Samba de Amigo is back in Switch form! It’s been quite a while since we last saw Amigo on the Wii update of the classic maraca-shaking music game. Samba de Amigo: Party Central is a new title (released with the Apple Arcade game) featuring new game modes and a ton of new music for the series. Will this new entry get the party started?
The initial story at the beginning of the game is about Amigo, the lead monkey who is in possession of the legendary Maracas responsible for saving the world with music. It’s a very similar start to the recently released Apple Arcade game Samba de Amigo Party-to-Go. The only difference is that the Apple Arcade version has a story mode featuring the cast of the Samba de Amigo game. With Party Central, your lofty goal is hanging in the air, just waiting for the never-ending party amigos.
For this new installment of the Samba de Amigo series, there is a wide variety of music to shake and groove to, ranging from some old songs (some from previous editions) to some catchy pop from 2010-2020. You also have some Sega/Sonic tunes (even more if you get the deluxe or individual music packs), with more DLC to add to the 40 launch songs. There’s a good mix of music here, and the appeal of the song list depends on how much you are into pop music. I’ll be honest I only recognize most of the songs from recent years because they’ve appeared in commercials, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work when you’re shaking your influences.
While the Samba de Amigo games are focused on using maracas/motion controls, thankfully Sega has taken into account those who may not be able to use motion controls. You can stick with the motion controls, or you can use the buttons or sticks on your Joycon.
The joycon shake/motion controls are mostly passive, as often as with motion controls, they aren’t overly precise. It also takes getting used to what the game is asking of you. The top, middle, and bottom represent the position at which you move the controllers, not by holding them high or low. There have been many occasions when wrong actions have been rewarded in the game. Still, it’s easy to miss when you get it right. I’m still not entirely sure how it evaluates long swipe notes moving between note rings, where it was quite generous.
The other control option allows you to play without any tempo, where you can use either the sticks or buttons to hit the beats. I found this mode to be workable when it was normal notes, but it gets messy when it throws in long swipe notes that you need to follow with multiple rings.
Rhythm mode is pretty straightforward as it’s essentially the quickplay option, where you get to choose a song and off you go. There is a wide selection of music and several difficulty levels available to try and get good grades. During a song, you can hit a mini rhythm game. You’ll be taken to another screen where you’ll have to swing the bat to hit the ball, or time a series of fast notes or pose moves. Depending on the mini-game, this can mess with your score and series, not ideal when you just want to get top rank for the songs.
World Party mode pits your Amigos in online battles against other Amigos around the world, with up to sixteen players fighting in small groups to avoid defeat. This mode comes with powerups/weapons that can really hinder one’s progress. I found myself falling prey to people who directly messed with my score by deleting incoming notes. Considering how many times I ran into that thing, it was quite discouraging. I never found it possible to recover from it. It’s not a bad battle royale mode, but the items may be a little too powerful to come back.
Party For Two is just that, a two-player mode where the two of you can sing a song, perform to win over the crowd, or jump into a game of love checker. Love Checker is all about comparing the progress of both players and how in sync you are to rate your compatibility!
There are also mini-rhythm games where you can choose from mini games that pop up during the song. These games are pretty cool, but I can’t see people rushing to play these mini-games in such large numbers.
You can also play Party Central online. You can host a room or search for a room for 2-4 players to participate. I didn’t have any problems, but you’ll want to make sure you have a good net connection. Every time I tried it, I had to wait for a while to get the game, but I still got the game.
After the more traditional rhythm game modes, Streamigo is the second mode I gravitated towards. Streamigo includes mission-based challenges to gain more followers. Simply playing the song may not be enough to meet the challenge criteria. You may also need to achieve a number of perfects or reach a specific score.
Party Central, as the name suggests, is more suited as a party game, something you would play with friends for a little fun. Unless you’re a fan of the series, it can be hard to ignore the lack of ways to keep you invested in a single game. There are no unlocking songs or any incentives other than gaining customizable items or leveling up for more gold coins.
Seeing as you’ll be seeing a lot of Amigos dancing around on your screen (when you’re not trying to look at all the notes flying around), you can customize your monkey. As you play you earn currency to spend on hats, maraca skins, outfits/costumes and even the sound the maraca makes when you press a note. There is a wide variety of cosmetics to dress up Amigo in every way. Some items require coffee beans, which are a secondary currency to the coins you collect for most things. This seems like a step too far, considering that you are not using real money to purchase this currency. Furthermore, there is little incentive to make an effort to collect difficult-to-buy items because there are so many other things to wear.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central is a great party game for those who are ready to shake their arms and dance to the beat. The various modes offer something for single and more players. However, it’s a shame that the Apple Arcade game is the only version that has seen a Story Mode. Samba de Amigo is a fun series. I hope Sega doesn’t make us wait so long to keep the party going.