Samba De Amigo (サンバDEアミーゴ)
Sega's monkey-filled rhythm game was something of an oddity, I remember the first time I saw it in my local Electronics Boutique； its grand-looking yellow box was sat at the top of the shelf to prevent 14 year old chavs from getting their greasy mits all over it, and it would sit there as the envy of the store. In fact, there it would sit, and sit, and sit for over two months until it was (according to the clerk at the time) sent back to Sega unsold. You see, despite the usually over inflated prices European gamers are usually faced with, at a cool £99.99 (the same price as the retail price of the DC at the time) Samba De Amigo was possibly the most expensive video game released in the UK and way beyond the budget of people such as myself at the time. This extravagant cost was due to the games low print run in Europe and the fact that it came bundled as standard with a pair of maracas made to arcade level specifications. Each week I would go in and stare at its grandeur and on occasions contemplate the cost of trading in pretty much everything I owned plus the cat for the set, but never quite did it. In fact, my first taste of Samba De Amigo was on 2002 on my inaugural trip to Japan. After playing what only can be described as a dog walking simulation (yup) I came across the game I gawped at for so long in EB and instantly gave it a go; I was not disappointed.
Standard edition and ver. 2000 editions were released in Japan
Samba de Amigo is a typical rhythm game; only the tension of the whole thing is ramped up like a maraca wielding monkey on cocaine. The visuals are an explosion to the senses. Sonic Team literally went ape in the graphics department using what seems to be every colour in the Dreamcast's palette at all times. Dozens of dancers flail about each brightly lit stage, led by your character, Samba the monkey and his wacky bear friends, Bingo and Bongo. In fact, the graphics are so good that they almost add an extra dimension to the challenge as it is not easy taking your eyes off of them to concentrate on the prompts of the game itself.
The 2000 version adds a few extra modes and extra tracks
The effort that went into packaging in those days was truly remarkable
For maximum enjoyment/embarrassment the maracas are essential
Also, keeping time with the beat isn't the only way you advance your score as at certain intervals, you are also required to strike a pose. Posing requires you to place the maracas in a certain position and hold still until the game lets you know if you did it right or not. It has to be said that watching someone do this is quite possibly more fun than actually doing it yourself. The version 2000 version also adds a “Hustle” maneuver, which complements the rest of the gameplay perfectly. The new move requires you to rapidly sway the maracas between two of the positions, or hustle with one maraca between the top two positions, and some of the songs from the original are actually more enjoyable with the new move. You know when you’re doing well as the party will greet you with a positive “YEY” or a “BOO!” when you mess up and just like with Space Channel 5 the party’s mood changes according to your performance. Go bad, and a depressed Samba will be left all alone in a darkened area, shaking away by his lonesome self. Keep an “A” rating, and the party will explode into a dazzling array of light, colors, and confetti, with everyone dancing and have fun.
Samba De Amigo is a party for your eyes!
Aside from the main arcade game, you get a Challenge Mode, a Party Mode, a Mini Game Mode and a Training Mode. Mini games include a whack-a-mole clone and a super-fast posing game that will have you jumping all over the place and the 2000 version also includes even a hilarious multiplayer mode called “Love Love” mode, which lets two "lovers" test how in synch they are and rates them at the end (with hilarious results).
The love mode is quite possibly the maddest of all!
The game features a large variety of contemporary maraca swinging tracks tracks to play through such as the Take on Me, Tequila and Macarena and the 2000 update includes all the songs from the original but also includes a fantastic set of new songs, ranging in style from remixed US pop culture mainstays to more Latin fare such as Volare and Salome. Some songs such as Cup of Life and Livin' La Vida Loca, removed from the initial Japanese version (but available in the EU and NA versions), were also included.
The Japanese, literally went crazy for Samba
Of course, if you want to get the most out of the game you will want to pick up the official maraca peripheral which has been translated expertly from the arcade original. To play the game you hold the maracas, each with a sensor that allows the game to track their position. The sense of freedom is quite surprising, you can wave your hands around however you like and it is all very indicative of the kind of effort that has gone into the game. However, while the controller is very good, there are some minor quibbles. There is also a very slight delay before the game decides where a maraca is, which requires a little anticipation and yes, the wires can get in the way at times.
Samba De Amiga really was the home fitness game, years before Wii Fit was a gleam in Old Nintendo’s eyes
If one thing could be said about Sega during the Dreamcast period, it would be that it was never lacking in the strangely original game category and Samba De Amigo proves to be another game that will simply bring a smile to your face. After a little practice, and a bit of embarrassment, just about anyone can enjoy what the game has to offer and you won't find a better party game out there. Sure, there is the cost of the maracas but the game just isn't the same without them as you won't look nearly as foolish, or have nearly as much fun.