Since the very beginning of music games, players have wanted to take control of the music in rhythm games rather than just playing along side of it. Games like DJ Hero and Rock Band provide very minimum control and stuff like Wii Music feel more like noise toys than an actual game. Harmonix and Disney has finally struck a balance of customized music with gameplay in Fantasia: Music Evolved.
Fantasia: Music Evolved tasks you, as the new Sorcerer’s apprentice, to do battle with an evil that has infected the world of Fantasia called “the Noise”. You must visit a variety of hub worlds and drive back the noise by conducting one of 30+ songs using the Kinect. Successfully meeting the challenges unlocks mini games within the hub world and remixes to your existing collection of songs. Those remixes are triggered at the player’s control during gameplay with “switch hits” and allow the player to weave rock guitars and trumpets into a Nicki Minaj song, for example, thus changing the feel of the song into something new.
‘Composition Spell’ are Fantasia: Music Evolved‘s other method of customization, think of them as Guitar Solos in Guitar Hero, not only does completing them provide a huge point bonus, they also open up and allow you to create your own composition in one of 5 ways that samples the song and gets ejected into the song. This adds another layer of customization that makes each play-through that much more unique.
To complement this level of customization in gameplay, Fantasia: Music Evolved also includes a save replay function that can also allow you to upload to YouTube and One Drive. The only draw back to this is that everything is loaded to Harmonix’s YouTube page rather than your own. In order to find your performance you are only given a randomly generated ticket code you use to search Youtube and find your song.
The hub worlds are beautifully realized landscapes that evolve and come to life as you play through the game. Harmonix has always had a great visual style but this is the first time players can directly interact with the environment as part of the gameplay. Watching them spring to life is a very rewarding way to encourage play. The mini games within those hubs do a great job fuctioning as breaks between songs preventing you from getting fatigue and just powering through song after song in a setlist. In terms of single player experience, Fantasia: Music Evolved is one of the best paced music games I have ever played.
Once the story is complete, the game allows you to skip the hubs and just pick the songs you want by yourself or with a friend in a easy to use menu. Multiplayer is a cooperative competitive chase for the highest score and control over which mix is played. The results are either incredible mixes or wonky tugs of war over the direct of the song, either way is a ton of fun and sure to be a favorite at parties.
Fantasia: Music Evolved ultimately delivers on creating the Fantasia experience at home, but Harmonix’s biggest triumph is the level of control the game gives the player over a song while still feeling like a rhythm game. This game can not only be fun at a party for casual play, but core players can experiment and find the best combination of remixes to yield the highest score or to weave the best sounding song possible.
Future games by Harmonix would do well to expand on the foundation set by Fantasia: Music Evolved and release more control over how the music sounds over to the player.