Samba is back! It’s great to see the little franchise that could seeing new life again, as Sega have brought back their rhythm party franchise on the Switch with a lot of new features. If you are new to Samba de Amigo, we first saw this little monkey back on the Dreamcast, with another release on the Wii years later. Its been quite a wait, but can this property still shake it? Let’s find out.
There really isn’t much of a story within Party Central as the game is focused on quick party modes, but there is a little mode that those who go in solo should enjoy. “StreamiGo!” has Samba set his aspirations high as he looks to be a huge online streamer. In this mode, players simply compete for high scores to gain followers, with a fun, virtual chat following along. Its a ton of fun, but Samba is a mascot for Sega, even to a lesser degree. I feel like the lack of fleshing out both old and new characters in some sort of a proper narrative would have cemented that, but either way – most should still leave with a smile in what is still memorable overall.
Shake it! Well, sort of. If you are new to Samba de Amigo, it is a motion controlled experience mostly through and through, where players take their Joycons and move them to specific circles on the screen in order to match the beat. Its simple and easy to play, but a bit difficult to master. To mix it up, random events come up during the gameplay, such as random events that allow the player to high-five, pose, clap, and so on. Sure, it isn’t a lot and I am not a fan of any sort of clapping mechanics, but the game is so into its own mechanics, its hard not to follow along joyfully.
The biggest issue with Party Central would have to be the motion controls, even though they are mostly fluid. I have several instances during almost every song where the movements would fail to register, and the roulette options that add in other forms of motion proved to be just as finicky, as the Joycon controllers just do not have a lot of nuance for such a fast-paced experience. Sure, the game is still delightful, but it takes you out of the beat when you know you are hitting the right notes, only for the game to fail the player when it matters the most.
Luckily, there are a lot of modes to try out in this non-stop party. Aside from the StreamiGo! mode, players can play co-op in “Love Checker”, which measures performance pairing, as well as a battle mode that is as it sounds. World Party mode is also a strong highlight, with eight players playing until eliminated based on score. I don’t think I have ever seen that in a rhythm game, but it worked well and the online was stable throughout, offering a very unique online experience that most are sure to enjoy.
I don’t know if this soundtrack will be for everyone, as its mostly dated pop classics, mixed with a bit of rock, latin tunes, and even tracks from other Sega IPs such as Sonic Adventure. Yeah, its going to be really based on the user’s own preference and the soundtrack could feature a lot more content, but with upcoming packs promised, most should hopefully find their niche very quickly. The atmosphere in this game is so lively and fun, with an audience rooting you on with a ton of energy as you perform. If you have played Samba before, this shouldn’t be new, but its great to see that the zest still remains in this version.
Want color? Well, Samba has you covered. From the in-game menus to the bursting gameplay presentation, everything is vibrant and chipper. Its a shame the gameplay doesn’t meet this level of polish, but as I mentioned, it kind of makes up for the shortcomings in some ways as you don’t really lose your spirit once you and some friends are “in” the game’s world and festivities.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central brings a fun party experience to the Switch in true form. There is just so much energy and liveliness that its hard not to fall for all the charms within the modes and entire package. I do wish there was a more expansive soundtrack, as the game’s replay value would be a lot greater with more songs. The controls are also a bit cumbersome at times, and while you can play with just the traditional set, it doesn’t have that same maraca motion control set, as even the WiiMote was a bit more fluid over a decade ago. Regardless of shortcomings, this is still a packed party title with a lot going for it. Samba is so deserving of a great comeback story, and hopefully this gem will see a lot of love down the line with even more content and polish as time progresses.
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