The first time I saw “Fantasia,” I think I was 5 or 6. Being a young child who thrived on traditional narratives, I didn’t much like the movie at the time. The Disney offerings I was used to seeing were more along the lines of Bambi and Cinderella. But even back then, there was one segment in Fantasia that left a definite impression on me. Set to the dramatic music of Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” the scene shows a massive demon spreading darkness over the land, summoning bats and skeletons along the way. That was the first time I really felt the power of music to set a mood and tell a story all on its own. It was, quite simply, magical. Playing that same piece of music in Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, even though the visuals are different, brought me right back into that dark theater, only this time I felt like the all-powerful demon, and the experience was even better. To say that Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved is a great, innovative new way to interact with music doesn’t do justice to the feeling you get while playing it. It is, like those great moments in the original film, pure magic.
In the game, you are the latest apprentice of the master sorcerer Yen Sid. After earning the stars and moon for the iconic conical hat in a quick tutorial, you team up with Scout, another apprentice, to fight “the noise.” This discordant force is wreaking havoc on the environments in the world, and you can only stop it by unlocking composition spells, which you collect by playing through specific songs. The story really only serves as an extended tutorial, teaching you all the different aspects of the gameplay. And this is a good thing, because the gameplay is so unique, it takes some practice to get used to. After you finish the story, there’s still tons more to do in the game.
Put simply, the gameplay in Disney Fantastia: Music Evolved involves sweeping your arms in different directions, punching at the screen, and tracing paths, all in time with the music. Looking at a video of the gameplay might make you think these motions are all kind of random, but once you actually play it, you realize just how well designed these motions really are. Especially when playing the classical selections, you really feel like a conductor raising your arms during dramatic parts only to pull them down gently at a soft ending. But those basic movements are only one part of the gameplay. The composition spells that you collect during the story enable you to manipulate the music using a variety of mini-games. Some have you moving a glowing orb into a series of gems creating drum sounds, others have you grabbing and twisting a virtual bar to create fluctuations in the music. Once you’re done with these little additions, you go back to the main gameplay, but you can hear your creations played over the music. It’s a cool way to add your own contributions to your favorite songs.
Another way you can change up the music is by selecting different “mixes” of the song. But there’s a lot more depth than just selecting a Caribbean-sounding version of Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.” You can actually select individual instruments from the different mixes at different points within the song and mash them all together. Experimenting with the different sounds is one of the coolest things about the game, especially since you can hear instruments that normally aren’t used together.
Outside of the gameplay during the songs, there are tons of little secrets and mini-games scattered throughout the environments that are really delightful to find and play. One of my favorites was a group of birds and a friendly Yeti who will sing together after you select the melody. The environments are very beautiful and feature lots of different art styles and flavors. They include everything from a forest with an old cel-shaded look to a mechanical setting with pipes and steam to outer space with stars. Exploring these environments to find the hidden games and flourishes was a lot of fun.
And all of that is only in the single-player mode. The game also features a party mode that enables two players to jump in and play any song at any time.
The ESRB Rating
Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved is rated E10+ for Lyrics. The game includes songs like Bohemian Rhapsody, which includes lyrics that reference violence, and some others like Royals that make references to alcohol and tobacco usage.
I had more fun playing Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved than I’ve had playing a game in a very long time. The way it allows you to experiment with different sounds means it’s a great game for budding musicians. Its gorgeous art, unique gameplay and great mix of classical and contemporary music make it one of the best, if not THE best game for Kinect.