|System: Xbox One*, Xbox360|
|Pub: Disney Interactive Studios|
|Release: October 21, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Lyrics|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
Have you ever put on your favorite pop song and just wiggled your arms around like an idiot, as if your very movements were controlling the music? If so, then you will absolutely love Disney and Harmonix’s new game, Fantasia: Music Evolved, as that’s pretty much the only thing you do. Music plays, you wave your arms, and you feel absolutely awesome doing it.
Fantasia: Music Evolved has many times been called a “conducting simulator” much in the same way that Guitar Hero is a guitar simulator and DJ Hero is a turntable simulator. But, I actually think that the game has more in common with some other rhythm games, like Elite Beat Agents, and Re-Rave than it does with conducting, and that’s actually a good thing. Conducting is pretty hard and complicated, but Fantasia Music Evolved just lets you flail like a wild man in front of your Xbox One.
The basic gameplay works like this: as a song plays, you will see a number of arrows on your screen. Sparkles travel around the screen heading toward these arrows, and when they touch the base of the arrows, you are supposed to fling your arm in the arrows direction. It doesn’t particularly matter which arm you use, or where your arm was when you started your movement. As long as you move your arm vaguely in the right direction in time with the beat, the game registers a success. In fact, the game is very, very, very forgiving, no matter how you play. It’s clear that Fantasia: Music Evolved isn’t really a rhythm game built for people who are trying to memorize and master complicated patterns, but rather for people who just want to have some musical fun.
The reason why I say the game has a lot in common with Elite Beat Agents and Re-Rave is because of the tricks the game throws your way while playing. You’ll have to hold your arm in place at times, and follow drawn paths with your hand at other times. These can trip you up, of course, but when mastered they all flow together into this strange conductor like dance. This is especially noticeable when both arms are required at once. Letting one hand slowly flow down the screen while another it waving around wildly does create a feeling of actually casting some sort of arcade magical spell, which is what I think Disney was going for.
Along with this basic gameplay, Fantasia also incorporates mini-games mid-song. These are kind of a hit or miss bag. The simplest “mini-game” allows you to switch the track you are playing between 3 different remixes. This is cool as you can hear orchestral versions of pop songs, and up beat techno remixes of classical music. However, switching the remixes often does give songs a feeling of disjointedness. It makes it a little harder to appreciate the original audio track when it’s constantly changing itself around.
The more complex mini-games only get more distracting from there. Most of these allow you to “add” to the music somehow. This includes games that alter the drumline, incorporate different melodies, add warble and distortion effects to vocals, and more. The only problem, however, is that the motion controls don’t really work well for these games. While the basic controls are forgiving, these games call for an absurd degree of accuracy. A small drop of the hand or flick of the wrist and you’ll be adding notes you never wanted to. Not to mention the gestures used to “save” your compositions very often cause you to add more accidental notes in as well. This combined with the fact that most people simply don’t have the skill needed to actually compose music, makes these mini-games kind of cacophonous distractions more than a core part of the game, and when at all possible I opted to simply ignore these games and continue on with my basic rhythm gameplay.
There is a single-player story mode which… frankly doesn’t hold itself up to Disney’s storytelling standards. There is a destructive force called The Noise out there, and you along with sorcerer Yen Sid, are teaming up to combat it… with music! The story is cheesy, and doesn’t have that same Disney lighthearted feel that you would come to expect. Instead, it feels forced, like a quickly whipped up piece of fiction shoehorned in to give you impetus to continue the single-player mode. That being said, you’ll play through the single-player mode anyway. This is how you unlock songs and “spells” with which to customize them. So expect to strap in and go on a single-player journey for a couple hours.