We’ll be the first to admit that when the premise of Persona 4: Dancing All Night was announced along side Persona Q, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax and the upcoming Persona 5, we felt like Atlus may have been milking the series for all it’s worth. After all, The original PS2 and it’s Vita Remake had wrapped the story of the Investigation team and their trip into the TV world nicely.
That being said, 3 songs into the Vita exclusive, you start to realize that you really don’t care as you’re having a blast keeping to the rhythm to some well done remixes of songs from the Persona 4 soundtrack.
Persona 4 Dancing All Night sees the Investigation Team join together after the events of Persona 4 (and possibly the Arena series) and join their team-mate Rise Kujikawa for her comeback show. Along the way they hear rumours about the “Midnight Stage”, in a similar fashion to the team’s previous case, anyone on the music festival’s website at midnight is greeted by an image of a deceased Idol who drags them to “the other side.” Shortly after Yu and the team’s arrival, we learn that an Idol group called Kanamin Kitchen have all been dragged to this mysterious world.
While it sounds like your basic Persona 4 based story, the twist comes when the villain creates a new rule in which “no one hurts or can be hurt.” Thus needing the team to dance to set the shadows and the missing Idols free from the Midnight Stage.
Persona 4 Dancing All Night continues the theme of “being true to yourself” in a much more darker and sinister way, which makes the game worth playing if you’re a series fan. It comes as a surprise to see a Dancing game come with a deep story that could possibly stand on it’s own merits.
The gameplay for Dancing All Night has an unique set up. While similar to the Project Diva series in which you use face buttons and analog sticks to hit notes, the game uses a 6 quadrant grid to keep things from getting cluttered. Notes fly from the centre of the screen to the quadrants while players press the up, down, left, Triangle, Square and Cross buttons in time to the music. Of course there are different type of notes, single, unison (both a directional and face button at the same time,) a hold note and finally a scratch, which is a bonus ring note that is hit with the analog stick.
On Normal, the notes are challenging enough that the songs are fun and easily beaten as note types do not switch too often to cause confusion. However later difficulties sees a lot of note switches and double hold notes that end at different times, forcing you to keep a keen eye on everything on the screen. Passing the song means keeping your audience happy, the happier the audience is, the higher chance that you’ll enter a “Fever” state, which will invite another cast member to dance with you.
Persona 4 had some of the best music in the series, and Dancing All Night honours that with a list of 30 playable songs that range from the game’s original tracks, to remixes of those songs from popular Japanese bands/DJs/artists including Narasaki and Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka. While some of these remixes are great, in some cases better than the original, it does feel like a cop-out to have multiple versions of the same song in one game.
While it’s graphics is nothing amazing, the game’s animation for the dance numbers are extremely well done and actually worth hitting the watch button to see the characters groove.
As with most Rhythm games, the game’s replay value comes from the need/want of beating your score and aiming for perfection, the game also rewards you with the ability to unlock different outfits for the characters which can be equipped at the beginning of the song.
Thanks to it’s story, as well as it’s unique and fun gameplay, Persona 4 Dancing All Night feels less like a cash grab and more of a fun game that celebrates the music of one of the best RPG’s on the PS2/Vita.