And you were so close, Sega. So very, very close. And yet, the truth of the matter is that as wonderful as Samba De Amigo on Wii looks, sounds and generally is, the one thing that really mattered - getting the controls absolutely spot-on - has still eluded you. Don't worry, we know it's not your fault. Or even the fault of developer Gearbox. Seriously. And granted, for most people it probably won't even matter; they'll be too busy laughing, waving their arms and having a good time to notice. And that's the most important thing, right? Right?
Well, yes... kind of. There's no denying that Samba De Amigo is the ultimate feel-good game, nor that it's nearly impossible to play the game or watch other people playing it without smiling like a buffoon. The crazy latin rhythm, the dancing monkeys, the need to flail your arms around as you attempt to bop in time with the moving icons on screen - it's compelling in the way that only ridiculous party games can be.
Shake It, Madam
However (and it's a big shiny however, written in 50ft-high neon lights and surrounded by equally large red arrows drawing your attention to it), there's a big difference between the controls working and the controls working well and sadly, Samba De Amigo on Wii falls firmly into the former category rather than the latter
That isn't to say that the former is an absolute negative though, because it's really not. In fact, Gearbox has done one hell of a job getting the controls as good as they are. They were an unbridled mess six months ago that made the game unplayable but they're now functional and allow you to really enjoy the game without the need for constant swearing.
Granted, you still need to adjust to the quirks of how to grip the Remote and Nunchuk (or twin Remotes, if you've got them) as hitting the top and bottom markers requires you to hold them at a slight angle as well as either up or down. But that only takes a small amount of adjustment and soon enough, you can enjoy everything that Samba has to offer. Well, on the lower difficulty levels, at least.
And that's perhaps the most irritating thing about Samba from a reviewing point of view because if you take the controls out of the equation, it's almost impossible to fault. The brightly-coloured backgrounds and dancing characters that adorn each stage, built from the ground up for the Wii as they were, are impeccable, while the huge range of musical tracks available are pretty much perfect. In essence, it's an exact recreation of the game we loved back on the Dreamcast, only better - prettier graphics, more bop-worthy tunes and heck, it's even got downloadable content like the original did too. Indeed, besides a couple of the eight bonus mini-games offered being a touch on the rubbish side, we almost couldn't be happier. Almost.
But though it pains us horribly to say it, there's still no getting away from the fact that Samba's controls just aren't as tight as they need to be in the latter stages. And even more painful, the fault lies not at Gearbox's feet but at those of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
Out Of Control
Without getting too scientific, the inner workings of the Wii's controllers are more adept at slow, smooth movements as opposed to jerky motion. While this means moving between high and middle or low and middle shakes works reasonably well, rapidly switching between high and low shakes on the same controller is actually nigh-on impossible.
It's a shame because if there's a single beat of pause between the notes, then it seems to work fine as the controller has a moment to recalibrate its position, allowing the cursor to move as a result. But this just isn't the case on the later Hard songs and almost all of Super Hard, meaning you wind up missing lots of notes and can even fail songs as a result. Considering that online high-score tables are a big part of the game's more hardcore appeal, such a thing is inexcusable and we've had to dock serious points off its final score as a result.
Basically, if ever there was a game that needed to be held back six months and have Wii MotionPlus functionality included, it's Samba De Amigo. It's just a shame that Sega couldn't hold on any longer. It's not that it's terrible, because it isn't and for those less committed players who are content with sticking to the lower difficulties, they'll undoubtedly have a blast. Sadly though, we don't pay £40 for half a game and considering we know it could have been a great deal better, it's hard to be anything but rather disappointed by this.