Porting arcade releases on console is always tricky to deal with, especially when there are custom control setups to keep in mind. That’s often the case with music games where there’s a peripheral involved and it doesn’t quite feel the same when playing at home. Games like Taiko no Tatsujin, which are amazing at the arcade, for instance, just aren’t right when using JoyCons, but that’s happily not the case with the new entry in the Samba de Amigo franchise, Samba de Amigo: Party Central.
Now, let’s get something out of the way right from the get go as it’s been a pet peeve of mine ever since I first laid eyes on Samba de Amigo when it was first released on Dreamcast: it has nothing to do with actual samba! The freaking mascot is wearing a sombrero, for crying out loud! Okay, deep breaths, in and out. With that off my chest, let’s get to the nitty gritty.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central is a music game with a broad net of genres that are played using maracas, or such is the case of this port, the Switch JoyCons. By shaking them in time with the rhythm icons on screen, you are graded by how precise you are, and thus you move on to harder and harder beats. Granted, playing with the system’s default controls definitely isn’t the same as using actual maracas, but thanks to the Switch’s specialized rumble, it’s the closest we’ll get to that, and it works well enough.
While the aforementioned Taiko games lacked the feel of actually hitting a drum and thus failed to convey the same catharsis of the arcade cabinet, Samba de Amigo: Party Central just works right out of the box because of the rumble and the form factor of the JoyCons, since they actually feel like pretty close approximations of the actual maraca controllers from back in the day.
Now, the actual gameplay is simple enough that anyone can pick this game up and play it right away, and it’s what makes it such a delight. I’ve had the opportunity of playing this with a few of my niece’s friends who came over for a visit, and everyone had an absolute blast playing it; none have had any experience with music games such as this outside of Ubisoft’s Dance Central, but they picked things up incredibly quick.
Now, a music game such as Samba de Amigo: Party Central lives and dies by its setlist, and I’m happy to report that the music included is incredibly varied and a whole lot of fun to shake fake maracas too. There’s a bit of everything, from Bon Jovi to Pitbull, as well as tracks from other Sega franchises such as Sonic Adventure 2‘s “Escape from the City” and the iconic “Baka Mitai” from Yakuza 0.
Sega has plans to include even more as paid DLC, with the first batch being focused on K-Pop hits and it’s also been announced that there’s going to be a pack based on the amazing music from Persona 5, along with costumes which you can use to characterize the cartoon figures from the game as Joker, Morgana and the rest of the Phantom Thieves.
Even though it’s not necessarily a deep game, Samba de Amigo: Party Central does a great enough job conveying the feel of playing a bonafide arcade game at the comfort of home without the need to shell out on costly accessories. Gone are the days where you had to lug around huge boxes in order to play these as the technology is now far ahead enough that the default controllers in a console such as the Switch can handle such a task so damn well.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central is a fantastic buy for those with enough friends and family that enjoy playing and having fun together. It’s a cartoony game that’s full of care-free charm and Sega’s trademark silliness that we’ve come to love them for. If you’re the sort of player that digs arcade experiences in portable form, you can’t go wrong with this one.