Hands-on with Samba de Amigo: Party Central

Nintendo always seems to get lauded for their innovation, but SEGA is no slouch in that department! In fact one of the places where SEGA did where Nintendo didn’t was the arcades. Titles such as Virtual On, Top Skater (it’s criminal we never got a port of this during the days of Tony Hawk Ride…) and Samba De Amigo offered unique gaming experiences not found anywhere else. While two of the listed titles found home releases, it seems our monkey friend had longer legs and is still seeing releases.

Enter Samba de Amigo: Party Central! Announced in February of this year, this is the fourth Samba de Amigo title released (2 on Dreamcast, 1 on Wii, and this the upcoming Switch entry), unlike the first two entries which offered a special peripheral, the later titles leveraged the respective console’s motion controllers.

We were fortunate enough to be invited to check out the title earlier this month and while I am a fan of the series, I’m also hopelessly rhythmically challenged so to spare the site any embarrassment — I brought a ringer! So I’ll run down the features and music we saw and Brendan will opine about gameplay and the motion controls.

The title is an assault on the eyes, bright neon colors everywhere which is almost a refreshing change compared to the drab color palettes we’re accustomed to. Once your eyes acclimate, you can choose from the following playmodes. Standard play mode where you can select song and difficulty, Versus which can be spiced up with in-match or post-match modifiers, a challenge based mode where your performance will garner you followers on a fictional streaming platform, a eight player mode where you shake it until one player remains and if you want to take the actual world by storm an online multiplayer mode. We had an opportunity to try all but the 8 player mode and the online MP.

The most important aspect of the game is the song list and this one features heavily on recent Top 40 hits, so I feel like a fish out of water. There are some SEGA-centric songs, but the one I want the most will be gated behind the premium edition of the title (Yakuza/Like a Dragon’s meme-iest song, Bakamitai). The SEGA rep did mention the possibility of song DLC, so there’s a hint of hope that songs missing from the previous titles and additional SEGA head boppers will eventually grace the title (If they manage to put 24-Hour Cinderella, I will offer it a slot on my top 10 games of 2023).

Well modes and songs matter, but if it controls awfully it’s all for naught. This is the part where I bring in Brendan to discuss how the game controls and plays. I will however bury the lede and mention that he did dazzle the reps with his play as he nabbed high ranks on higher difficulties… so good job, buddy! Now take it away!

Brendan’s take

I was that ringer. Who knew that the Spanish blood in me would unleash my inner rhythm. I was a huge fan of both the Dreamcast and Wii versions of this game and even more excited to see a returning Amigo. Sega has done a fantastic job recapturing the bright and colorful magic of Samba de Amigo with Party Central. I think they have a very accessible, fun and easy to pick up rhythm game on their hands.

I wanted to highlight something that stood out to me. You can adjust the settings of how bright the markers are. I have pretty awful vision and the markers were a little hard to see (although it didn’t stop me from crushing high scores). Once I was able to darken the markers a bit, it was smooth sailing.

I enjoyed the very eclectic soundtrack and the different variety of songs. Sometimes, with music games you get stuck with one genre of music and it can get very old, very fast. I found myself wanting to try out every song at least once (again, on the hardest difficulty because I’m a boss) The game itself controls so well. One of my biggest complaints with the Wii version of Samba was the lack of tracking between wii-mote and receiver. I played using the motion controls and didn’t run into any lag or any syncing issues. The game gives you a brief moment to get into position before whatever song you choose starts.

I could see this game do very well at parties. It is so easy to pick up and play. You will be rewarded for the time you put into this game. There are many different modes including a Love Checker mode, which checks to see how much in sync you are in with your dance partner. I also look forward to getting to customize my Amigo in game like I did during this demo. I had a duel wielding burnt golden banana .

I will say that I did not expect to do as well as I did.  After smashing the records on the demo build, I look forward to smashing the global leaderboards. Look out World, I’m coming for you brother!

Samba de Amigo: Party Central is set for a Aug 29th 2023 release only on the Switch. Can I see myself busting out my Switch and this game at the next rooftop party like Karen did? Highly unlikely, but I will say that I will be training non-stop in secret (I guess it’s not so secret anymore) until I can best Brendan on a regular basis! I’M COMING FOR YOU, BROTHA!