During the halcyon days of the Sega Dreamcast, gamers were awash in dedicated gaming peripherals. We fished for bass (and flexed in SoulCalibur) with Sega’s fishing controller. We typed zombies to shreds with the official Dreamcast keyboard. Virtual-On: Oratorio Tangram was truly playable in the home, thanks to the Dreamcast Twin Stick.
Then there was the Samba de Amigo maracas controller, a one-off musical peripheral absolutely necessary for enjoying Sega’s Latin-music-powered rhythm game to its full potential. We may never return to that glorious era of peripherals, but Sega is giving the inventive rhythm game franchise another shake with Samba de Amigo: Party Central, which will let Nintendo Switch owners dance and pose with their Joy-Cons this summer.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central doesn’t require any dedicated peripherals, merely a general sense of rhythm and — this is paramount — the ability to leave any sense of shame at the door. À la Ubisoft’s Just Dance games, you will gesture, gyrate, and violently shake a set of Joy-Cons with unmatched intensity, preferably in time with the beat and lined up with six on-screen markers.
The premise of Samba de Amigo is simple: Shake your controller, at the right spot, when a circle enters a ring. There are two rings at the top, two in the middle, and two at the bottom. In practice, you’ll be shaking all over, arms raised, or crossed, or twisted as you try to match a flow of beat markers pouring out from the center of the screen. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to hold a pose, looking silly while doing so. The action gets more complicated from there.
Based on my hands-on experience with the game, Sega has retained the soul of Samba de Amigo’s colorful arcade antics with Party Central, but the Switch sequel (understandably) lacks the tactile feedback of the Dreamcast classic. It’s simple and satisfying, but doesn’t have the powerful draw of shaking two real-life maracas to make video game magic happen.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central includes a variety of ways to play, including a pick-up-and-play rhythm game mode where you select one of the game’s 40 songs and compete for a high score in one of four difficulty settings. Players can also shake it in two-player mode, with optional minigames and a “Love Checker” mode where you measure your synchronization levels.
There’s also online play and a sort of battle royale mode; up to eight players can compete in an elimination-style game across three rounds of play. Sega has even worked in a faux social media/streaming platform called “StreamiGo!” where players take on missions to earn more followers. (That’s a sort of alternative to streaming Samba de Amigo: Party Central on Twitch, where music games have a hard time succeeding due to copyright issues.)
Sega is trying to provide longevity with a series of unlockable cosmetics — earned by spending an in-game currency — and post-launch music DLC. Players can unlock hats, costumes, and maracas inspired by other Sega franchises, like Space Channel 5, Puyo Puyo, and Super Monkey Ball.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central’s launch list of tunes includes some classics like “La Bamba,” “Macarena,” and Ricky Martin’s “The Cup of Life.” It’s chock full of danceable tracks from Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Pitbull, and Junior Senior. But it’s lacking some notable Samba de Amigo bangers, like “Samba de Janeiro” and “Soul Bossa Nova.” Hopefully these oversights will be addressed in future DLC.
When Samba de Amigo: Party Central launches on Nintendo Switch on Aug. 29, here’s what players can expect on day one.
Samba de Amigo: Party Central launch tracklist
- “Break Free (ft. Zedd)” by Ariana Grande
- “Good Time” by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen
- “Pompeii” by Bastille
- “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi
- “I Really Like You” by Carly Rae Jepsen
- “Payback (feat. Icona Pop)” by Cheat Codes
- “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club
- “Let You Go (feat. Kareen Lomax)” by Diplo & TSHA
- “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida
- “Runaway (U&I)” by Galantis
- “I Will Survive (Eric Kupper Mix Extended)” by Gloria Gaynor
- “I Love It” by Icona Pop
- “Centerfold” by J Geils Band
- “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj
- “Sucker” by Jonas Brothers
- “Move Your Feet” by Junior Senior
- “TiK ToK” by Kesha
- “Moves Like Jagger (feat. Christina Aguilera)” by Maroon 5
- “Panama” by Matteo
- “Pa’lla” by Max Pizzolante
- “Plastic Hearts” by Miley Cyrus
- “I Won’t Let You Down” by OK Go
- “Celebrate” by Pitbull
- “The Cup of Life (La Copa de la Vida)” by Ricky Martin
- “XS” by Rina Sawayama
- “Bom Bom” by Sam and the Womp
- “Get Busy” by Soolja
- “Azukita” by Steve Aoki, Daddy Yankee, Play-N-Skillz & Elvis Crespo
- “Escape From The City” from Sonic Adventure 2
- “Fist Bump” from Sonic Forces
- “Macarena (Cover)”
- “La Bamba (Cover)“
- “Fugue (Classic)”
- “Scent of Your Sweet Love” from Sega
- “Let’s Find It and Shake It” from Sega
- “Chosen Mask” from Sega
- “Wedding March” from Sega