The Xbox community are, on the whole, a sane bunch but give them the stand to chat about Kinect and the conversation could go one of two ways. Some fall in the camp of those who absolutely love it, others hate it. And it’s the latter who will be missing out on Fantasia: Music Evolved…..the game that makes the very best use of Kinect yet!
I have to admit to being a fan of Kinect, especially the Xbox One variant. It’s been up and running from day dot and I seriously couldn’t do without it. But up until now, I probably haven’t been using the motion and voice technology to full effect, instead relying on it to switch my Xbox on and off, turn my TV volume up and down and occasionally navigate to a game when I can’t be bothered switching the controller on (yep, that lazy!).
I say up until now because just recently I’ve been amazed at what else Kinect can do. It can power a game that is tremendous fun; a game that may well usher in a whole new way of thinking.
That game is of course Fantasia: Music Evolved.
Transporting you into the magical world of the famous Fantasia, Music Evolved gives you the opportunity to become an apprentice to the legendary sorcerer Yen Sid as you take on an immersive journey across realms filled by music, magic and wackiness. There’s a little wizard hat with your name on it and in order to get it placed firmly on your head, you need to help Yen Sid and the ever accommodating guide ‘Scout’, clear the numerous magical realms that have been inflicted by the ‘Noise’. In what is much more akin to those old favourites Guitar Hero and Rock Band than it is to the likes of Dance Central and Just Dance, Evolved is a blast from the very first moment right up until the very last, with a pick up and play nature that everyone will enjoy.
And yes, even those who are too self-conscious to play games that require you to stand in the middle of a room and flail your arms around will still want to get involved.
Yep, that includes me.
Fantasia Music Evolved is one of those games that can be learnt in a matter of minutes but only those who spend many hours with it will ever fully master the way of the sorcerer. A series of on-screen ‘cues’ will prompt you to push, sweep or hold your way to success and Harmonix have set things up in such a way that other than your arms, the rest of your body requires very little movement. Think of yourself as a conductor bringing all the relevant sounds in together to make one huge magical story and you’ll be somewhere along the right lines.
And that conductor feel becomes more prominent the more you play it as Music Evolved does exactly what it says on the tin, allowing you to ‘evolve’ the basic tracks laid out in front of you into a style that you want to see, hear and of course play.
This is done in a couple of ways.
Firstly via the remixes that Harmonix have kindly included directly into the game. Depending on how well you conduct yourself across the standard track, hit a set score and you’ll get the opportunity to unlock a couple more remixes which can be included (or not) if you so wish. Throwing a rock or ska feel onto Bruno Mars or taking The Who’s ‘The Real Me’ and spinning some orchestral sounds over the top of it means each song can really be manipulated in a way we’ve never seen before in a rhythm title, but in a way that we really want to see more of in the future.
But Harmonix don’t want to do all the hard work for you and throughout each magical realm you visit there are numerous ‘Hotspots’ that let you create your own short bursts of joy and Composition spells scattered throughout the tracks that let you do the exact same thing. Controlled by the movement of one or two hands, each spell will give your tracks it’s own unique twist and it’s lovely to see the player given more to do than just hitting those cues over and over again.
There are times however when you just want to get on with conducting the music that is set out in front of you and occasionally the Hotspots and Composition spells break up the flow a little. Thankfully these distracting moments are rare and for the most part populated intelligently.
A game such as this couldn’t thrive without a track listing of the highest quality and Music Evolved has been treated to 30+ tracks from rock, some pop and even some orchestral movements that will all be instantly recognisable to all ages. We’ve already mentioned that Bruno Mars and The Who are included in the game but we also see the likes of Nicki Minaj, Bowie and Cee Lo Green added whilst the real heavyweights of Mozart, Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky appear throughout. It’s a great collection of tunes that should just about cover all generations of players.
Whilst it’s a fairly mixed up set of genres included, each and every track fits in brilliantly with the whole magical feel and before you know it, you find yourself throwing those arms around to great effect, losing yourself in the whole excitement of things. It’s possibly one of the most immersive games I’ve played for a good long while and the fascination with hitting note streaks, unlocking song mixes and ultimately grabbing as many Golden Notes as you can, make seconds turn into minutes and minutes into hours.
Fantasia: Music Evolved can also be played with a friend in the same room (no online multiplayer unfortunately) and even in an average sized room, Kinect picks out both players perfectly and is seemingly happy at collecting the exact movements of numerous limbs at once. If you do play with a friend, then you’ll need to focus a little more on hitting the correct colour cues for your person and this can take a little getting used to, especially after hammering the single player campaign as a loner.
The addition of a ‘Party Mode’ lets you get right down with all tracks unlocked from the get go and is a great way to experience the game with a partner, bringing a bit of a competitive edge to things as the more notes you hit, the higher your note streak will be and the more golden notes you’ll get to unlock ‘as a team’ at the end of the song.
Possibly the only thing that may be seen as a letdown for a few would be the exclusion of any form of difficulty mode. Granted each track available has been ranked from easiest (1*) to hardest (5*) but once you’ve grabbed the five Golden Notes on offer for each track, there isn’t an awful lot to make you go back and play through it again. If we go back to what Harmonix did with Guitar Hero, throwing more cues in the harder the level you decided to play at, it would have been nice to see the same kind of things included again…but then on the other hand that may just put some off.
Overall, Fantasia: Music Evolved is a bit of a shock to my system. It works flawlessly with Kinect and incorporates the best motion controlled UI I’ve so far seen in a game that doesn’t rely on a controller. Even once the campaign is complete, it offers enough replayability through the various remixes and DLC add-ons to keep you going for a good 20+ hours. Grab a friend as well and this becomes more than a game; it becomes a magical experience that just begs you to get involved in. Oh, and it works just as well if you are sitting down as well….a rare thing for a motion enabled game.
If you don’t own Kinect for Xbox One go buy the standalone unit right now….and pick up a copy of Fantasia Music Evolved at the same time!