Disney Fantasia: Music EvolvedOverview -
Harmonix Music Systems is a game studio full of musicians and has been since their first title, 'Frequency', was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001. They contributed, arguably more than anyone else, to the rhythm game craze that surged on for years well after the late-90s 'Dance Dance Revolution' (among other games) had seemed like just a genre title. They invented the 'Guitar Hero', 'Rock Band', and 'Dance Central' franchises and managed to survive the 2010 rhythm game implosion, when their chief competitor folded up all of the various 'Hero' imprints. It has been over two years since the last 'Rock Band' but Harmonix has been hard at work on other projects.
Disney’s 'Fantasia' franchise began in 1940 with the first film, an animated roadshow feature full of orchestral music. It was only their third animated feature (after 'Snow White' and 'Pinocchio') and the first movie ever to use stereo sound. The series has slowly expanded through the decades, including an animated sequel, a theme park ride, a few early video games, and even a live-action Nicolas Cage vehicle based on a single segment of the original movie (itself based on a much older German poem). This segment, called 'The Sorcerer’s Apprentice', is also the basis of Harmonix’s 'Fantasia: Music Evolved'.
The visuals of 'Fantasia' are not outstanding. There are some pretty effects in the menu and realm maps, and while the pyrotechnics displays during the songs are colorful and bombastic, the geometry and textures are not up to snuff. This is not next-gen by any means. Many colors are washed out and the blacks are shallow and blocky. I have not played the 360 version, but I have a feeling they look pretty similar.
'Fantasia' has a great soundtrack with a wide range. From its source material it has carried on the tradition of classical music, such as the work of Mozart, Vivaldi, and Tchaikovsky. To appeal to a younger crowd it also includes contemporary pop and dance like Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga. It has older rock, alt rock, new wave, and a bunch of other styles from the last few decades.
Each song has its original recording and at least two mixes that can be unlocked. The mixes can differ radically for each song, and different selections can be made throughout the song. Between the mixing, selectable instrumentation, and even player-made compositions mid-song, each playthrough is different and the music becomes very eclectic. Some of the mix effects are so dramatic that it fundamentally alters the base song.
In between songs, I was able to explore small, vibrant maps. The Kinect cursor generates sound as it moves through the environment, letting me make my own music even in what would normally be just a simple menu. Some of them are very beautiful, and I spent a long time in one particular mushroom patch, happily waving my arm around and experimenting with the different percussion, string, and horn sounds. Moving the Kinect cursor (called the Muse) over each little mushroom generates a distinct sound, and the sounds could be strung together as I wished to make my own background music for that particular realm. It’s a completely optional experience that adds a personal touch, and 'Fantasia' is full of them.
'Fantasia' is a joy to play from start to finish. It has smart, addictive Kinect features, a great (if limited) soundtrack, and uses its source material wisely. It has a few things holding it back, like its weak visuals, frequent load times, and choppy menu navigation. Even taking those into account, this is easily one of the best Kinect-based games to date and is more than worth a long look.
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