Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Samba de Amigo (Wii) Review

I've been posting a bunch about Wii Music, but let's not forget about the little monkey that helped pave the way! It's Samba de Amigo for the Wii.

Monkey See, Monkey Do?

Way back in 1999, players around the world shook their groove thangs when Sonic Team's Samba de Amigo danced its way into arcades. A year later, a console version for the sadly defunct Sega Dreamcast was released offering almost the same experience from the arcades, save for having to smell the sweaty teens with bad B.O., straight to the homes of hundreds of thousands. After an eight year absence from the dance floor and multiple cameos in other Sega titles, Amigo and friends are finally back, and this time they've boogied onto the Wii. Is this samba party one you'll want to RSVP or go AWOL on?

Samba de Amigo is one of the pioneers of the rhythm music genre. It was a game that got players off the couch and playing with a hard plastic peripheral that isn't just for adults long before Guitar Hero was conceived. The Wii version is a mishmash of old and new. All of the characters and stages available in the Dreamcast original are present and accounted for, but they've been tailored by Wii version developer, Gearbox Software, to be graphically much more colorful , impressive, and easy on the eyes. New to the Wii version are 23 songs bringing the tune total to an exhausting 43. These range from "Conga" performed by the Miami Sound Machine to "Do It Well" by Jennifer Lopez to "Mexican Flyer" from another long overdue Sega franchise, Space Channel 5. Additionally, a brand new Career mode tasks players with completing all the songs of one level before moving onto the next.

The game is colorful and very nice to look at.

Anyone outside of Japan probably missed out on Samba de Amigo Ver. 2000, an update to the original Dreamcast title, which included 14 new songs as well as a brand new Hustle mode. Japanese players have been able to experience these goodies for awhile now, but now everyone else on the planet can shake on into the samba shuffle as they're included in the Wii version.

For those who've never before partied hard with a monkey without contracting a disease, this is how Samba de Amigo works. A player chooses a song. Then, guided by on-screen graphical prompts, the player must shake the "maracas", or in this case the Wii remote and nunchuk or two Wii remotes, in time and on beat with the music. This is done by shaking the controllers at high, medium, and low areas in front of the sensor bar. In the most standard game mode, the player will have six multi-colored orbs arranged in a circular formation. There are two red orbs at the top which informs the player to shake high, two yellow telling the player to shake in the middle, and finally, two green orbs meaning for the player to shake low. Appearing from the center of the circle are a constant stream of blue dots which go with the beat of whatever particular song is being played and what difficulty the player is on-- the higher the difficulty, the faster and more complex the blue dot patterns will be. As a blue dot passes through one of the six colored circles, the player must shake a maraca at that location, so if a blue dot passes through a lower left circle, then the player should shake to the left of his or her waist. There's more special tricks, too. For instance, if a batch of blue dots line up, the game will tell the player to shake meaning that the maraca should be shook in a given location to wrack up a ton of points. There's also special pose moves where a character named Mr. Pose will hold the two maracas in a given pose. The player must then quickly emulate the pose in order to score, that is, score points; not score with Mr. Pose himself. Lastly, in the Hustle mode there's parts of songs where the player must wave the maracas back and forth, in directions, or perform a 360 degree motion.

Keep hitting the beats correctly,
and your performance rank will rise.

That's all fine and good, but quite frankly, the developers definitely overestimated the power of the Wii remote. The Wii remote can't judge height, so all that is really judged is the angle of the controllers. On the easy and normal modes, the songs are still somewhat challenging, but it's more to do with the patterns instead of the inconsistencies of the Wii controller. Scoring well on songs on these difficulties aren't terribly difficult, and the whole process is a blast to play. Hard and superhard difficulties are a different story. A given player has to perform maneuvers that take the remotes and nunchuk every which way in a very fast pattern. Unfortunately, the accelerometers of the Wii remote and nunchuk aren't capable of tracking motion that fast. Instead, the player has to make robotic motions, thrusting the controllers subtly forward to hit notes-- that is, if he or she wants to pass a given song on hard or superhard. While the game is playable this way, it's not the way the game was ever meant to be played. This sort of makes a convincing case that this is the definition of a broken control scheme. Those who can look past this and "do the robot" while playing will be able to complete songs rather well. It also doesn't help that cameo Sonic the Hedgehog's portion of the hard Career mode is more difficult than any other mode in the game-- even superhard...

Try to play in sync to build up the meter on the top of the screen.
Each time you fill it, you gain a letter grade on your performance.

To round out the package are a slew of mini-games and battle modes that can be played against the computer or a friend. These consist of a whack-a-mole-inspired maraca game, and a game that tests the ability to strike a good pose. The Battle Mode can be played locally or online. High scores can be submitted online to be placed on the leaderboard to see just how good a maraca player a given person is. Online plays very well with zero lag-- perfect for a game that is all about timing. Also, this is the first retail Wii release with downloadable content, so huge fans of the Wii version can purchase a song pack featuring three new tracks to shake your arms into submission. These are downloaded directly from Sega's own server instead of just a key that unlocks the already present content from a disc like other games have swindled gamers over. Beautiful Katamari, I'm looking at you. Heck, all of Bandai-Namco, I'm looking at you.

Sonic and Ulala cameo and headline Amigo's latest party.

Samba de Amigo is a mixed bag. You can tell that Gearbox Software didn't just phone this title in. There's a lot of noticeable amount of charm, effort and polish in this Wii installment. It just feels like a premature release as the major flaw of the game, the controls, could have been taken care of with the upcoming MotionPlus technology from Nintendo. What we have here is a game that is very much playable, but to conquer the harder difficulties, an alternate play-style must be used. We're talking about one that isn't what the developers had in mind and isn't what most people would find comfortable or fun. Hopefully, a Wii MotionPlus version is developed to take advantage of technology that is actually capable of a game of this frenetic pace. However, for $40 at launch, it's a fantastic party game, incredibly charming, and fun to play on easier modes. You could do much worse in the rhythm genre, but then again, you could do better.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Graphics: Bright and full of festive life. Gearbox Software very much delivered in this aspect.

Gameplay: Imprecise controls hinder the experience on later difficulties. They can be overcome, but at the expense of a less fulfilling playing experience.

Sound: A great variety of music from new favorites to old classics.

Replay Value: Leaderboards, online play, local multiplayer and much more await.

Overall: 6.25/10


SpinachPuffs said...

That article was amazing :p

Unknown said...

Oh, it's a placeholder for a review. I don't like having two reviews or big articles on the same day.

I couldn't get away with this if I were a professional, but so-called "gaming journalists" get away with much more crap, I'd say. :D

I'll have it up soon. I just have to.. write it... :X

Kyle said...

Think how much better this game would've been with MotionPlus...