Samba de Amigo Hands-On

We shake our Wii Remotes like it's the year 2000 in the upcoming Wii conversion of Sega's classic rhythm game.


We've been eager to check out Sega's upcoming Samba de Amigo for the Wii since the game was first announced late last year. The game is a conversion of the beloved Dreamcast rhythm game, which used a maraca controller peripheral and ranks among our favorite titles for the system. The twist is that the conversion is being handled by US developer Gearbox Software of Brothers in Arms fame, which, while an experienced developer, isn't exactly known for its rhythm games. After all, cinematic first-person PC shooters are a far cry from maraca-shaking monkeys. Thankfully, after trying the work-in-progress version of Samba at Nintendo's press event, we're pleased to report that the game conversion is headed in the right direction.

Samba de Amigo = monkeys with maracas. That's really all you need to know.
Samba de Amigo = monkeys with maracas. That's really all you need to know.

For those who haven't played it, Samba de Amigo was a rhythm game from Sega. It was developed by Sonic Team and began life in the arcades. You had to shake maracas in tune to the beat at high, mid, and low points denoted onscreen by three sets of colorful circles on the left and right sides of the screen. You were also asked to "pose" at points during the music and hold your maracas still. The game struck a chord with players, and a home version, converted to the Dreamcast, was released in 2000. A sequel, Samba de Amigo: ver 2000, was released only in Japan for both arcades and the Dreamcast and never found its way over to the States. The follow-up introduced Hustle mode, which added a new twist to the maraca-shaking action. You were tasked with shaking one or both maracas back and forth between two of the six positions or doing a full rotation starting from one position and looping all the way back around.

Fortunately, all of the above fun has found its way into the Wii game, which, according to Sega reps at Nintendo's event, will be a mix of content from the original Samba and ver 2000 as well as some new music. The work-in-progress version on display at the event offered just a small taste of what to expect from the Wii game. The demo had only two modes and four songs to choose from--in single and multiplayer. Our big question revolved around the game's control, which seemed like it would be a good fit for the Wii. Our instinct proved to be pretty correct: The demo offered two control setups, a remote and a Nunchuk, and two remote options. The quirk, which is more of an issue for veteran Samba players than for newcomers to the series, is the input. The way the Wii controllers work with the sensor bar, it's not possible to track height. As a result, you'll have to hold the remotes at specific angles to register low, mid, and high shakes. It's a bit tricky at first, but after spending some time with the game, we started to get the hang of it. We should also point out that the game's control was still very much a work in progress, and Sega and Gearbox are working to get it right.

The visuals faithfully re-create the look of the original Dreamcast game, with some elements taken from ver 2000. You'll see Amigo and the game's quirky cast of characters getting their groove on in the colorful stages. The graphics still pop, thanks to the game's eccentric art design and bright color palette. There were odds bits of coloring in a few spots, but those are easily attributed to the game's unfinished status.

The audio was sounding spot-on, with the familiar tunes on hand along with various sound effects. You'll hear a cheering crowd, maraca shakes, and chimes along with the songs to offer encouragement and audio cues that you're doing well.

Based on what we played, Samba de Amigo is headed in the right direction. The core element of fun is intact, and the control is on its way toward being solid. We're curious to see what the final game breaks down to in terms of old and new content, but things are looking good so far. The only thing that's missing, at least for us, is some kind of maraca sleeve for the Wii Remote. Samba just isn't Samba unless you hear the sound of maracas shaking, so hopefully Sega will make something happen on that front. Samba de Amigo is set to ship this spring for the Wii. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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