TESTING | Samba de Amigo: Party Central – A return to the right tempo

It’s back to school, whether for our children or for video game productions. Among these, a title exclusive to the Nintendo Switch since it is the return of a SEGA license which was a hit at the time. With Samba de Amigo: Party Central, Japanese developers will try to convince an audience that lacks rhythm games, if we exclude traditional annual licenses like Just Dance or Let’s Sing. With a poncho on and a tight joy-con, we sweated to give you a test that could convince players to lean towards this title which exudes good humor.

Test carried out on Nintendo Switch OLED thanks to a digital copy provided by the publisher

A return without maracas

The year 2000 is not synonymous only with the famous bug which bears the same name or with the victory of the French team at the Euro Football Championship against an Italian team still stunned by the final outcome of the meeting: it’s also the release on Dreamcast of Samba de Amigo! The particularity of the title at the time was to offer an accessory that we connected directly to the console: the famous maracas! Because yes, there wasn’t just the Duck Hunt gun, the buzzers of the Buzz franchise (on PS2, the famous Quiz) or even the Donkey Konga at the time. Back on the scene in 2023, Samba de Amigo: Party Central is coming exclusively to Nintendo Switch but without any notable accessories: only our little fingers and the famous joy-con will help us fill a crowd that came in droves to see our notable misnotes. Because unlike a Just Dance where you can hope to make any movement to recover a few additional points, this new Samba de Amigo is based on a combo and bonus system: the more good notes follow one another, the more you you will earn points. It is therefore important not to do anything at the risk of breaking your combo.4

Better not to be susceptible to epileptic seizures!

During our gaming sessions, we noticed some approximations, regardless of the style of play chosen. It must be said that the joy-cons don’t necessarily help and precision is not their strong point. There are two ways to play: by making the movements and transforming our joy-cons into maracas or by simply using the buttons on the controller. In the first case, it will be possible to string together a few good notes without any problem but be careful not to do anything and break the combo chain. Standing with the joy-con attached and positioned vertically, the game may sometimes lose track of detection (you will have your arm raised, the maracas will be returned to the screen, etc.). The second option is significantly less competitive than the first: for certain tracks, it is simply impossible to press several buttons simultaneously, unless you have excellent coordination, which was not the case on our side. Last but not least important point regarding gameplay, you may have difficulty distinguishing musical notes from the background… Indeed, we cannot blame the title for being very animated during our musical jousts, but all the details, these colors, these animations mean that at times readability takes a serious hit. In any case, having the rhythm under your skin is essential, otherwise you will see the game stop and the word FAILURE arrive on your screen with our character very sad and stunned by the turn of events. It is therefore important to keep your fever score as high as possible, this gauge will fill up by chaining together combos and ensuring a performance worthy of the greatest

You will have understood, the objective of this Samba de Amigo: Party Central is to chain the tracks in order to conquer the best possible score. But the gameplay is not just about flicking the joy-con up, down or sideways to rhythmically follow the score displayed on the screen. During your high-flying performance, the game will ask you to make precise movements with your controller, or to maintain a pose or follow a specific rhythm. We greatly appreciated this feature which allows you to break with gameplay which can get boring after a certain number of hours, but the genre requires this repetitiveness which can happen after a few hours of play. Last important element, it is possible to activate (or not) a roulette wheel during your performance: the latter will modify the gameplay for 15 to 20 seconds by offering one of the many variations present. From the mode where everything accelerates to the much smaller notes, far from each other and therefore more difficult to distinguish, you gain a nice little jackpot of points if you succeed. During our session, we tested the title in Portable mode but also on a television. Surprisingly, SEGA hasn’t offered an automatic switch if we play the title in handheld mode. Once the joy-cons are attached to the Nintendo Switch, you will have to switch to Button mode in the settings, otherwise you will not be able to play the title since Shake mode does not work in this configuration. Also note that the touch screen is not used, either in game or in the menus.

If you miss too many notes, failure will be the only possible outcome!

Content in spades

This Samba de Amigo: Party Central does not play on the notes concerning its content and its potential lifespan. Whether you are keen on multiplayer or if you are more of a solitaire type and therefore a fan of single-player content, there is no doubt that this title will convince you as the possibilities are so great. Of course in this type of game, there is a free play mode which once in the menus translates to Rhythm game. For each song available, you will be able to play in 4 difficulty modes: normal, difficult, super hard and crazy. Once the difficulty is selected, the game gives you the option to play in Normal, Ranked Challenge, or Practice mode. For each difficulty level, you can record a score and compare it with that of your friends or other players around the world. Of course, as with all online features, a subscription to the Nintendo Switch Online service is required to take advantage of the online possibilities. Among these online features, we find the World Fiesta mode which will put you in competition with up to seven other players from around the world while the Online world will allow you to play with your friends, but in the same room… For a game of this kind, we appreciate the final copy made by SEGA with several online modes which will certainly convince you, with the exception of the local mode with 4 players absent. In fact, it will only be possible to play with up to 2 people locally (2 joy-cons each), not cool if you want to take the game out for special occasions and a few wild evenings. Here again, 4 game modes as varied as each other are offered in local mode: free mode, loveometer where you will have to cooperate with your partner (or not), head-to-head which is a real challenge in 1v1 with a pledge for the loser and a rhythmic mini-game mode.

Regarding the rest of the single-player content, the most interesting is certainly the StreamiGo “Story” mode! For now, it’s about completing a series of challenges (80 in total) with the aim of accumulating the most followers in order to become the essential artist on the streaming platform. Successfully completing a challenge earns you a number of new fans as well as money to spend in the title’s store, but we’ll talk about that a little further down. For once, we found that it was an excellent way to go through all the tracks of the title with a rather concrete objective which will make the youngest smile. Speaking of the music available, SEGA still offers us 40 titles available from the release of the game… and of course many DLCs are already planned! 8 additional packs will be available between the release of the game and the end of November, which will once again leave us with regrets since we will wonder why the content was not directly included in the game? The answer is of course financial since the additional music packs will be sold at the price of €4.99 each (for three additional tracks), if you multiply by 8 we almost find the price of the game when it was released. Otherwise, the 40 tracks immediately available are varied, with of course no French-speaking songs. In all cases, the choices are wise: between the 80s like Europe or even recent hits like Ariana Grande, Icona Pop, all generations should find what they are looking for. To discover the complete list of music, you can consult our article by following this address.

To conclude, it seems very important to us to talk to you about the technical aspect and especially everything that revolves around personalization. Indeed, Samba de Amigo: Party Central relies on refreshing graphics and technique for the support. Of course, no open world or exploration is expected so resources can be concentrated on a single scene. The animations are funny and the colorimetry pays homage to the little monkey from the Dreamcast. The staging is also successful with choreography and a very bright stage. Furthermore, the environment in which we perform changes depending on the music chosen. Small complaint however and it’s quite surprising for a musical game, the artists are not specified in the menus even though it is the original titles which are used and not covers. Finally, the title builds player loyalty through the customization of the little monkey that we control. At the end of each service, we will earn money as well as XP points. This experience will allow us to unlock customization elements while the money will be spent in the title store. Let’s make it clear right away, there is no way to buy virtual currency via in-app purchases and that’s fine. There is therefore no chance of your child spending your salary on this type of product; however, you will have to remain vigilant when purchasing possible DLC from the game menu. Our character is therefore fully customizable from head to toe: face, maracas , outfit, caps, sunglasses, earrings… With all the content offered, you will have to chain titles to empty the game store…

Verdict: 7/10

Samba de Amigo: Party Central is a very welcome breath of fresh air. Colorful as can be and with a soundtrack that is convincing in its diversity, this rhythm game will easily be a welcome addition to your evenings… for two! With the absence of a multiplayer mode for up to 4 people, this title will be aimed at couples or even small evenings with friends by switching between each track. Too bad, because the game is truly complete upon release with a plethora of game modes, although a lot of paid downloadable content is already available and only a few weeks after the title’s release!

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