SEGA recently released Samba de Amigo: Party-To-Go () on Apple Arcade and Samba de Amigo: Party Central on Nintendo Switch worldwide as the first new entries in the series in ages. Read our review of the Apple Arcade game here and Nintendo Switch game here. Following both of those launches, I had a chance to talk to the legendary Shun Nakamura from SEGA about Samba de Amigo, reviving the series, other SEGA franchises he hopes to bring back, song choices, future plans, motion controls, his favorite coffee, what he’s playing right now, and a lot more.
TouchArcade: Firstly, a belated Happy Birthday to you.
Shun Nakamura: Thank you. I turned 51. Usually in Japan, people will work until 60, so for now, I’d like to do the best I can within the 9 years so that I have no regrets.
TA: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been doing recently at SEGA.
SN: Yes, so recently, as you may be aware, I have been actively working to bring back Samba de Amigo to this modern era. Even at this age, regarding new hardware, I was reminded again of how new and fun it was to have it in my hands, and how fascinating it is to think of making something new. As a creator, I’ve been mainly focused on developing Samba, but other than that, my department has been busy working on a lot of titles planned to be released, such as Sonic Superstars and the Sonic Frontiers update.
TA: The Samba de Amigo series has been around for over two decades. What led to it getting a revival across Apple Arcade, Switch, and VR?
SN: A big factor is that it has been common in the industry as of late to bring back previous IPs. With that in mind, when the Nintendo Switch hardware was explained to me for the first time, I thought we may be able to develop a new Samba if there are two Joy-Con included on the Switch. At first, we tried making a different title that had a unique twist, but it ended up not making it to release. Even then, I wanted to challenge myself to try again, and so this trend in the industry was a big reason why Samba has gotten a revival. With that in mind, with the appeal of all these other platforms, such as the ease of use with Apple Arcade, and the immersive feeling of VR, I thought both were appropriate to spread the casual side of Samba, so we’ve made the decision to develop it as multiplatform title while focusing on each platform’s strengths.
TA: How did you approach resurrecting Samba de Amigo for the modern era?
SN: Bringing back older IPs can be very difficult, because if it stays the same as it was in the past, we won’t attract new users, and if we make everything new, it may not be appealing to the original game’s fans. Taking this, we took the method to keep the base of the concept the same, but modernizing it. This title has the concept, “silly and fun.” Even if the generation may have changed, the appeal of the concept itself doesn’t change. In the past, we had places like arcades where people were able to have fun around others, so I questioned where people would do that now. To me, it would be places like TikTok or social media. There is a common connection there where you would play music and have so much fun dancing while everyone watches. With that, I revived the new Samba that kept the same core “silly fun” concept of the original, and then implemented that modern TikTok culture where people can have fun with music and movement into the game.
TA: While the Switch version is getting paid DLC, Apple Arcade likely will see new content through updates. Tell us a little bit about how the songs were chosen for Samba de Amigo Party-To-Go.
SN: Yes, regarding Apple Arcade, songs will be added through updates, so please look forward to it!
We also discussed a lot on how we could modernize the music along with the game. We received a lot of feedback during the Dreamcast days that people wanted to play with songs that are not only from the Latin music genre. Back in the day, we used to only develop for the arcades in Japan, so we weren’t thinking about branching out to the overseas market at the time. This time, as we worked on modernizing the game, we chose songs that a lot of the users from around the world would be able to enjoy. Also, it was extremely difficult to choose the songs from the perspective of someone living in Japan, especially regarding current Western trends. We now had overseas staff, and a Western advisor helped choose the songs, and left it in their hands to make the final list. In addition, what us on the dev side thought was important was whether our concept would fit with that given song. Some tracks with a good rhythm may have this upbeat tempo that continues forever, but has no intonations in between, which we felt was key to having a dynamic and enjoyable experience. To that end, we chose our song candidates for the game based on if people would be able to let loose and feel the “silly fun” of Samba.
TA: How was it translating the traditional motion control gameplay to touch controllers?
SN: Even in the previous Dreamcast version, there were more users that enjoyed using the controller, so I already had a feeling that it was going to be fun even if it wasn’t with motion controls. Regarding the touch controllers, I made a title in the past called Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure for Nintendo 3DS and I put a Samba minigame inside of it. That game was played via touch – it also worked pretty well, and players had fun with it. Touch controllers also don’t have that random “wing it” aspect that motion controls tend to have, so I thought that users would still have plenty of fun. Therefore, in this case, I had no concerns in translating it over. However, aspects such as body movements and finger movements do differ with the motion controls compared to touch, so the “fun” people find in the game can differ as well. Either way, I’d be thrilled if players could give both a try.
TA: Will Samba de Amigo on Apple Arcade get motion controller support with Joy-Cons in the future since iOS devices now support Joy-Cons?
SN: The game does support Joy-Con controllers, but the buttons on the Joy-Con are different from those found on other controllers. Therefore, those who want to use them will need to adjust the button mapping through their iPhone settings, so that works. But while with other games, it is simply a matter of changing the controls, this game puts a lot of emphasis on specific buttons and their positions in relation to what’s happening on the screen, so players will need to keep this in mind when making those adjustments.
As for motion controls, due to the complexity involved with what I just went over, we do not plan to support that at this time.
TA: A lot of classic SEGA songs from prior games aren’t included in Samba de Amigo Party-To-Go. Are there plans to bring Samba de Janeiro to the game? It felt like the theme song for the series.
SN: As I shared in a previous answer, we are planning on adding a variety of songs through future updates to the game. Various things are still currently under consideration, so I would ask to please look forward to what we have planned!
TA: Sega has a rich history of music across its own games, and also Atlus titles. Will any of those songs be added to Samba de Amigo Party-To-Go?
SN: Likewise, we have received a lot of feedback. We hope that this title reaches more people, and from there, we’d like to add even more songs.
TA: What are your thoughts on the current state of rhythm games today?
SN: In the department that I’m part of, there is a Music Team that makes a very popular arcade game in Japan called “maimai”. We were able to ask for their advice and have them involved in the development as well. In the classic rhythm games, there are video games like this, and additionally, Sega has a mobile title called “Hatsune Miku: Colorful Stage!”. We think that these games both deliver both the deepness and the variety, thus reaching more users.
I feel like there are a lot of games that are closer to that feeling of playing a live instrument, and you are just making these very predetermined or predictable moves while playing. I personally want to leave those types of games for others to make and instead create something that has the charm of something that lets players think outside of the box but still has that important appeal of a video game, like Samba.
TA: What is your favorite game that you’ve worked on across all the years?
SN: I mentioned it before, but there is a game called Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure that I love and is a game I feel like we could have done more with. It combines music and gameplay, linking both of those elements together instead of just standard gameplay, and there’s also a storyline on top of that. There are some parts that weren’t quite there, but it’s definitely a title I love.
TA: If you could, which SEGA franchise would you bring back today that you haven’t had a chance to so far.
SN: The Sonic series, which I continue to work on, is supported by a vast amount of fans and has multiple games to its name. So, in terms of games that I’ve had a deep involvement with and do not have a sequel, one would be Billy Hatcher, and the other, again, would have to be Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure. I have a lot of ideas I want to try out now for both games so I’m hoping I will have an opportunity, just like with Samba.
TA: What have you been playing recently?
SN: I played Pikmin 4 recently. It’s a game I’ve loved since the first game so I’m personally happy that this game reached a lot of people with this 4th installment. The GameCube had a lot of great games. Billy Hatcher’s a great game as well by the way! Haha
TA: What is your favorite kind of coffee if you have one?
SN: I just absolutely love my café lattes and I drink over 3 cups a day. It’s a great stress reliever to have when I’m overworked so I can’t imagine a world without it.
We’d like to thank Shun Nakamura and Apple for their time here.