Disney's Fantasia was an animated epic starring Mickey Mouse designed to introduce a new generation to the wonders of classical music. It eventually became a cult classic, but Disney Interactive EP Chris Nicholls says that "Walt had always imagined Fantasia as an always-evolving platform." More than 70 years later, it appears the right combination of technology and talent has come along to make that vision become reality.
Fantasia: Music Evolved is the next game from Rock Band and Dance Central developer Harmonix. Given the studio's pedigree, there's perhaps no better fit for such a musically inclined IP. However, as Harmonix's John Drake points out, "this is not a movie game." In many ways, it's not a game at all--very much unlike the first misdirected attempt at making a Fantasia game.
Nicholls explains that Music Evolved "allows you to step into Mickey's shoes and become the sorcerer's apprentice." In this Kinect-powered experience for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, you're not necessarily trying to get a high score or jam with a band. Instead, by Yen Sid's command, you'll explore various worlds and discover "musical moments" using your body.
In the exploration half of the game, you'll interact with an environment using "the Muse," a 3D cursor controlled by your hands. By moving your hands, you'll be able to trigger various events in the world, whether it be summoning a school of fish in a coral reef, or electrocuting a pack of worker robots. These interactions can unlock new musical toys to play with, and will liven up the soundtrack of the world you're currently in.
Ultimately, your goal is to fill up a meter by collecting stars from the magical "interactions" hidden in the environments. Search hard enough, and you'll be able to open portals to the performance half of the game.
One of Fantasia's many environments
"We wanted to give you a new way of performing music," Drake explained when introducing Fantasia. While Rock Band and Dance Central were about simulation, Drake pointed out that Fantasia is "a music-creation experience. It's not just about 'can you play x path and get five stars.' It's about playing a song and making it your own."
When performing a song in Fantasia, your silhouette will appear atop the iconic pedestal that Mickey used in the original film. Here, you become a conductor, and you'll use your arms to mimic the motions of one. Arrows will appear on the screen, and you'll have to swipe your arms in that direction in time with the music. At first glance, it looks a lot like "full body Ouendan."
At key points, you'll be able to "remix" the song. Three colored options will appear on the screen, and depending on the way you swipe, you'll drastically shift the tone of the song you're playing. Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" can get an orchestral mix, a guitar mix, or a piano mix, for example. The effects last throughout the entire song, meaning additional remix points will layer upon what you've previously selected.
Other opportunities to customize the song will appear during your performance as well. For example, a challenge section will have players attempting to build a cube by waving their arms at the right time. If successful, you'll be able to create a live remix guitar solo using the "music manipulator." Using your hands, you can draw on the surface of an object, and it will record a solo that gets played back during the rest of the song.
Challenges will unlock additional remix opportunities
The end result is a song that sounds quite different from the original, and more importantly, different from other players' performances.
Over two dozen songs are promised for Fantasia's initial release, including AVICII's "Levels," Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven," Fun.'s "Some Nights," and Kimbra's "Settle Down." Of course, Harmonix being who they are, we wouldn't be surprised if Fantasia wasn't just a game--but became a platform for a future pipeline of downloadable content.
Fantasia: Music Evolved will be available in 2014 for Xbox One and Xbox 360 with Kinect.