Friday, October 24, 2008

Samba de Amigo Will Shake Your Maracas

Samba de Amigo is a classic arcade hit from the late '90s. The game featured novel maraca controllers that enabled the player to shake along with the music to score points. Since then, rhythm action games have had quite a journey, both in public arcades and on home consoles.

Here, Sega brings their much desired game to the Wii, replacing the maracas with the Wii-mote and Nun-chuck.

What Sort of Game Is This?
Rhythm action games combine the enjoyment that comes from creating music with the challenge of videogame scoring. The player is usually tasked with dancing on a mat, tapping a touchscreen, pressing a button, singing into a mic or strumming a fake guitar controller in time with the music.

What Does This Game Add to the Genre?
Samba de Amigo's gesture controls were revolutionary when it was launched in arcades and on the Sega Dreamcast. Even in the days of Wii-motes and Nun-chucks it is a rarity to find a rhythm action game that makes good use of movement (Boogie Wii and Eyetoy PS2 being some notable exceptions). The simple fact is that it is a tall order to get the technology to work consistently enough for the accurate demands of making music. Wii-Music shows that even Nintendo's own developers had to take a looser play-along style, rather than a direct one-to-one control.

In Samba de Amigo, the player uses the Wii-mote and Nun-chuck as they would a pair of maracas. Each track tasks them with making specific down/up and left/right movements in time with the musical markers. This works pretty well and allows two players to play with or against each other without the need for expensive additional peripherals. The best experience, though, is had by one player using two Wii-motes. The absence of the tethering cable and (the perceived) increased sensitivity of the Wii-motes enables more accurate controls and subsequently higher scores — and, of course, more fun.

The game continues its Mexican carnival theme throughout, both graphics and music being styled appropriately. Popular songs (both classic and modern) are rendered in the Calypso carnival style to make them suitable for the maraca percussion. Included in the mix are "Are you Gonna be my Girl" (Jet), "I Want Candy" (Bow Wow Wow) and the party pleasing "Mambo Mambo" (Lou Bega).

Although this all stays true to the original game, players may sense that rhythm-action games have moved on somewhat in the intervening years. Games like Rockband 360 and Elite Beat Agents DS can make Sega's originally ground-breaking game look a little tired.

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