E3 2014 Fantasia Music Evolved Hands-on Preview  Lost in Rhythm

E3 2014: Fantasia: Music Evolved Hands-on Preview – Lost in Rhythm

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Richard Walker

Remixes of my favourite songs are something I'd personally view as sacrilege, nine times out of ten. I usually hate hearing a song that I've been listening to for years being messed with or changed in any way, presumably because I'm past thirty years of age, and change of any kind makes me anxious. So it was with great trepidation that I tentatively stepped in front of Kinect to play Fantasia: Music Evolved with a member of the development team. A member of the development team that I'd just watched nail a dance routine in the game almost flawlessly. I cannot dance, have never been able to dance and don't really like dancing. Yes, I am a boring bastard.

However, I'm not quite boring enough to decline giving Fantasia: Music Evolved a go, and decide to have a co-op/competitive play with one of the people who made the game. To an outside viewer, Fantasia looks like typical Kinect limb flailing, but Harmonix's game demands actual rhythm and coordination, proving once again that if anyone knows how to get the best out of Kinect, it's Harmonix (and Rare, I suppose). Like Dance Central before it, Fantasia proves hugely enjoyable, making good use of Kinect, as you conduct and remix a song of your choose from the game's expansive playlist.

Asked which song I'd like to remix from the list of tunes available in the game thus far, I opt for 'Seven Nation Army' by The White Stripes. As I make the selection, it quickly dawns on me that I quite like the song that I'm about to potentially destroy by waving my arms around a bit. Feeling a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, I'm in too deep. I know that any second now, I'll be dancing and making a fool of myself in front of loads of people and possibly ruining a song I like. But as I say, I've gone too far; there's no turning back now.

First of all, I shake hands with my buddy/rival and Kinect instantly recognises that we're starting a 2-player game. A pair of avatars appear on the screen and we're good to go. It's a battle/collaboration between orange (me) and blue (Harmonix), but next we need to select the elements of the song that we're going to change or retain. Choosing from green, pink or blue versions for the song's percussion, bass, guitar, drums and so on, we decide to entirely change up 'Seven Nation Army' with a bit of synth, keeping only the original Jack White vocals in place. And away we go.

Playing Fantasia: Music Evolved is deceptively simple. A series of arrows appear on screen in various positions on the screen, and you need to move your hands gracefully in the direction indicated. If two arrows appear, then you need to wave both hands in time to the music, and should a circle appear, you're supposed thrust out and hold your hands in place. Should you get it right, the result makes you feel like you're actually getting into the rhythm, hitting your cues on time and progressing the track. Get it wrong and the music begins to gradually drown out; the equivalent to the derisive boos of the crowd in Guitar Hero.

It takes some to get used to, but I find that after a minute of two, I'm actually getting into the timing and rhythm, hitting the marks at the right time, upping my game as the music begins to falter. Soon, the song is back in full flow, and I'm surprised to find that Fantasia: Music Evolved is one of the first times I've had proper, genuine fun with Kinect on Xbox One. As new visual prompts pop up on-screen requiring different gestures or moves, the way in which they're presented makes it obvious what it is you're supposed to do without having to provide any sort of overt explanation. You're also given junctures at which you can shift the remix, changing select elements of the song as you play.

There are also a couple of instances in which you can essentially go 'freestyle', taking it in turns with your fellow player to stretch notes by grabbing two nodes and pulling them apart or bringing them together. You can twist your arms to manipulate the pitch and sound of the riff, and once you're happy with what you've created, you simply put your arms by your side and let your newly moulded riff play out and become part of the remix. It's neat touches like these that promise to ensure Fantasia remains fresh and varied, giving you new ways to play with music. Again, it's Harmonix doing what it does best.

Had I bought an Xbox One without Kinect (I didn't), I'd be tempted to get one for this. But that's purely on the basis of playing one session in multiplayer. There's a whole single-player portion that we've yet to check out, promising a journey through various worlds, whether it's beneath the sea or within magical forests and monkey manned capsules in outer space. Yet, given Harmonix's past pedigree with music and rhythm based games, it's clear that Fantasia: Music Evolved is shaping up to be another example of the developer making interacting with tunes social, intuitive and above all, fun.

Fantasia: Music Evolved is out on October 21st exclusively for Kinect on Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

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  • Can't wait looks fun
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