|Source // Coolshop.co.uk|
Ah, musical rhythm games. Why are you always so upbeat?
That's probably a silly question. Even a monkey could tell you why rhythm games feature popular music. A Brazilian monkey with maracas. Called Amigo. Titular star and frontman of Samba de Amigo.
We got to the title in the end. What's this about then?
|Source // YouTube|
Let's just get this written down for probable future reference: Dancing sucks. Hitting a beat doesn't. Hearing the drum beat to a piece of music and air drumming where necessary is a-ok in my book, and Samba de Amigo is basically that, but with maracas.
Originally released in the arcades with magnetic-sensor maracas, then on the Dreamcast with ultrasonic-transmitting maracas, it wasn't until nearly ten years later that the majority of gamers could get their hands on a playable version of Samba de Amigo on the Nintendo Wii, with its infrared accelerometer nunchucks.
|Source // Coolshop.co.uk|
I only got a copy from a charity shop a few weeks ago, which is rather timely, because it's a lot easier to track down than the original versions. My current setup doesn't allow me to snag some Wii screenshots though, but you can get an idea of the gameplay from this professional arcade gamer on YouTube.
Gameplay is simple - put a maraca in the vicinity of one of six key locations, and shake it when the time is right. The better your timing, the bigger your score. It's a rhythm game, you know the drill, but to mix it up a little you are sometimes prompted to perform some small 'dances' like circling your maracas around your head or crisscrossing your knees. Every now and then you can also strike a pose, and if it matches the target, you'll have a career in sambabusiness in no time.
The music is, so I'm told, more popular Latin than outright Samba, which means I actually recognise some of it, and if you recognise a piece of music in a rhythm game, you've probably got a fairly good chance of actually hitting the beat from time to time.
Tunes that caught my ear included 'Aserjé' (that Ketchup song), 'La Bamba' (lalalalalala bamba), 'Livin' la Vida Loca' (I'd die for Ricky Martin), 'Mambo No.5' (the original, not Bob the Builder), 'Papa Loves Mambo' (that one Nike football advert), 'Take On Me' (the Reel Big Fish cover) and 'Tubthumping' (you're never gonna keep me down), with most of them being found on the arcade original too.
On easy mode, it's pretty easy. Most of the movements make sense and you're not tasked with too much at once. On harder modes... bring out the waggle.
|Source // YouTube|
Calibrating Wiimote controllers can be a pain in the arse, especially when a day earlier you were playing SuperHot with PlayStation Move controllers. Or trying to. Not got the hang of throwing objects at Red dudes yet. Anyway, calibration of older motion sensing input devices can be a pain in the arse when you're used to a bit more precision.
There is a full calibration option that you can do again and again, as well as a training mode to perfect your placement of the controllers, as well as onscreen indicators telling you where you're currently pointing in relation to those six targets. All of that and I still had problems when Amigo asked me to strike specific poses - poses that I was doing but my controllers apparently weren't.
In the grand scheme of things, I'm only ever going to play Samba de Amigo for the fun of it, and not to try and get the high score, but some songs are, of course, locked until you make progress through the game. That's just not cool.
On harder difficulty modes, you're challenged to use the bottom two positions more often than easier difficulties, which almost sounds like it's easier for the console to register upright controller positions than downward ones. I don't know if that's the case, but if there's a blue ball heading for a green circle, your best bet was to ignore the beat and waggle down the bottom of your playing area.
I discovered the problems I was having with the bottom of the screen while I was noticing how well the harder difficulties challenge you at the top. I didn't try many songs, but when I recognised what the game was asking me to do in terms of shaking maracas instead of hitting targets, the gameplay just clicked. I wasn't waggling Wiimotes at that point, I was, if I recall, vaguely imitating the Ketchup song dance with pretend maracas. It was a highlight of my time with Samba de Amigo.
Until yet another message of a loose nunchuck cable paused the game or a failed pose that I was certain I'd met, or a missed blue ball because I waggled into a different position at the wrong time...
The problems with Samba de Amigo are technological ones. The gameplay is fine. The choice of music is great. The 1001 list entry makes note that the original input devices were better than the Wiimote of today. Huh. Okay then. Guess I better keep an eye out for some arcades.
With its bright colours, it's monkey frontman and it's upbeat and sunny selection of Latin hits, Samba de Amigo is a must play just to make you a little happier for the rest of the day. If you smash out some tunes in front of the rest of the party, great. If you make an utter tit of yourself in front of the rest of the party, probably even greater. Just have fun with it, because that's why it's on this list.
The Dreamcast port had on-disc DLC featuring music from various games, including Burning Rangers, Daytona USA and Sonic titles.
Samba de Amigo, developed by Sonic Team, first released in 1999.
Version played: Wii, 2008.
Version watched: Arcade, 1999 (OMG KON!)