Reviewed: October 13, 2008
Released: September 23, 2008
With this holiday rush, we reviewers have found ourselves inundated with top-shelf releases – and of the dozen or so games currently on my docket, Samba De Amigo has hands-down received the most play in my living room over the past two weeks. Between my wife, my daughter, and various friends and relatives – our Wii remotes are definitely getting a workout to the Latin-flavored beats of SEGA’s iconic Dreamcast-era music title.
Many gamers will remember Samba De Amigo as “that maraca game” based on the fact that the title shipped with a maraca-shaped peripheral when it was first released on SEGA’s ill-fated Dreamcast console back in 2000. As you can imagine, the idea of motion-sensing rhythm-based gameplay was pretty awesome eight years ago – and almost a decade later fits in perfect with the newfound excitement for the motion-based family-style play of the Wii.
The game comes to us with its core gameplay relatively unchanged – through the use of the Wii remote and nunchuk, gamers must shake each peripheral to the beat and in directions matching a series of rhythmically generating circles onscreen. The game then calculates a score based on timing and direction, and posting this score onscreen and in real time. Yes, this is pretty much how every other music title plays out nowadays – but considering that Samba De Amigo was originally released in 2000, predating classics like Gitaroo Man and Guitar Hero, it’s a pretty impressive title.
Speaking of Gitaroo Man, players of that title will see obvious similarities in Samba De Amigo – from the circle-based gameplay to the outstanding background visuals – the two definitely are cut from the same cloth. The fact that the characters in each game are so darn cool looking only adds to the allure, and keeps everyone in the room engaged in what could be boring gameplay to watch as a third party (Dance Dance Revolution, anyone?).
True to form, the game features a number of Sega characters making cameo appearances – but even better is the fact that your Mii’s often pop up in the background during gameplay. It’s a bit of a bummer that the Mii’s can’t actually take part in the gameplay itself – but having them in the scene does lend a familiar feel to the game.
There are a few additions to the gameplay – including a number of motion based minigames like Piñata and a variant of Whack-A-Mole, as well as some really neat gameplay modes requiring gamers to strike certain poses or perform simple motion-based dance moves.
The game does a fairly solid job of recognizing the motion-based movements, but we find that it often gets mixed up with any of the diagonal hand gestures. While not a game-ending failure, it did get frustrating at times to be deliberately aiming towards the lower right only to have the indicators flipping back and forth between the 3:00 and 6:00 positions. Changing batteries seemed to help, but the problem never fully went away.
Samba de Amigo, features a soundtrack of over 40 songs with classic tunes from the original Samba games and a series of all-new modern day pop hits exclusive to the Wii version. Here is the official list of songs featured in the game (asterix denotes that the song is performed by a cover band): Returning Classics from the original Samba de Amigo:
And you want a workout? Forget all the yoga balancing on Wii Fit, because Samba De Amigo will have even the healthiest of gamers breaking a sweat in short order. A smoker friend made it about half way through a song before he gave up and collapsed on the couch – vowing to quit smoking forever…yeah, fat chance of that. We found that it works great to wear the kids out an hour or so before bed – but you do have to watch for “Wiinjuries” from all of the wild flailing about.
The game supports split-screen multiplayer, and is the first title in Nintendo’s library to offer downloadable content with add-on songs. It is nice that Nintendo is finally stepping up to the table with real downloadable content, but with the Wii’s lack of a sizable hard drive, and nebulous block-based storage measurements, it is going to be a difficult row to hoe to get young gamers to shell out for new songs to shake their money makers at.
Samba De Amigo might not make as much of a splash as Guitar Hero nowadays, but it is still a great game. With some better motion recognition, this title would go down as one of the best in its genre – as it is, it is a must-have for rhythm-based gameplay fans and those gamers looking to build up their cardiovascular systems.
My family is still completely consumed with Samba De Amigo – and even spurred my wife into picking up a Dance Dance Revolution kit. We are having a ton of fun as a family, and feeling healthier for it – what more could you want as the winter months draw near?