It was a good day when news broke that Samba de Amigo was getting a second lease on life. I never got to play the Dreamcast version. It had always looked like fun, but the maracas were both overpriced and in short supply, so I had to pass. Unfortunately, while the Wii's motion-sensitive controls seem suited to Samba de Amigo's gameplay on paper, in practice they're just not up to the task.
The problem is mostly down to responsiveness, and the need for the remote to register very fast, precise moves. There are six circles arranged in a hexagon shape, and each circle is associated with a remote position. Holding the remote flat highlights the center circle, holding it upright with the buttons facing toward you highlights the top, and pointing down with buttons facing out works the bottom. Samba is ideally played with a remote in each hand, although the nunchuk can substitute in a pinch. Each remote can work all six points of the hexagon, but for the most part there's very little crossover from right to left.
Samba de Amigo's gameplay on paper, in practice they're just not up to the task.
So far, so good. Though it's here where things start to fall apart. Orbs drift from the center of the hexagon to its corners, and when an orb intersects a circle it's time to give the remote a shake. Even the hardest song on Normal is easy enough to get through with over a 90% success ratio, but once you hit Hard the notes come fast, frequently requiring alternating from high shake to low and back again in rapid succession. Either the Wii remote isn't up to the task, or such an intensive level of training is required to switch from one precise position to another that it's just not worth learning. All I know is when I shake the remote down low and it doesn't register a hit, it's bad design. Samba de Amigo is supposed to be about shaking maracas to a beat, and maracas don't care whether or not the face buttons are pointed in or out in order to properly determine spacial position.
There are a couple of other moves in addition to shaking that work a little better, thankfully. Posing happens when a stylish silhouette-man appears and points his maracas, and the player has a couple of seconds to copy the position. There's no bonus points for cool body contortions while doing it, of course, aside from the pure entertainment value in acting like a total doofus in front of the TV. The other move, new to this version of Samba de Amigo, is dancing, which involves moving either one or both remotes back and forth in an arc. Both dancing and posing work reliably, but they're simply there to break up the shaking. They aren't enough to carry the game.
The broken controls are especially disappointing because Samba de Amigo is wonderfully fun otherwise. The promise of gameplay on lower levels, where the notes flow slow enough to give the player time to position the maracas correctly, only makes the heartbreak all the worse when it's time to really get moving in the higher difficulties. The bright, colorful designs and super-happy characters complement the latin soundtrack perfectly. The mini-games are a bit of a waste of time, but that's a small complaint when weighed against how much goofy fun the main game should have been. Samba de Amigo's second chance ends up doing little more than reminding the world that the series exists, and would be complete blast if only there was hardware capable of making it work right.