The Nintendo Switch boasts a set of controllers called the JoyCons. These hold an immense potential on what you can do with it as they’re two separate smaller controllers held in each hand as opposed to the conventional controller that’s held by both. Combine that with the accelerometer and you have a pair of controllers that can do motion controls that can serve as your hands. We’ve seen this demonstrated in 1-2 Switch, sports games, and even simple boxing games. Today, we’re getting maracas, we’re shaking them to the tune of Samba de Amigo: Party Central, a game graced to us by SEGA.
It’s been a while since I’ve handled a rhythm game so in my head I was thinking more on “why not?” I was also thinking that maybe I can use a bit of an exercise and shed some sweat, and not in the esports manner. So off to we go to play some beats to the ringing of virtual instruments and maybe a bit of movement (spoiler: there was a lot of movement)
Production (3 / 5)
Generally, the game looks simple, colorful, and energetic. While trying to keep a clear interface to make sure you can hit the beat map without much issue. The visuals don’t really try to stick out so as to not be distracting, but you do see some interesting characters dancing along to your performance or playing music on their own. Your very own avatar, which is our samba monkey by default, also makes an expression that matches how well or awful you’re currently doing on the stage. In general, they do all collectively add up to the feel of being a cheerful and lively party. Which I suppose would be the objective, so they made it work as intended.
The music and the voice-over while playing stick out pretty clearly, and is of course the star of the stage for Samba-de-Amigo. With some of them being variants of rather popular songs, it was pretty easy to get into the feel of the song and every one of them carried an energy that made you want to dance a bit. Samba-de-Amigo is here to party, and it certainly brought what it needed to get started.
One thing of note is how the game operates smoothly across all songs despite all the text, notes, models, colors, and other effects flying across the screen. I know we’re all expecting at least a smooth 60 fps 1080p experience in whatever game we play, but let’s remember that this is the Nintendo Switch. This is gaming gear that just barely hits the 1080p resolution as a benchmark. So considering the age and the limitation given by the hardware, SEGA has managed to squeeze in a great performance for this title. Which is something I think should be noteworthy, specially as we’re talking about something as timing-sensitive as a rhythm game. They understood completely what was important and stuck to it.
Mechanics (3.5 / 5)
This title gives you six possible positions of input from the beat map. When a note hits one of the rings, you have to put your Joy-Con in a matching position and shake it because we’re supposed to be holding a maraca and that’s how you make it work.
Hit detection feels rather forgiving, as even with little practice I was reliably getting 85-95% hits during the songs. Whether I was trying to catch up with the timing of the song, or trying to figure out what the beat map was trying to do, so long as I was moving my arms about in a way that might approximate what it was trying to get done, the combo wouldn’t break. But this would understandably drop once I bumped it up to the higher difficulty, where instead of having matching actions for both of your hands, each of them would be hitting different timings and even have completely different actions, which would throw me off easily.
The possible actions you can do are either shaking it once, shaking it continuously, or swinging the Joy-Con from one position to the other. Sometimes there’s a combination of them or some unique actions to go along with it. To be honest, with the exciting music and getting over the silliness of standing in front of a TV and pretending to shake maracas, getting into the dance-ey mood wasn’t hard.
This mood is further enhanced by the special actions or mini-games you get into while playing a song. Where what you do is selected from a roulette of actions. These can range from a variant of doing the same dance to changing the speed of the song you’re playing to the point of silliness, to trying to score home runs. It drops the pressure of trying to get all the notes right and focus on just having a good time, which I think is the point of gearing this title to being a party game.
Content (2.5 / 5)
There are about 20-25 songs in the base game, and I would know about half of them and would quickly favor a few of them. “Escape From the City” is an easy choice to make because Sega would of course want you to have Sonic in every aspect of your life, and that song is a great one which I don’t mind it at all.
Other songs that you might want from Sega like Yakuza’s “Bakamitai” can be bought as DLC, which I know is a little off-putting, but this is sort of par for the course when it comes to rhythm games.
One thing that kind of makes you want to keep going would be the leveling system that awards you with cosmetics for your avatar as well as bonus in-game currency that you can use to buy other cosmetics, and that’s about as far as it goes.
Features (3.5 / 5)
Samba-de-Amigo – Party Central lets you play either online or with local coop, where the battle royale format seems to have taken form in this game as well. The most interesting form of multiplayer is the 8-player survival mode, which unfortunately is something I couldn’t really try because of how I was playing a preview, and online players for this game during this time aren’t really a thing.
You can also attempt to upload your score on online leaderboards to see how you measure up to other players who post their scores online.
It also has a controller mode, in case you just want to play it like more of a generic rhythm game, however, they didn’t really adjust the beat-map for this type of input, which is a bit of a shame. But well, it’s more of a tacked-on feature than where the game is centrally planned around, so I guess it’s alright. It’s another way to play which results in letting more people be able to play it.
Finally, you can also adjust the timing of your beat-map to the song. As wireless technology will always have some level of lag time, this is important to have. Joy-Cons are no exception, but this also tells us that the use of Bluetooth devices is also viable, which is great for those who just want to play the game discreetly in their own room or don’t have a large TV with speakers to match. It shows to me that they wanted to make the game feel right to play when you’re getting down to it, and that sort of attention to detail is appreciated.
A game about shaking Joy-Cons as maracas to energetic music that asks you to do random things in the middle of a song sounds silly, but it’s the fun kind of silly. Samba-de-Amigo certainly got some amusement out of me and whoever unsuspecting visitors to my home had seen my attempts at dancing. And that’s the point of Samba-de-Amigo, and if you’re fine with that, then it’s a good time ahead of you. An additional bonus would be how easily this turns into a bit of a workout for me, as I could totally feel my biceps getting that burn from constantly shaking things left and right. It helps that the game feels easier to play when doing exaggerated actions, taking a bit more energy out of you, and therefore letting you exercise in a more fun, rhythmic way.
The weakness of the title would be the lack of song choice, I think having less than thirty songs to play around with as the base game is a bit disappointing. While it does have a healthy variation of old-school classics, songs from new artists, and what I can only describe as “meme songs” I was hoping it would have a healthier amount of content to play through. I’d feel like I’d play this a lot more if it had some Vocaloid songs, some anime tunes, or other game OSTs that satisfy my odd and specific tastes in music. However, I do feel like this would be a title I’m willing to visit from time to time, either to get a bit of sweat out of me or to amuse some guests.
Apart from the usual grading, I’ll be bumping up the score just a bit because of the fact that it’s actually priced much lower than your usual 60 USD or “Current Generation” 70 USD asking price. You get a bit more bang for your buck, which I think is something we all value a bit more these days.
Samba de Amigo is a nice change from the long RPGs and mechanically demanding action games, it’s also a nice workout. But a bit shaky with it’s lack of content, scoring a 3.5 / 5.
Available on the Nintendo Switch.