• Samba De Amigo Ver. 2000 Review - Sega Dreamcast

    Samba was released at a time when rhythm action in the arcades was losing its way. Countless updates to the Konami BEMANI games kept dedicated gamers happy, but alienated those less skilled (and less fit). In Samba de Amigo Sega produced a game that was instantly enjoyable, a game that deliberately appealed to everyone. The key to this appeal is the simple, intuitive controller. While other games approximate a dance floor or a turntable, Samba gives you a real pair of maracas with which to prove your rhythmic worth.

    Developed by Sonic Team, Samba de Amigo ver. 2000 is a rhythm action game based on an upgrade to the arcade original, also available for the Dreamcast. Although not truly a sequel, 2000 adds a new game mode and nearly doubles the number of songs available.

    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).

    Usually an afterthought in such games, the presentation in Samba is superb. Menus are simple and stylish, with the maracas themselves doing a decent job of navigation. A group of endearing characters lead by Amigo the monkey bop around during the game, reflecting how well the player is doing. You will care for this monkey, and want to make him happy.

    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.

    During play there are six hit points presented in three pairs - low, middle, and high. Small blue circles appear at the centre, travelling towards a certain hit point. When a circle reaches its target you have to shake a maraca at that position in time to the music. When a quick succession of pink circles appears, you need to shake your maracas as fast as you can. This simple game mechanic belies a wide range of patterns that the player can be asked to shake along to. The player is sometimes asked to pose mid-song, helpfully demonstrated by Pose-kun. This simple addition breaks up the shaking nicely, and can open up a particularly tense two player game.

    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.

    There is a two player game called Love Love, which gives a love percentage based on synchronicity. Reading tea leaves will probably give you a more accurate guide to your love life, though. For something completely different there is a volleyball game, which unfortunately isn’t entirely successful. It just isn’t as much fun as the main game, or indeed the mini games it replaces from the first Samba.

    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.

    Score: 10/10

    Review by: Richard Davies
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. tokyochojin's Avatar
      tokyochojin -
      Nice review, if not a little generous. Such a fun game but the technology on the recognition bar isn't perfect and can be infuriating at times. Still, a really fun game that still looks (and sounds) the part to this day.
    1. Altopwyn's Avatar
      Altopwyn -
      I still play this now. It's such a fantastically HAPPY game. the graphics are so stylised that they really haven't aged ( Like Jet(Grind) Set Radio really ). Also ( Though it's been said many times before ), the modern wii update has a hopeless control system compared to the Dreamcast's, and works on a rotating principal, rather than the contrllers actual height. It almost sullies the memory of the original.
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