Samba de Amigo was originally released almost eight years ago on the Dreamcast and achieved cult status as one of the most unique and memorable games on the system. As one of the first rhythm games to ship with a peripheral, Samba de Amigo was also one of the first games to explore the then-dormant music genre. It has certainly been a while since we have seen Amigo the monkey, and Samba de Amigo for the Wii was poised to bring this franchise back from the brink of obscurity, and do it in style. However, Samba e Amigo for the Wii has several issues that hinder it from being as good as it could have been.
The biggest difference between the original Samba de Amigo on the Dreamcast and the new version on the Wii is the absence of maraca peripherals. The Wii version has replaced the maracas with the Wii-mote and Nunchuk (or double Wii-mote). When you start playing, this maraca combination works well. Each maraca has three different directions, low medium, and high, and these different directional shakes will be represented by corresponding targets that you will have to hit. The gameplay is very easy to pick up, and casual gamers will have no problem learning to samba with this title in no time.
However, the trouble with this title begins after you graduate from the easy and normal modes. Once you attempt the harder modes, the control scheme looses a lot of its precision. Those who crave a challenge may end up with more than they bargained for with this title because the controls just stop working. This becomes a problem first for the Nunchuk attachment, which loses some functionality, even in the normal mode. But even when you use two Wii-motes, the precision level drops pretty quickly in the harder modes, and this makes the game very frustrating to play. Sometimes the Wii-mote won’t register some of your shakes, and eventually it will disagree with you completely and tell you that you shook upwards when you clearly shook down. This has to be my chief complaint of this title, and the control issues hinder any replay value this game might have had beyond the initial play through.
Another one of the most disappointing facets of Samba de Amigo has to be its lack of online modes. You are able to play online, however, it can only be with people on your friends list. Since this game already has online functionality in the form of songs available for download online, I would have figured that online play would have been a cinch. However, the only online functionality beyond that is a friend-based leaderboard. This game would have been a perfect title for online play, and it is a mystery to me as to why the online components were limited so severely.
There are several different modes in Samba de Amigo. The predominant mode is career mode, which will take you through progressively more difficult set lists. Completing this mode will give you access to locked songs as well as new characters. This mode is fairly short, and it should only take you about 30-40 minutes to complete on the lower difficulty levels, and only about an hour or two on the higher difficulty settings. That is, provided you have the will to play them at all after weathering the aforementioned control issues.
In addition to the game’s main mode, your choices for gameplay become a little more restricted. There is a quick play mode, a battle mode, a survival mode, and a mini-game mode. The quick play mode is self-explanatory, and the battle mode puts you against a friend to see who the maraca master is. The survival mode is probably the most fun here and challenges you to maraca as long as you can. However, as fun as these other modes may be, I have to say that the mini-game mode is actually a little off-putting. You have several mini-game choices, each of which lasts about thirty-sixty seconds. There is a whack a mole game, a whack a piñata mode, and a whack a volleyball mode. There is also a “love tester” mode, which you can play with a friend to see what your dual maraca playing says about your compatibility. These mini-game modes are all rather forgettable and feel tacked on. After going through them all once, I can safely say I really don’t have any desire to go back through them.
Visuals in this game start out looking fairly good. The opening cinema scene is very smooth and features some cool details. However, the in-game graphics are substantially less impressive then the opening cutscene and fall somewhere around the average mark in terms of Wii graphics. Characters and animations are fairly good here, but there is nothing truly remarkable about the way this game looks.
The song list in Samba de Amigo, however, is what truly redeems this title. The game does an excellent job of pulling together classic mambo and samba tunes with a little hint of pop thrown in just for kicks. The soundtrack features many classics like “Baila Me” and “Bomboleo” by the Gypsy Kings, and “Oye Como Va” by Santana, as well as modern hits like “The Ketchup Song” by Las Ketchup and “Pon de Replay” by Rihanna. There is a lot to love about the music in this title, and if you care more about the music than the gameplay, then you can’t go wrong with this title.
Unfortunately, even though this game sounds great, the controls reduce it to a mediocre status. The game is lots of fun to play in short bursts as long as your experience is relegated to the easier modes using the double Wii-mote control scheme. Also, this game really disappoints with its lack of any substantial online mode. Samba de Amigo may be great for a quick shake or two with friends, but it just can’t hold its own and isn’t the must-own game it should have been.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Opening credits look awesome, but the rest of the game looks average at best. 3.0 Control
The controls are great at the very beginning, but Nunchuk sensitivity is an issue throughout, and harder modes are impossible to control. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music selection is very good and there is a nice collection of mambo, samba, and pop music. 2.5
The game is fun to play for a little while, but controls become increasingly frustrating. The limited Friend List-only online mode is basically useless, and mini-games are forgettable.
3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.