Joystiq hands-on: Samba de Amigo (Wii)

Zack Stern
Z. Stern|04.15.08

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Joystiq hands-on: Samba de Amigo (Wii)
Samba de Amigo without maracas is like seeing an old friend you've missed for years; it's still the same person, but the subtle changes add up. The Wii's Fall, 2008 version of Samba De Amigo follows the idea of the first, with gamers shaking two controllers -- any two, as long as one is a Remote -- in time with music and on-screen commands. The game reads the angle of the controller, which generally simulates the low, medium, and high positions.

But the Remote and Nunchuk just don't feel the same as the original maracas. Sega representatives mentioned that the company is still considering input device add-ons and alternatives; the game might even ship with a new maraca controller. (I wouldn't bet on it, but apparently, it's still a possibility.) Short of that, it might include some sort of rattling add-on, like the Wii Wheel of rhythm games.

I flailed and shook to a few Samba tracks from the game's more-than-40 options. Sega is including many from the Japan-only Samba 2K release as well as classics and new tunes. Mentioned music and musicians include "La Bamba," "Take On Me," "Santana," and "The Gypsy Kings." While any music game plays better with your favorite songs, Samba has been less about the tracks and more about the maracas. I was entertained, but I missed that rattle.
I first played a standard, two-person match-up with a Wiimote and Nunchuk. The graphics didn't seem too far removed from the Dreamcast original, and that's not such a bad thing; cities, skies, and nearly everything else in the background danced along. A user-selectable Mii ecstatically moshed beside my Samba de Amigo character, cheering me on.

I flicked the controllers at the three levels, but mostly turned my wrists to help the game track the position: "low" angles down, "medium" is flat, and "high" angles up. The Remote rumbled and speaker rattled with each shake, further simulating the maraca, but not quite matching it.

For another try, I flicked two Wii Remotes in Hustle Mode. Instead of just shaking in the three standard positions, the game also added hand waves and poses to the repertoire. This extra challenge made the experience more interesting; I think experienced gamers will play Hustle most.

Love Mode -- possibly to be called "Love Love Mode" -- also returns, challenging two players to work together. If they're in perfect rhythm, the game tells them they're a romatic match. How sweet.

I think Samba De Amigo will find an enthusiastic audience of Wii players. For old Samba fans, the missing maraca controllers disappoint, but the Wii approximates their style.
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