Easily one of the most recognizable names in music genre gaming, Harmonix has faced a lot of challenges in the past several years – following the studio’s purchase and subsequent sale by Viacom. Riding high on the success of the plastic instrument craze, Harmonix developed one successful iteration of their Guitar Hero then Rock Band series after another – until a good portion of gamers began to tire of annual releases (and lackluster spin-offs). However, the studio found new life in the motion-gaming arena with Dance Central – setting the bar for dance/party titles (especially on Xbox 360 and Kinect).
Harmonix was quick to punch out three Dance Central installments in the same amount of years, with a mix of significant and minor tweaks to the format, but the developer is now set to offer an entirely new music-gaming experience, Fantasia: Music Evolved, in a partnership with Disney Interactive.
Despite a flare for the dramatic, the first Fantasia: Music Evolved trailer left gamers with significantly more questions than answers – showing on-screen performers in a black space, magic plumes of smoke billowing as the supposed players whipped their arms around in over-the-top gestures. In case you missed the trailer, you can check it out below:
Fortunately, we had a chance to catch a live demo of Fantasia: Music Evolved at E3 2013, which provided answers to a number of frequently asked questions. Most notably: aside from a combination of music and motion control, what does actual Fantasia: Music Evolved gameplay entail?
The E3 demo featured two major elements. First up, the developer gave a tour of Fantasia: Music Evolved‘s interactive overworld, where players can manipulate level elements and bring the environment to life (i.e. the 1940 Fantasia film) – even forming customizable soundtracks.
However, individual song experiences (in this case Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”) serve as the core gameplay mode – where mimicking on-screen motion gestures racks up points and unlocks music modifiers. The tracks are broken up into a series of segments and throughout the song players select from a variety of filters (ahead of an upcoming section) including pop synth or acoustic, among others, that enable gamers to mix an entirely unique version of fan-favorite songs on the fly (instead of simply recreating a stock studio track a la Rock Band). Certain arrangement filters are more difficult than others – meaning that there’s also a challenge component to the mix creations. In addition to ensuring they hit all the right gestures at the right moment, competitive players will need to figure out which combination of modifiers will result in the highest score – which can then be shared through online leaderboards.
Unlike most motion control games, Fantasia: Music Evolved tracks gesture depth in a three-dimensional plane – adding pushing and pulling motions to the more standard pointing and swiping movements in games like Dance Central or Child of Eden (which shares a lot of similarities with this latest Harmonix title). As mentioned, nailing the majority of in-song gestures doesn’t just heighten the on-screen visuals, good performances unlock temporary modifiers (like a whammy wheel), providing players even more opportunity to improvise their mix.
Harmonix has yet to unveil official footage of Fantasia: Music Evolved gameplay to the public, but if you’re interested in a sneak peek, GameSpot has released brief snippet of our “Bohemian Rhapsody” demo, which you can check out below:
When a song is cleared, elements of the audio track are then fed into the overworld environment, livening the on-screen visuals, as well as combining with other completed tracks and hidden in-level bonus instruments (such as a clam drum kit) to create a player-specific master mix.
GameSpot has also posted a video of the Underwater overworld – revealing ways the player can interact with and manipulate various game environments as well as how completed song tracks effect the improvised audio mix:
It’s unlikely that Fantasia: Music Evolved will enjoy the same across-the-board success as the Rock Band or Dance Central series and become the next great party game. However, the demo certainly indicates that the project could live up to its “Music Evolved” subtitle – offering players an unprecedented amount of improvisation and creative tools for “evolving” and manipulating fan-favorite musical selections.
Harmonix promised more information soon, including details on the Fantasia: Music Evolved multiplayer, so we’ll be sure to report back as more official info is unveiled.
Fantasia: Music Evolved is scheduled for a 2014 release on Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on Fantasia: Music Evolved as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.