As you may know, Samba De Amigo was released on the Wii last week. It's been eight years since the Dreamcast version came out and now Sega are giving the game a second chance with this remake developed by Gearbox, who you may know as the guys that ported Half Life to the Dreamcast, amongst other things. In case you're wondering why a developer who mainly works on first person shooters like Brothers in Arms are producing a new Samba De Amigo, it's because they begged Sega to do it for the love of the original game and the potential to finally be more than just a hardly known expensive game. Now that I've had the game for a couple days and have given it a good going over, how does it compare to the Dreamcast releases?
Well it's certainly not just a straight port. Gearbox hacve reworked the game from the ground up. It's all familiar but at the same time completely different. The graphics have been given a major overhaul and the presentation is far more expansive. Mind you, this should be expected when the game is a whole eight years apart from the Dreamcast one. Either way you can tell they loved what they were doing as the presentation is stunning and does the classic justice. No slapped together rubbish here. They've even included stages where you dance alongside Sonic in Green Hill Zone and Ulala from Space Channel 5, which is a lovely bit of fan service.
They've added quite a bit of new content too. There is at least 20 new songs on top of what was already available before, and every mini game from the first version and version 2000 are intact along with a couple more new ones. They even have downloadable content on the way with song packs of three for 500 Wii points (about £3/$5). So far the only songs that seem to be missing from what I can tell are all the Sega music that you could download 9for free) in the DC one, and a song called S.O.S which I was stuck on in version 2000. Maybe they'll be downloadable in the near future.
So everything appears to be great so far, but there is one area to this remake where it doesn't quite match the original: the controls. While the Wii remote and the DC maracas are both motion controlled devices, they both work entirely differently, and so Gearbox has had to adjust how the game works to play it. While the DC game worked based on the height you were holding the maracas, the Wii can not currently do that, so instead the game relays on a hard-to-describe tilt positioning type system that sadly isn't quite as accurate or as responsive. You have to completely re-wire your brain to play this new version. At first I really struggled to nail certain poses and going from one height to another quickly but after a bit of tinkering with the input settings and playing through the training parts I figured them out, unlike these guys in this video below by game Reactor who are clearly doing it wrong.
Still, it's not as good, and can sometimes be frustrating at it takes a lot more thought and perfection than the DC one did. From what I've read on forums it seems to vary from person to person: some people have nailed it and are beating superhard, while others cannot get the hang of it at all. It's definitely not as intuitive as before. personally, I've just started working on hard mode but keep getting my arse kicked with D's and E's. The Dreamcast maracas were not perfect by any means (especially in superhard where it often couldn't keep up with you), but it seems the Wii version is a lot harder to get good at. Maybe if they had waited until the Motion Plus attachment comes out next year, we could have got a more accurate and enjoyable game. Oh well, if this one sells good enough we might get a sequel that uses it.
If you mainly play the game as a party game to play with mates though, it's perfectly fine. With the Wii version it's far easier to set up, and you don't need to blow tons of money to get a two player game started. Once you get used to it Easy and Normal are just as good as the DC version, it's only when you start to handle hard upwards it suffers from problems. With the Wii version you also don't get the problem of wires flying up and smacking you in the face as you can play it with two remotes if you want to (although one remote and a nunchuck works just as fine). As for the sensation of holding two bright red maracas: you can get plastic attachments that make it feel like the DC ones again. Many look a bit shit but this pair by Speedlink look the part, and Sega will be releasing their own official maracas in a months time (why not now I don't know.)
So while the new Wii release is worth a look, it's by no means perfect just yet, mainly because as much as Gearbox tried, the Wii remote's technology is currently not quite good enough to recreate what Sega already did all those years ago. Once again proves that they were ahead of their time. Hopefully Sega will do the right thing and give us an update using motion plus in the near future, but that will only happen if people buy this one.