Pax Prime Preview: Harmonix Highlights Performance and Discovery in Fantasia

Pax Prime Preview: Harmonix Highlights Performance and Discovery in Fantasia

Creating a modern, interactive interpretation of Disney's Fantasia films is a challenge even for seasoned music game veterans like Harmonix. Up to this point, Harmonix has shown what makes Fantasia: Music Evolved an intriguing rhythm game, as players use Kinect motion controls to remix classic and modern songs with a wave of their hand. However, with the announcement of discovery environment "The Haven" at PAX Prime, Harmonix has proven that it has the creative chops to make not just a fun rhythm game, but a faithful Fantasia game.

The Haven is one of a half-dozen exploration hubs that make up Fantasia: Music Evolved, and is the primary way players will navigate the diverse setlist of music. Rather than a personality-less shopping list of songs, The Haven is a fully interactive 3D environment. It begins in a forest in the middle of the night. As the player waves their "muse" cursor around the screen, musical elements in the environment light up and fill a magic meter at the top of the screen. Once this meter is full, a performance node appears in the world. Achieving a high enough score in these performance nodes will transform the discovery area, presenting a new array of musical elements and whimsical characters to interact with.

Completing a classical/Spanish Guitar/drum and bass remix version of Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons: Winter: 1st Movement" results in a bright sunrise illuminating The Haven, revealing a snow-covered forest with singing birds and a meek yeti that players must chase around the world, stepping back and forth in front of the kinect sensor to sidestep through the world with a neat parallax scrolling effect.

The performance mode in Fantasia continues to impress, as well. Rather than feeling like I was struggling to live up to the standard of expert difficulty in Rock Band, Fantasia made me feel like I was creating something unique, without fretting over a fail state. Stringing together different remixes of a well-known song is exhilarating, as is playing your own percussion track onscreen which then loops in the background. It is something I could see being equally appealing as a party game, and for high-score hunters.

Fantasia: Music Evolved is due out on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One in 2014.