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Fantasia: Music Evolved would be great — if it worked

Above: Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved is certainly colorful.

Image Credit: Harmonix

I like music games. I really like Disney. So I should love a music game based on one of the animation studio’s greatest films, Fantasia.

But you know what I don’t like? The Kinect. Well, I suppose it’s fine for voice commands, but I absolutely hate using it as a way to control my games. It’s just incredibly unreliable, only recognizing your movements when it randomly seems to want to. Sometimes this is annoying, but it’s a death sentence for a rhythm-based game that depends on precision, like Fantasia: Music Evolved.

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

Above: I wasn’t quite as happy when I was playing Fantasia: Music Evolved.

Fantasia is actually a lot like Elite Beat Agents and Theatrhythm, past music-rhythm hits. However, instead of tapping and flicking a stylus all around a touchscreen, you have to wave your arms around and punch your fists toward the Kinect. In theory, it’s a great idea. I love Elite Beat Agents and Theatrhythm, so using that as a basis for a motion-controlled rhythm game should work wonderfully.

However, the Kinect (even the more powerful one on the Xbox One), just isn’t up to the task. It only recognized about half of my movements. I’d always swipe my arm in the air when the screen prompted me to, but I have no idea why the Kinect recognized my motions so sporadically. The Disney representative manning the demo suggested that I alternated arms for each command, but that didn’t help. I still felt like I was at Fantasia’s mercy.

OK, maybe you think I’m just terrible, but I have no problem matching the beat in stuff like Guitar Hero and Elite Beat Agents. You might even want to blame the environment. E3 is a chaotic place that can confuse motion-tracking cameras. However, my demo actually took place in front of a blank wall, so that excuse doesn’t work.

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

Above: Fantasia is, if nothing else, very pretty.

Image Credit: Harmonix

I can only conclude that the problem lies with the Kinect. It just can’t perfectly track your movements. And when a game relies so much on skill, that’s a huge problem. If I miss a note in Guitar Hero, I know it’s because I made a mistake. When I miss one in Fantasia, I have to wonder if I screwed up or if I need to blame the Kinect.

It’s a shame, because Fantasia’s presentation is incredibly sharp. It’s colorful and flashy, and I love the way you can switch between different remixes of tracks in the middle of a song. I think it could actually be a big hit if it worked reliably, but right now it’s likely to only frustrate future players.

Hopefully developer Harmonix can tighten the experience, but I have to wonder just how much it can do with the unreliable Kinect. I can see why Microsoft decided to drop the device as a mandatory part of the Xbox One bundle.

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