Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. This is a Disney music game that contains precisely zero disney music. No ‘Do you want to build a snowman’, no ‘Arabian Knights’ and no ‘Hakuna Matata’. Disney’s music has a whole culture of its own and it holds a special place in many people’s hearts. For that reason I’m confident a number of families are going to buy Disney Fantasia and be thoroughly disappointed. Instead this is a game based on some of the ideas in the Fantasia movie, but really it’s more of a typical Harmonix (Rock Band) game aimed more expressly at musos.
The first thing that should be on the front of the box is ‘Kinect actually works’. In fact they could have called the game ‘Kinect actually works’ and it’d probably be selling more copies right now. This game really needed to come out at launch as it’s the only killer app that Kinect has, but sadly it was delayed and now it might fall by the wayside as so many of us have given up on motion controls entirely. This is a rhythm game where you use gestures in reaction to on-screen prompts in time with the music. You do swipes when there’s arrows, punches where there’s circles and occasionally you have to hold your hand somewhere or trace a route. We’ve been playing for hours and hours and Kinect hasn’t failed us once. Not even once. You can even play sitting down, something normally out of reach for Kinect games but a much requested feature by all those without massive living rooms or offices to move around in.
The story in Fantasia is that you are a new apprentice to the wizard and you must learn to shape music to fight back an entity known as the ‘noise’ which has taken over various realms. It’s all fluff of course but no more so than the band tour you took part in during the Rock Band games. You go from realm to realm playing songs and the first two times you play a song you unlock a new remix and the genius of Fantasia really opens up. These remixes aren’t just different versions of the song to play, they’re split into four different tracks and as you go through the song you can choose which elements to use at any given time. So you might be listening to a weird techno remix of a classical piece but decide you watch the original violins in, you can do that, on the fly. Each song has three mixes (including the original) and while some are terrible, many of them at least have elements that are fun to listen to and play with.
Most songs also have a composition element where you can use a strange little tool (there’s five in total) to create a new melody that will insert itself into the song. The notes you pick from are all in the right key so you can’t go wrong but the game really does give you a lot of control over them and use them in the way it suggests, there’s very little trickery. It also manages to include this without breaking the pace of the song which splits up some of the lengthier tracks into a couple of different activities.
Challenge wise there’s no difficulty settings like in Rock Band. Some of the mixes are harder than others and have difficulty ratings, but essentially you’re judged on your accuracy and your score. Whenever you remix a song you build up your multiplier, but your ‘note’ (star) rating is entirely based on your accuracy. Some of the songs are genuinely difficult and tiring, but once you get into the zone it all feels natural like you’re conducting the piece, even when it’s something like ‘Seven Nation Army’.
If you play through the story you’re unlocking the songs and mixes a little slowly as you uncover more of the plot, but if you just want to jump straight into the music you can go to your music library and play it all there. You can also play songs two player locally and Kinect doesn’t have a problem with tracking two people playing at once. Notes are coloured coded so you can tell who needs to do what and occasionally they double up to keep you both in sync.
The song choice is diverse to say the least, with plenty of classical music (although no ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King, which is a travesty), some mainstream rap, a little bit of pop and some light rock. There’s something for everyone and you’re likely to come across something new that you’ll like (we’ve just discovered Depeche Mode through this) but there are very few songs compared to other music games of the last decade. You have to remember that there’s three complete version of every song.
As added extras in each world there’s little curiosities that you can navigate around using your hand. Often they’ll let you uncover a new achievement or create a new piece of music and they’re all characteristically charming and inventive in true Disney style.
Overall this is an exceptional Kinect and rhythm game and generally a good game for all. If you have any interest in rhythm games this should tide you over for a while until there’s news of a new Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The lack of Disney songs is a real shame and I imagine we’ll see something in DLC (unless Disney have a rule against remixes of their music) but we sincerely hope the recent launch of Kinectless Xbox One bundles haven’t hurt sales too much. This is an inventive and technically excellent motion controlled game, something we thought we’d never see. Now we just hope it sells enough to justify a franchise.