect should not miss out on this one of a kind game.
  • Interactive and beautiful realms to explore in the campaign manipulating music
  • Gameplay is truly special when switching from one mix to another
  • Most of the game's mixes made me appreciate the songs in a new and better way
  • Kinect controls are simple & forgiving
  • Soundtrack can be hit and miss especially for Disney fans expecting more Disney songs
  • The campaign's story is underwhelming compared to the films
  • The composition spell mini-games are cool at first but I wished there is an option to turn off like Dance Central's freestyle mode
  • The campaign takes a while to get started thanks to the long tutorial


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