Persona 4 Dancing All Night Review (PS Vita)
Persona 4 Dancing All Night
- Brilliant music
- Well told and interesting story, which is fully voice acted
- Fun rhythm action which ranks up there with the best
- Jam packed with stuff for fans of the series
- Lots of ways to add variation to replaying the same songs
- Track list has a lot of remixes, notable missing songs are coming as DLC
- Naturally, you need to like Persona 4 to really enjoy it
- I can’t get the title song out of my head
A spin off game of Persona 4 is not a new concept. Fans of the series are no doubt aware that Persona 4 recently had spin offs which brought the series’ protagonists into an Etrian Odyssey style game (Persona Q) and a fighting game (Persona 4 Arena) with mixed results. Persona 4 Dancing All Night brings the series into another popular genre, this time it’s a Rhythm game.
The first noticeable thing about Dancing all Night is that it’s absolutely gorgeous. The style of all the menus and everything in game is very faithful to the original game and on the Vita’s screen everything is a super highly saturated burst of colour which is great to look at. As you do the actual gameplay bit, the Persona 4 protagonists will dance in the background to the song and their models are easily the nicest that those characters have ever looked in a game. Their dancing animations are pretty good too, in particular Nanako (the protagonist’s little cousin from Persona 4) who looks stupidly adorable as she dances.
As with most rhythm games, the core gameplay involves hitting oncoming notes to the beat of a song playing in the background. Dancing All Night uses the Down, Left and Up arrow buttons on the D-pad to hit notes flying towards the left of the screen in the relevant positions and X, Circle and Triangle buttons to do the same on the right. Occasionally rings will also pulse out which can be hit with the shoulder buttons or the analog sticks (just flicking them in any direction.) As you hit notes you gain a combo which of course results in higher scores at the end of a song. Missing the rings however doesn’t cause you to lose your combo but they will increase it. So while they might be harder to hit, there’s no punishment for missing them and a reward for hitting them. On top of that there are special “Fever” rings which fill up a Fever meter, when this is full then during certain parts of a song a companion character will jump in and join the dance. It doesn’t really change anything from a gameplay standpoint but it looks pretty cool. This all sounds like a lot to do at once and in the higher difficulties it definitely is but Dancing All Night has an incredibly smooth learning curve that ramps up just enough to keep you feeling challenged while still having fun and introducing each new component slowly enough to let you get used to it.
Getting better scores also nets you money which lets you buy things at the shop. A lot of these are just aesthetic, allowing you to dress up all the characters in a variety of costumes ranging from their original Persona 4 get-ups to some more strange ones such as maid outfits and Halloween costumes. Teddy has the best of these by far – they all are twists on his iconic bear form and some of them are downright stupid in the best way. Not all the items in the shop are cosmetic however. There are also books and items you can buy and activate on a per-song basis in the Free Play mode. Books as a whole add additional challenges to the songs, one for example causes the notes to only appear on screen right before they have to be hit, and require some kind of in game action to unlock on top of being purchased. It doesn’t take long to unlock them all however, I had them all unlocked in about half an hour of play. Conversely, Items give buffs to make songs easier. All but a couple of these can be unlocked from the get go (if you have the in game cash) and they can help you keep your combo easier or continue a song if you fail part way through it. Activating books will increase the amount of score and money you get from a song and items will reduce it, so it’s fun to play around with and helps add a lot of replay value after you master the songs.
The songs themselves as you might expect are pretty fantastic across the board. Given it’s only pulling music from Persona 4 (and it’s spin offs) the tracklist is somewhat limited however and is padded by remixes of those songs. The remixes are mostly big changes from the original though and are pretty great too so it works well but it would have been nice to have had a couple of songs pulled in from Persona 3 or even forward from Persona 5. At the time of writing the game is not yet out in the EU but there is a big ol’ DLC option on the main menu which subtly hints that more songs will be available to buy at some point in the future and indeed this is the case in the US where the game has already been out for a while and has a pretty solid amount of (pretty cheaply priced) downloadable songs. I never felt like the in game tracklist was lacking however, so if you aren’t a DLC person there’s still plenty to enjoy.
Being a Persona game, even if it’s mostly in name, Dancing All Night comes with a surprisingly lengthy and well written story mode. The story follows the Persona 4 protagonists as they practice to join Rise for her big comeback at a music festival as her backup dancers. That silly premise gets pretty quickly side-lined as the music idols meant to be performing at this festival are nabbed by a mysterious force and pulled into a mysterious world full of shadows. This world bans all types of violence however and as such the heroes have to resort to the power of dance to vanquish their foes. It’s a really silly premise but the characters continue to be interesting and deep while the story built around it manages to have some genuinely fantastic moments and in true Persona style some incredibly dark moments and implications for some character’s lives. I didn’t really expect much from it – I mean it’s a story mode in a rhythm game – but I got really invested in what was going on and enjoyed my time with it a great deal. Also, did I mention it’s fully voice acted?
From the little touches like Kanji pulling a chair out and waving it around like a maniac at the end of his songs to the cheery happy attitude of everyone and everything in the game in the face of peril, Persona 4 Dancing All Night feels like a love letter to fans while also being an incredibly fun rhythm game in its own right. Really, if you’re a Persona fan with a Vita you shouldn’t even be questioning whether you should step on up to the plate for this one.
9 Dancing Shadows out of 10