Samba de Amigo Wii Review - 14/10/2008

Take a look in a retro videogame store in Japan and you'll find plenty of rarities. A sealed copy of Chrono Trigger for the SNES at over 100 maybe, or a boxed Famicom disc system, which never came out anywhere but Japan. But one item that has become near impossible to find is a copy of Samba de Amigo on Dreamcast, with the maracas bundled with the game.

It's unfortunate that the game was amazing then, as you have no chance to play it if you missed out back in 2000. But there is still hope, as the classic rhythm action game is now on Wii, albeit with a distinctly smaller box thanks to the lack of separate maraca controllers. Is the samba magic still here without them?

A complaint with nearly every Wii game these days is that there is too much shaking and waggling involved. Unsurprisingly, Samba De Amigo is focused entirely on this action, just like those the maraca players go through every time they perform. The distinctive difference between the Wii version and the original is the lack of maracas, although either the Wii Remote and Nunchuck or two Wii Remotes are used instead. You shake in time to the music, while highlighting the correct circle out of the 6 on screen, and score points for accuracy and timing. This process is the same in every song; with some more dance-like hustle manoeuvres and posing thrown into the mix. All in all, Samba de Amigo plays out like every other Bemani game; you shake the controller when the icon reaches the centre of the circle so it's an easy concept to grasp.

Samba De Amigo also conforms to the trends of the genre in the modes on offer. There may be some token minigame offerings thrown in for good measure, but the real meat of the game is found in the classic and career modes. The classic mode is just like the original, allowing you to pick two songs to play, with their scores combined to give an overall grade. It all feels very much like an arcade game, which would be the case as classic mode is pulled straight from the coin-munching version of Samba de Amigo. Classic mode is the best way to get straight into a game, as 2 songs of around 2 minutes in length is perfect for when you only have a limited amount of time to play.

It's not just shaking, you have to pose as well at certain points.

Career mode on the other hand is where you can play through all 44 songs, unlocking nearly half of them along the way. The four difficulty modes of the game are available here, the first using only the first two sets of circles for you to hit, while the last can only be described as impossible on certain tracks. Playing through each Samba de Amigo character's challenge in this mode, and some extra Sega icons too, unlocks the different maraca sounds and songs in the game. This progression helps to teach the different techniques and movements that the game needs you to do on the harder difficulties, which makes the experience much more enjoyable in the long run. If only you actually enjoyed the game more and more as you got better, rather than the opposite being the case.

It is true that Samba de Amigo is a Bemani game, but if you go into the game thinking this, then prepare to be disappointed. Then again, if look at it as a music-based party game, there isn't a better option on Wii - but why is this the case? The main reason is the controls. It may seem trivial to get hung up on the lack of maracas, but with them, the score you see below would most probably be higher. The Wii Remote just isn't as accurate and responsive as the original controls. Rather than using the position of the Wii Remote, which the controller won't be able to do until Wii Remote Plus is released, the tilt of the controller in used instead. This works most of the time with two Remotes, even less so with a Nunchuck, but it gets to a point when you're losing songs because of the game not picking up your movement, rather than you missing the beat. This, coupled with how easy it is to lose a song with missing three notes at the end able to reduce your rank to none, makes the game less fun when you get better at it, as the inaccuracies become all the more annoying, and very quickly.

Many Sega characters also make a welcome appearance.

The graphics and presentation of the game hasn't changed much in the last 8 years, but to be fair, it still looks as weird and Japanese as ever. The amount of bright colours, crazed characters, and over excited Mii on screen at any one time is a breath of fresh air next to the 'grey' graphics most games feature nowadays. It does go a little too wild in places; the whole stage turns into a trance like arena once you hit a grade A in a song, which can sometimes distract you from the notes themselves. But it always looks like a Sega game; bringing back memories of the time when they were at their best to anyone who was around back then. The soundtrack is the same too, with 44 perfect songs to play maracas to, even if some of them aren't the obvious choices you would expect. There are a very small number of songs that feature master recordings, but these are possibly the least enjoyable. The Mexican remixes of songs that the developers have here are perfect for the game, and are much more enjoyable than the master tracks would have been. The tracklist is even expandable, as Samba de Amigo is the first retail game to use Nintendo's new Pay and Play download service. At 500 points for a pack of three songs, the pricing is similar to that of other music games, which is respectable to say the least.

Samba De Amigo can be seen in two ways. You either think that it's a weak remake of a great music game that lacks the accuracy needed to go up against rival titles like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. But then you can also think that as a party game, it's right up there with Wii Sports. Samba De Amigo is the middle ground between Wii Music and Guitar Hero, and is the perfect game for anyone that wants to take the leap between the two types of music game. Playing hard mode alone just isn't that fun, thanks to the dodgy controls, but get some mates together and it's an amazing time. Samba de Amigo on Wii won't be remembered in 8 years like the original, but it's another must have addition to the Wii's ever expanding library of Party games.

- Sam Atkins

A massively rare game for 35.

The perfect carnival soundtrack.

Crazy graphics that use so much colour you won't want to play another FPS.

DLC on Wii.

No separate maraca controllers mean the game isn't responsive.




Gearbox/Sonic Team