The Investigation Team returns for another adventure as they have to dance to defeat their enemies this time around.
What Is It?
While we anxiously await Persona 5, Atlus toils away with new romps for the crew of Persona 4 in a variety of genres, the latest being Persona 4: Dancing All Night. With some help from a team that worked on the PSP iterations of Hatsune Miku before becoming an Atlus production, Dancing All Night bears a remarkable resemblance to most games in the genre as you see the Investigation Team dance to solve their problems in a new mystery. Though you might not have expected it, DAN goes all out on the story like it was just another Persona RPG in a lengthy 10-hour adventure.
Set during the summer after Persona 4 ended, Rise Kujikawa is set to make her big debut on the Life Meets Bonds Festival. She intends to get her friends from the Investigation Team involved as her back-up dancers, though she must travel back and forth from Inaba and the big city to make sure everyone gets some equal practice time. They are set to headline the Festival alongside the popular Kanamin Kitchen group that is lead by Kanami Mashita, who you may recall was namedropped in Persona 4 as a potential successor to Rise if she decided to quit the Idol game for good. Meanwhile, a rumor quickly spreads that those visiting the LMB Festival website at Midnight get to watch a spooky video that causes them to end up in a coma. Before they know it, the Investigation Team is sucked into a mysterious world called the Midnight Stage to rescue the supporting members of Kanamin Kitchen and figure out what has caused this mysterious world to appear along with how to get everybody out safely.
Why Should I Care?
One of the Persona series’ best aspects from the start has been its soundtracks and art style, which has helped give the series a unique personality to keep it relevant between its PS1 and PS2 iterations. Shoji Meguro did some great work with Persona 4’s soundtrack that makes Dancing All Night a possibility, though relying just on the music in Persona 4 makes this game’s song lineup feel a bit too thin without including more music from the previous games in the series. You don’t see many rhythm games with about 30% of their tracklist being remixes of other songs on the soundtrack, though that’s not to say that they’re bad. There is a particularly great remix for Kanji that turns a great Persona song into a dubstep remix that fits his personality really well. Speaking of personality again, they’ve done a great job with the dancing animations for each participant so that they dance like you’d expect, and are matched by the songs they’re featured on.
The actual rhythm mechanics in Persona 4: Dancing All Night are well done and for the most part, fairly simple compared to most rhythm games out there. The controls, three directions from the d-pad and three face buttons, are set on the opposite sides of the screen as notes fly out from the center with a chord note requiring two button presses and a hold note. The one wrinkle that adds a lot of challenge is that you can flick either analog stick along with the note or on special rings that fly to the edges of the screen to add to the combo counter, which feels more like a trick that newbies should ignore because it requires you to take focus off of the main buttons for a minor bonus.
I found DAN to be really bad at letting you know when you’ve messed up, so I constantly saw my combo counter getting erased despite not missing a note. Checking out captures of the action afterward, I could only figure out that certain “Good” notes should’ve been labelled as a “Miss” if it resets the combo counter. That’s not to say I would have received awesome scores if not for that, but it doesn’t help when the game does a poor job of giving you feedback to get better with the timing. I also mainly played on a PlayStation TV, so it felt like there was a tiny bit of lag with no options to account for that and playing on a much bigger screen makes it a bit harder to follow notes, even from a good distance.
Why Is It Worth My Time and Money?
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is another good Persona 4 spin-off following the heels of the Arena fighting games and Persona Q that makes good on the story and style personality that you expect. However, I would’ve appreciated more unique songs in the tracklist from other games in the series instead of remixes to double up on a large portion of the soundtrack. The $50 price tag is only an issue for those that solely care about the story and not the ability to further enjoy the music from Persona 4 along with unlocking lots of fan service with its many costumes and such for each character.
The story is a great reason for Persona fans to at least give this a rental, as it offers a satisfying new adventure for the Investigation Team that is meatier than you’d expect from this genre. The one issue I had with the story mode is that the early chapters are about two hours each, which you only find out are broken up into a bunch of pieces after finishing them. It would have made it easier to digest if they were more upfront about potential opportunities to take a break.