i was never really into sega growing up (nintendo fanboy that i am, even back then) and am only now slowly working my way through the backlog of great sega games. i’d been intrigued for a while by the wii-make of samba de amigo, which came out in the US last september (although it has yet to make an appearance in japan, oddly enough). usually i like to play earlier iterations of a game before later ones, but after spending a fair amount of time trying to find a pair of the original dreamcast maracas on ebay i gave up and decided to jump into the wii version, particularly since i’m planning on taking the game home to play with my family in a couple of weeks.
the game’s mechanics are immediately appealing, but i quickly ran into the problem that everyone complains about, which is the accuracy of the controls, particularly at the higher levels of difficulty. i was really curious if reviewers’ complaints were fair or not, and for a fair amount of time i was undecided. on easier levels the controls are pretty forgiving, but on harder levels i was definitely having a lot of trouble getting my movements to register. but i couldn’t believe that a powerhouse studio like sega would ship a product with broken controls, so instead of giving up and declaring the game faulty i tried a lot of different things.
eventually i figured out how to get the controls to work pretty much perfectly, and now the only thing that mystifies me is: 1) why so many reviewers (such as IGN’s; yet again, IGN proves to be a poor source of information and my interest in them continues to wane even further) didn’t bother spending the time figuring out how to make the controls work. granted, maybe these people were used to the dreamcast controllers, but it can’t be that hard to figure out the wii controls because, judging by the leaderboards, apparently tons of people other than i have independently figured out how to make them work; and 2) why sega didn’t include a tutorial on how to use the controls properly. because once you understand how the controls actually work, the game is an absolute blast.
in case you too need tips on how to use the controls, it’s really simple. there are three positions: high, medium, low. the game registers positions based on the tilt of the controllers, so for the high position hold the controllers straight up, and then to shake tilt them down (i.e. away from you). for the medium position, hold them flat in front of you and perpendicular to the floor, and to shake just tilt them down (towards the ground). and lastly, for the low position, hold the controllers straight down, and to shake just tilt them towards the wall behind you. to do crossovers (the remotes pointing in the same direction), your arms (and your wiimotes) should actually be crossed over for them to register correctly.
and that’s it! the controls work extremely well with this setup, although i’m really curious to see if others have come to the same conclusion. anyway, as i said, once i figured out the correct way to use the controls the game was (and continues to be) incredibly fun and addictive. as anyone who may have been reading this blog may have noticed, i don’t give out high praise that often, but this game is frickin’ awesome and is a great example of what the wii is all about. i’ve been getting really bored with guitar hero-style gameplay, so this was a real breath of fresh air. the wackiness of the design and the fact that you’re frickin’ shaking your wiimotes like maracas to spanish songs and random songs like “groove is in the heart” thrown in makes this classic, totally stupid fun. as a party game this is an absolute no-brainer, and the new “dance” moves added to this edition just add to the ridiculousness of it. and on my version of miyamoto’s “wife-o-meter” (i.e. the “bf-o-meter”) this was a definite win (and i have some embarassing photos to prove it!). 😉
this is one time i’ve been tempted to buy a game’s downloadable content. at some point i probably will, but in the meantime i A-ranked about 1/3 of the songs on the hard level. but after playing the game day after day for hours on end my arms were getting frickin’ tired; this has got to be the biggest workout i’ve gotten from playing with my wii yet (hahaha). the one complaint i have about the game is that when you make one mistake you drop a rank, so getting an A rank is sometimes artificially hard since you pretty much have to get the last section perfect with no time to recover from even one mistake. but i suppose it’s all just part of the challenge. the fact that you can do crossovers on single notes to up your points adds even more depth to the game, but the game mechanics themselves are just fun, no matter what the level of difficulty. i’ve set the game aside for now, but this is one that i’m definitely looking forward to coming back to. samba!
shake to these samba links!
– entry at wikipedia including a table comparing the different songs in the different versions
– page at metacritic. it’s noteworthy that ye olde nintendo power gave the game the highest score (a 9 out of 10) and just goes to show that yet again NP and i are on the same wavelength.
– random blog post of someone who also came to the same conclusion that i did: “… the controls are great. Early reviewers were either: a) bad at the game, b) confused or c) lazy.” i’m voting for C on that one. he suggests experimenting with the calibration option, but i didn’t try messing around with that much.
– there’s an official site here. doesn’t have much, but includes some wallpapers, screenshots, and a video previewing the first download pack.