Persona 4: Dancing All Night Review

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Title: Persona 4: Dancing All Night
Developer: Atlus
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 3.5 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: Yes

Rhythm and music games are something you don’t really see every time.  The console world is attempting to revive the live instruments video games with the newest Rock Band game in development.  The handheld world, though, hasn’t had a whole lot.  I would say the PS Vita’s music genre can mostly be defined in terms of the Hatsune Miku Project Diva f series, outside of smaller indies, like Sound Shapes.

However, that will soon change.  Thanks to Atlus, and no doubt their previous dealings with their parent company being bought by SEGA, a new Persona game is coming out on the Vita, in the form of a music game.  No one could have imagined that rhythm and music was a genre Atlus was even considering for another game in the Persona 4 canon, but then again, who would have thought of a Persona 4 fighting game like Arena?

Thanks to Atlus, here is my official review of Persona 4: Dancing All Night!

Story

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After the events of Persona 4 Arena, Rise Kujikawa is preparing for a new festival and her come-back to the idol business.  In doing so, she has signed up all of her friends from Persona 4 to join her and has been teaching and training them to be idol material, themselves.  At the beginning of the game, they are in a rehearsal when they meet the members of a fellow idol group, led by new character Kanami.  P4G players should recognize her name as she was mentioned in one of the Social Link scenes, but never physically appears in the game.

In the midst of this fun, though, a rumor around the city begins to envelop them back into their Investigation Team past.  Rumor has it that if you watch a video on the festival’s web site at the stroke of midnight, you will see the dance of a dead idol and be dragged into the supernatural realm she resides in.  Upon investigating the rumor and discovering that there really is another world people are being dragged into, the team heads in to confront their new enemy, using music to break the power of Personas and lock the people in this trapped realm.

The story of P4D passes the spotlight between 3 characters: Yu, Rise, and Kanami.  The story goes in phases, where you will see progression from each individual character.  The story, itself, is interest and enjoyable at times, but has nothing on the story of Persona 4 Golden.  It’s definitely nice to see the gang back in action, but it’s not a story that is particularly gripping until the game’s climax.

Gameplay

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Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a rhythm and music game.  Whether you’re progressing through Story Mode or Free Dance Mode, you’ll be performing on stages as you press buttons in a rhythmic pattern to match the song you’re performing.  There aren’t any RPG elements or other genre elements.  This is strictly a music game.

When you go into the game, you will have a choice of a few different game modes: Story Mode, Free Dance, Shopping, Collection, and DLC.  Story Mode is where you play through the game’s story mode to solve the Dead Idol mystery.  Free Dance is where you can play and unlock each of the music tracks built into the game.  Shopping is where you spend points you earn by completing songs to buy new costumes and accessories for each of the ten playable characters or items to enhance the difficulty of performing songs, such as making it easier to make hits or making it harder.  Finally, Collection is where you can listen to music or view CG and character profiles, and DLC is where you can connect to PSN to download Downloadable Content.

Free Dance with characters is similar to how the normal game mode works in the Project Diva games.  You start out with only a couple songs at your disposal as well as songs being character-specific.  As you play and complete songs, you unlock more songs.  You can repeat this process until everything is unlocked.  One thing that’s worth noting is that progress and songs you play in Story Mode has no impact on Free Dance.  If you only has 6 songs in Free Dance when you begin the story, you will only have 6 songs in Free Dance when you complete the story.

Gameplay is a little different than Project Diva in that there are fixed locations for notes to fly out and hit.  There is a circle on the screen with six symbols for the Down, Left, and Up buttons as well as the Triangle, Circle, and X buttons.  Notes will fly towards these and you just need to press the button to hit the note.  There are also full circles that will travel outward, which are scratches.  When these go over your HUD’s circle, you just flick one of the analog sticks to hit it.

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The circle are important, and they’re also a nice part of the game.  The circle do not need to be pressed.  Although they will increase your score, they will not be counted as a miss if you skip them.  There are also Fever circles that you hit to increase a Fever Gauge.  Get enough of these and you’ll unlock Fever Time, where your character will be joined by another and your score will go up much faster.  You can use this potentially twice in each song.

When you finish a song, you’ll get scored and get money to use in the Shop.  You can also watch or save replays so you can watch over how well you did or didn’t do.  This is useful for jumping into the harder difficulties or for just re-watching the animations without worrying about hitting notes.

Despite being similar to the Project Diva games, Persona 4 Dancing is much longer.  The Story Mode, alone, should take you at least 8-9 hours to complete.  Add unlocking each of the games few dozen tracks and you’re looking at a minimum of 10-12 hours throughout.  This is a ton more than the few hours it takes to unlock everything in the Project Diva games.  If you’re a fan of Persona music, there’s quite a bit to do.

Controls

How the game’s controls work is definitely something you won’t have to worry about very much.  The game doesn’t have any mandatory touch controls, so there shouldn’t be any problems for those wanting to play on the PlayStation TV.  In fact, I played the game on the PSTV my entire trek through Story Mode.   By the time I wrote this review, I’d only played it on my Vita a couple times.

When you’re in the middle of a stage, you only need to worry about the D-Pad, face buttons, and analog sticks.  As noted in the above section, you hit notes with the Left, Down, and Up D-pad buttons as well as Triangle, Circle, and X.  Adding in the Analog flicks and that’s all the controls the game has to offer.

Presentation

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Presentation of the game is good all around.  The visuals look really nice and well-done.  The cell-shading does really well for the characters.  The models aren’t perfect, but they look really well-done.  You won’t be able to find any jagged edges unless you pause or take screenshots of the gameplay.

Performance is also good.  The load times never exceed around 5-6 seconds and the animations never lag or slow down at all.  Atlus has done a really nice job of optimizing this game for the Vita.

The audio is also something worth mentioning.  This game’s soundtrack isn’t just made up of original and remixed tracks from Persona 4.  There are also tracks thrown in from Persona 4 Golden,  Persona 4 Arena, and Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth.  There’s a lot to see here and any Persona 4 fan will immediately recognize a lot of these tracks, and be surprised upon hearing a track based around a certain store’s theme song.

Summary

Persona 4: Dancing All Night does exactly what it sets out to do.  It’s a music game for fans of Persona 4.  While the story isn’t anywhere near as immersive as P4G, the gameplay and audio more than make up for it, making it a must-buy game for a fan of music games and Persona. 

9/10

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