Review by GlucoseJoe

"Samba samba samba with Samba, Rio, and the gang!"

Before I begin, a quick note; This review is strictly based off of play with a regular Dreamcast control pad. I haven’t played with the maracas yet, let alone even seen them for sale in a store! If I ever manage to play with them, I’ll be sure to update this and give my input. ^_^

Samba de Amigo is something I didn’t expect to come out in the United States. For one, music, dance, and rhythm games are a rare breed over here. Who would have thought Sega would bring Samba, Rio, Linda, Bingo, Bongo, Chumba, and Wamba’s super spectacular spectacle of a party our way? Especially with the maracas peripheral; would U.S. gamers be willing to shell out around $80 for a set of maracas that’d be used for one game? Well, apparently this baby is selling, since I haven’t seen hide nor hair of the maracas, and it’s generally gotten a large amount of praise. And deservingly so! This game is pure fun, even without the maracas! You cannot help but get swept into Samba’s party atmosphere! It draws you in and keeps you entertained the whole ride! As a single player game, it holds up well. But as a party game, with lots of friends piled onto the couch, it’s got endless possibilities! So why should you care about a maraca-shaking monkey in a sombrero? What makes it so special?

This game just has that certain something…something only Sonic Team, Nintendo, Sega, Rare, and other great companies I’m neglecting to mention right now can inject into their games. The kind of “something” that lets you know they want you to be having a blast while you play their games. Samba de Amigo is all about rhythm, music, dancing, and most importantly, having fun. You can choose Arcade Mode, which will let a single player battle through a few tunes to try for a high score; Original Mode, which is close to Arcade, but you have more song choices; Challenge Mode, where you test your skills and earn extra goodies; Party Mode, which lets you face off against a friend, cooperate with a significant other, or duke it out at the mini-games; Training, which lets you practice obviously; Internet, which lets you, what else, go to the Samba de Amigo homepage to download new songs from classic Sega games such as Afterburner, Fantasy Zone, Burning Rangers, Sonic, and more; and finally, Options, which of course lets you goof around with the game settings. PHEW! That was a mouthful!

Samba de Amigo uses a similar rhythm system that other dance/music games employ, yet it winds up being a very different animal in this game. When you begin, you’ll select your height (this has to do with the maracas sensitivity), they you get to select your song (which you hear a preview of when you move the cursor onto them; handy!). You’ll then go to the game stage, where Samba, Rio, and the rest of the gang are partying! You’ve got six rhythm circles in front of you on the screen: two red ones at 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock, two yellow ones at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock, and two green ones at 7 o’clock and 5 o’clock. Now, once the song begins, blue rhythm balls will travel from the center of your rhythm area into the six rhythm circles, and they reach the circles to the beat of the music. You press the appropriate buttons/control pad direction at the proper beat, and you keep the rhythm of the song (or you shake the maracas at the appropriate heights to keep rhythm with the maracas controllers). You must really pay attention to the rhythm balls, because they can and do fly all over the place, making some stages completely crazy! As you complete more and more beats (indicated by “YEAH!”s when you’re good, and “BOO!”s when you miss), your style meter beneath your score builds, earning you grades. As your grades go up or down, the party’s mood changes accordingly. Go bad, and a depressed Samba will be left all alone in a darkened area, shaking away by his lonesome self. Keep an “A” rating, and the party will explode into a dazzling array of light, colors, and confetti, with everyone dancing and having a great time!

Occasionally, a little man will pop onto the screen in your rhythm circle, posing a certain way-quickly use the buttons/control pad/maracas to mimic the pose for style points! Sometimes there aren’t any poses, sometimes you do three or more in a row. You’ll get an “X” for a bad pose, and an “O” for a good one. They help keep your score and grade up where it should be. ^_^ This goes on until you finish the song; get a good enough grade, and you’ll move onto the next stage, then the game is over after the second song. BUT, if you get a perfect on one stage, then an A on the other, you’ll get to play the Special Stage! I still haven’t gotten perfects on all three stages, so I can’t say whether or not it brings you to another afterward. That basically covers the Arcade, Original, and other modes. But what about the Challenge Mode? Your skills will be put to the test as you try to complete the specific tasks the game gives you on five different difficulty levels. One song you might just have to complete with a passing grade. Others ask you to score a perfect. Others still ask you to meet a certain point goal. These challenges add a lot of life to the single player game, and as you complete each skill level, you can earn new songs, maracas sound effects, and more!

The mini-games are a fun little bunch, too. My favorite is Guacamole, the whack-a-mole game. I’m a sucker for whack-a-mole. ^_^ Other mini-games include Power Rush, a rock-crushing contest; 1-2-Samba, a reflex test; Strike a Pose, a test to see how many poses you can pull off in the time allotted; and Monkey See, Monkey Do, a Simon-like mimicking game.

Overall, Samba de Amigo puts together a great package that’ll not only be a blast at parties, but will also keep the single player going as well, with its many modes and secrets. I’ve gotten the Afterburner and Burning Ranger songs off of the website, and I’m patiently waiting for “Opa! Opa!”, the Fantasy Zone tune! I am very satisfied with this game, even without the much-touted maracas! If it’s this much fun to me with the basic DC control pad, I have to wonder how it’s like flailing around with those maracas…^_^

Graphics: Sharp, bright, colorful, cheerful, humorous…Everything you could want in a dance/rhythm/music game like this. That old phrase “as fun to watch as it is to play” holds true this time around, that’s for sure, so if you’re in a party-game environment, the players waiting for their turns will be glued to the screen. I only wish there were more levels, but I can live with the few that are there. I like the stage setting, and the street looks like something out of Mardi Gras. All of the characters look very nice too, and I dare anyone NOT to laugh at Samba’s weirdo victory pose when you finish with a perfect; stars in his eyes, and humongous gold maracas! Ariba!!

Sound: Okay, the sound effects are good. The announcer, although afflicted with “Engrish Syndrome”, is usually into the role and happy to be there “Pwesented by Sega, hah ha!”. Now, what you’ve been waiting for; the music! Livin’ la Vida Loca, La Bamba, Soul Bossa Nova, Cup of Life, Macarena, Samba de Janeiro, Tequila, Tubthumping, Take On Me, Love Lease, Al Compas Del Mambo, plus a few I’m forgetting, and on top of THOSE, you’ll earn new songs in Challenge Mode, ANNNND, you can download new songs from the Samba de Amigo website every week! *catches breath* This I s agreat collection of songs that really fit the mood and attitude SdA is pumping out, and even a Ricki Martin hater like me can get into La Vida Loca when the game is on! A great selection of songs, with a varied array of beat patterns (and some are just plain evil on Hard Mode!). I wonder how they’ll top this selection in Samba de Amigo 2000?

Control: You’re going to be pressing buttons/control pad directions to the beat, or you’re going to be shaking the maracas. Either way, it should not be hard for you to get into. Unless of course you’re a rhythmless tree sloth who can’t dance or anything. ^_~ Not a cakewalk, but no song is so hard to master that you’ll give up in frustration.

Funfactor: Oh God yes! This game’s aim was to please, and it succeeds. This is a total party game, and unless you’re only into hardcore gangsta rap, polkas, or harpsichord pieces, you should be able to jump in, enjoy the music, enjoy the rhythm, enjoy the atmosphere, and have some fun! Play it, and shake that thang, baby!

Replayability? As a party game, it’ll have much more life than as a single player game, like most music/rhythm/dance games. But Sonic Team gave the single player lots to do too, so its life will definitely be much longer than a lot of other d/r/m games I’ve played. With two sets of maracas and a fun group of people laughing and partying, this baby could have an extremely long life! Samba de Amigo is fun, pure and simple. While not for everyone, its got enough appeal and personality to bring a smile to even the most jaded gamer’s face. SAMBA! GlucoseJoe

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/08/00, Updated 11/08/00

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