The music in Samba is of a very high standard, containing energetic Latin songs such as La Bamba, Tequila and Djobi Djoba. More unusual are a high speed version of A-Ha’s Take On Me, the theme from Rocky, and even Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. There is also a slew of classic Sega tunes to unlock, such as Magical Sound Shower, Super Sonic Racing and Lets Go Away (from Daytona).
The controller has been translated expertly from the arcade original. To play the game you hold the maracas, each with an ultra sonic sensor that allows the game to track their position. The sense of freedom is quite surprising, you can wave your hands around however you like. This innovative controller is indicative of the kind of effort that has gone into Samba. While the controller is very good, there are some minor quibbles. The height setting only goes up to 190cm (around 6’2”), which could obviously be a problem for some people. There is also a very slight delay before the game decides where a maraca is, which requires a little anticipation.
2000 introduces a new Hustle mode. Pose-kun pops up frequently throughout a song, moving his arms around. Hustle moves range from very simple (moving between two hit points) to very complex (spinning your arms around at speed, preferably without breaking things). This new addition is very silly, sometimes very difficult, and a lot of fun. You can almost imagine Sonic Team watching the arm flailing prevalent in the original game, with little light bulbs appearing above their heads.
The most entertaining aspect of Samba is the amount of physical freedom the game provides, allowing players to adopt their own style. Through vigorous testing two main approaches can be observed, first to stand rigid and move your hands quickly, precisely, almost surgically – the ‘hi score method’, and second to hang loose and forget about what is happening on the screen, waving arms about wildly – the ‘elderly relative method’. You will improve your score by refusing the base instinct to boogie, but that’s not what this game is about. You have to throw yourself into proceedings, make a fool of yourself, and give yourself a big stupid grin to get the most out of it.
For the single player there are plenty of songs to unlock, a Challenge mode and Hard difficulty, which offers a real test of skill. For masochists there is a hidden Super Hard difficulty, which would push most anyone to their limit. As for the game itself, double shakes (using both maracas at a single hit point) and full combos will keep you busy, as perfect scores are hard to come by.
While single player is fun, especially with ‘friends’ laughing at you, a two player setup takes Samba to another level. Having someone stood next to you flailing their arms around in time to your own, with both of you pulling choreographed moves, is obnoxiously good fun. Trying to look cool while avoiding your partner's maracas, ignoring the heckles behind you, keeping some form of movement in time to the music, and keeping a sly eye on the score to make sure you win is glorious in both its stupidity and competitive nature.
Social gaming is the crux of Samba; the very essence of its being. With a group of friends it simply can’t be bettered. Forget those pretenders to the throne, people will get bored with Taiko no Tatsujin and Donkey Konga long before you think about packing away your shiny red maracas.
Samba de Amigo is a seminal title amongst the Dreamcast’s mighty games catalogue, a game that truly stands out. The best music game there is.
Review by: Richard Davies