Back in March, I crafted a list of all the Gamecube games I’d like to see remastered on the Switch and I noticed how quite a few games that made the list were initially Dreamcast games—I actually wrestled with putting Crazy Taxi on the list too. It really is a tragedy that the Dreamcast didn’t achieve the success it deserved. Not only was it the most technically advanced console of the sixth console generation, but it also had some of the most unique games that, while not the most technically proficient, had an incredible amount of charm and personality.
One of those games was Samba De Amigo—a quirky rhythm game that Sega developed long before that era of games would become popular. For many years, Samba De Amigo sat in the vault, only seeing an updated re-release on the Wii back in 2008. However, and somewhat ironically, Nintendo saw fit to bring it back long after the rhythm game craze died off with Samba De Amigo: Party Central which I must say is a somewhat conflicting experience.
If you’ve played Samba De Amigo in the past, or any similar kind of button-pressing rhythm game like Stepmania or the more recent Friday Night Funkin’ then you know what to expect. Players must press directional buttons—in this case, six arranged in a circle—as they line up with little balls that fly in from the centre of the screen, in time with the music. There are ways this gets shaken up, like needing to follow lines, balls that are chained together in two directions, and additional movements and poses that need to be mimicked.
While the game can be played in the old-school “Button Mode,” much like the 2008 Wii mode, Samba De Amigo: Party Central adds “Shake Mode,” with both Joy-Cons simulating the series’ signature maracas—even though Samba doesn’t really incorporate maracas, but we’ll move past that. This was where I encountered my main problem with Samba De Amigo: Party Central and I blame the Switch more than I blame the game.
“Visually, Samba De Amigo: Party Central is a lot of fun…”
Simply put, Shake Mode doesn’t really work. Samba De Amigo: Party Central really wants you to believe the two Joy-Cons’ gyroscopes can work simultaneously, and they don’t really. This is the same issue I had with Mario Golf: Super Rush, and I can’t really tell if the Joy-Cons are too precise, or not nearly as responsive as they were sold to be.
No matter how you shake the Joy-Cons, it never feels like it’s properly responding to your positioning. Unlike the Wii version, which accounted for the Wii Remote and Nunchuck’s limited movement capability while paired, Samba De Amigo: Party Central really shakes things up with where balls are flying to, resulting in needing to shake both Joy-Cons to the right or left at any given moment.
While this might not seem like an issue for a system that had motion controls in mind for two independent controllers, it never fully feels like it knows where you’re aiming or trying to shake, and there’s no solid on-screen indicator of where your maracas are placed. It might have something to do with the precise way Samba De Amigo: Party Central wants you to move the Joy-Cons in order to register a shake but in the heat of the moment, especially during the harder difficulties or faster songs, it’s incredibly difficult to remember.
“While it may not be perfect, there’s a lot to like about Samba De Amigo: Party Central.”
However, that isn’t to say there isn’t any fun to be had with Samba De Amigo: Party Central. Even with the motion control issues, this is a fun enough party game that friends will still be able to complete and enjoy most songs and have a good time doing it. For true rhythm game fans though, I’d recommend playing in the classic button mode since it is a lot more responsive, and a bit easier to wrap your head around.
Aside from the standard Free Play mode, there is a pseudo-story with “StreamiGo!” where players must perform songs while completing certain challenges in order to gain more followers and become a Brand Ambassador. And as bleak as that might sound, it does offer a fun change of pace from the basic Free Play.
Visually, Samba De Amigo: Party Central is a lot of fun, maintaining its quirky, simple-shape style, while adding a lot of vibrant colour and a healthy dose of neon to really bring the party to life. While I feel at times this art style can cause some of the coloured balls to get lost in the shuffle, resulting in some missed shakes, for the most part it’s flashy and colourful and maintains the fun vibe of the game.
While it may not be perfect, there’s a lot to like about Samba De Amigo: Party Central. It’s not only a solid revival of a long-dormant Sega classic, it’s also a nice break from the movement-based rhythm genre that has been dominated by Just Dance for far too long. It’s sure to be a hit at parties for some silly fun, and if nothing else it has “Escape From the City” in the setlist, so….nuff said.