Monday, October 27, 2014


Having to endure physical pain while playing a music game is not new. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are responsible for putting more miles on my hands than they were prepared to take. There was a hard limit on how long I could play a plastic guitar. Fantasia Music Evolved offers up a whole host of new aches and pains. My shoulders ache and my lower back screams after around an hour and a half. I am not entirely convinced that it is worth the agony this time around. Rock Band always worked and the amusement factor was determined by the quality of the music. Music Evolved doesn't always work and the music available, once the excellent classical tracks have been mastered, is equally suspect. On the rare occasions that everything clicks I find myself grinning like an idiot, waving my arms through space and thanking the gaming gods that there is no one around to see it.

I hate motion only games. Strike that, I hate the idea of motion only games and had not ever given one a chance until Fantasia. There was a never a game I saw whose gameplay was significantly improved my using motion controls over a controller. Before you say 'dancing game' know that that is genre that I will never touch. Ever. Fantasia sneaks in the door because I have a soft spot for music games. And Night on Bald Mountain kicks ass.

At it's core the player is tasked with waving his or her arms in time with one of several available tracks. That's all; and, much to my surprise, the technology side of it works. Once I had rearranged my basement and was able to stand far enough from the screen I was waving my arms like a champ. There is a specific feel to it that takes a while to dial in. Once I started moving sooner than I thought I would need to it became much easier. The technology is not the problem. My issue, and what will keep this game from joining Rock Band in my limited collection, is that the action called for often have little to do with the music itself.

There is a one to one relationship between action and reaction in Rock Band, especially at the highest difficulty. A note appears, I play the note, I hear the note. Fantasia is much more abstract, especially when you are accompanying the vocal tracks. The music and the actions do not match. Instead of waving to the music I am just waving and that is not nearly as much fun (sober). More than half the time I was watching, not listening, thus defeating the purpose of a music game.

It is possible that I am expecting far too much from a glorified party game but Harmonix has proved to be staffed by miracle workers. I wanted what will not happen: a new Rock Band. What I got was an exercise program focused on my shoulders with a more miss than hit soundtrack. Not a bad thing, but not worth the pain it causes.

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