Fun, but ultimately a flawed and disappointing game
I really don't know what to say about Samba de Amigo.
A part of me wanted to just become obsessed with the game. I played the original Dreamcast version and had one heck of a laugh with it. The downloadable content kept bringing me back, but more than that, it was the lure of improvement. To keep practising and improving so that I could work through the hard and very hard songs and know that I was getting pretty good at shaking those maracas. It was the first 'musical instrument' based game I ever played, and in my own opinion, why would you buy games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band if you didn't want to learn how to use the instrument, within the games own rules, and become a master at creating wonderful music? That is what these type of games are all about for me.
Sadly, it doesn't quite work that way with the Wii version. Sure, with Samba and similar games you can play them for fun and have a great party with your friends. But with nothing challenging you, making you want to improve and compete, then that fun gets reduced until it becomes rather stale.
The problem with Samba isn't that it's not fun. It is a tremendously fun game packed with a fantastic, and rather big, soundtrack that can't help but inspire your body to dance along as you shake like a mad man. For a party game, it certainly ticks the box of 'making you look like an idiot in front of your mates' and introduces some nice new solo and multi player modes, plus it is the first Wii game that offers downloadable content. It also features harder difficulty modes, which would have been great if the Wiimote actually worked well and the controls were spot on, thus here lies the problem.
You shake the Wiimote and Nunchuk, or two Wiimotes in time with the music. How this works is that on screen you have six circles, two for the top left and right, two for the middle left and right, and two for the bottom left and right. Blue spheres come out from the middle and you need to shake the Wiimote over the correct circle as the blue sphere enters. The tutorial explains it pretty well, although if you have never played the Dreamcast version it may take a little getting used to. The on-screen action responds to how the Wiimotes are pointed, rather than the actual height of the Wimmote, which was how the Dreamcast version worked, and whilst this method uses the functionality of the Wii as best it can, unfortunately it falters quite a bit.
For the easy and normal modes of play, the system does work well. However, as you progress to the harder difficulties, you soon begin to notice that the Wiimotes aren't registering some shakes because the Wiimotes are moving too fast to keep up. The game actually overcompensates for this problem by giving away free hits you may not have made: if you just randomly shake like a madman you would probably have a higher accuracy rate than it you tried to play it as intended. More often that not, you'll be left with frustration as you miss a beat you knew you should have got.
Samba de Amigo is a perfectly fun game, but for those of us wanting a fair challenge and the chance to improve our skills, the control system just does not allow it. It would have been a much better game if Sega had released their own maraca peripherals and height bar which made the original version work so perfectly. As it stands, I'm not so sure that the Motion Plus add-on would really make a difference.
It is a real shame to me, because I really wanted this game to be good and fun.