It was nearly 25 years ago when Sega first picked up a pair of maracas to create musical gaming magic. Samba de Amigo remains an unforgettable piece of a special era for the publisher, standing out among the heavy hitters of the Sega Dreamcast era. So much time has passed, an entire rhythm gaming boom came and went, but now it's time for Samba de Amigo to pick up its maracas again. Samba de Amigo: Party Central doesn't offer a special peripheral, but it turns out that busting a groove and shaking one's booty to the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers is a winning formula nonetheless.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central does little to shake up the core series formula. Players must shake their maracas (the Joy-Cons, in this case) at high, middle, or low heights to match the beat of whatever song is playing. Tracks go back and forth between players shaking simultaneous maracas to yellow notes or individual ones for blue notes.
The Switch's motion controls are also put to good use. The classic pose prompts are back, sometimes alone or repeatedly coming a mile-a-minute, in which players must stretch their arms out to match the on-screen image. A dragging prompt will instruct players to follow a moving arrow across the screen for a different kind of movement. At higher difficulties, this gets incredibly intense and can lead to an exhausting (in a fun way) workout. The experience is greatly enhanced by an eclectic soundtrack that spans multiple music genres, one that will grow further with post-launch support.
There's also an interesting option to use buttons instead of motion controls. This means that players will hit notes with the Up, Left, and Down directions on the Control Pad; the X, A, and B buttons; and the analog sticks. It's a more intuitive system than it sounds and a great accessibility feature for those with injuries or those who don't have the space to move around. There is a major problem in that the local multiplayer options don't allow players to mix their control schemes. If anybody wants to shake their maracas while a friend on crutches would rather use buttons, there's no option to select one and then the other. Both players have to use the same setting, which is unfortunate.
Taking the party on the road
Samba de Amigo: Party Central's standard game mode is more than enough to make it a fun night in with friends and family. Sega has also added several game modes to keep the party going. Up to four players can jump into an online session, but for those looking for a more intimate gathering with loved ones, there are several two-player modes available. There's straight-up head-to-head competition; there's a co-op mode called Love Checker that starts as a standard session before mixing together both players' tracks to see how closely they play with each other; and there's Show Down mode, which is a straightforward competition with a special house rule. Whoever loses the Show Down session must perform whatever random action the game prompts after the song is over. There's a lot here to keep partygoers entertained, with the only issue being that players are prompted to sync their Joy-Cons at the start of every single game. Repeatedly being forced to sync controllers was annoying and time-consuming and sometimes took even longer than some of the songs.
Solo players can also have a good time with Party Central in between weekend get-togethers. StreamiGo is the game's main single-player mode, where players must try and climb the influencer ranks by performing the game's various songs with increasing difficulty parameters. These can get challenging once players are only given a limited number of misses.
However, nothing gets more challenging than trying to win in the World Party mode. This is a 16-player online battle royale-like mode where only the top players get to advance. Players can trip each other up with random power-ups, but even without those in place, staying on top is far from easy. There's no difficulty setting in World Party mode, so if you're not an advanced Samba de Amigo player, you may want to stay away from this mode. It's for the best of the best only, which is slightly disappointing for anyone who just wants a normal online session with people not on their friends lists.
It takes something especially fun to get added to the party night rotation, and Samba de Amigo: Party Central has pulled that off. With a varied setlist, fun mechanics, and enough to do after the party's over, this feels like a win for Sega and for long-time Samba de Amigo fans. It's the kind of anniversary present that the series deserves.
Any grievances mainly involve user interface choices and the occasional motion control hiccup, but there's nothing here that ultimately derails the experience. It's fun, it's entertaining, and it's sometimes a workout. Samba de Amigo: Party Central doesn't shake up its formula drastically, but it's still a blast.
This review is based on a Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher. Samba de Amigo: Party Central will release on Nintendo Switch on Tuesday, August 29 for $39.99 USD. The game is rated E.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central
- Wildly fun rhythm mechanics
- Strong opening setlist
- Entertaining two-player modes
- Mid-song twists mix up the experience
- Lots of unlockable customization options
- Better workout than expected
- Controllers must be synced constantly in 2P modes
- Can't mix and match control preferences for 2P modes
- No difficulty setting for World Party
- Motion controls are sometimes finicky