- Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a Vita-exclusive that Atlus made to milk the popularity of Persona 4 one last time (and it better be the last time) before Persona 5 comes out, and I’ve got to tell you, I really did not see this one coming. Sure Persona 4’s music is awesome, but to make a rhythm game out of it? At least Persona 4: Arena made some sort of sense because last I checked, all Personas were good for in these games besides representing your true self is fighting. Not rocking out on an electric guitar.
- And just like P4: Arena, it does come with an actual story mode, which means that even if rhythm games aren’t exactly my thing, I can technically review it. Besides, what else am I going to use my PS Vita for? Pretty much every exclusive aside from Persona is getting ported to the big consoles these days, and I prefer to play games on systems that have wide screens and no charging required.
- Dancing All Night takes place after the epilogue of Persona 4: Golden, which in of itself took place after the entirety of P4: Arena, and basically retcons the makeovers the characters got at the end of that game so that they can participate in Rise’s big comeback performance under the guise of “embracing our youth”, when in reality it’s because the designers wanted the characters to look as familiar as possible in order to appeal to the existing audience. I mean they retconned Nanako’s long hair for god’s sake, and there’s no justification as to why since she was never invited to perform on stage in the first place.
- However, a new supernatural midnight presence has arisen, and this time it’s taken the form of an Internet video that can suck whoever watches it into another world where violence isn’t allowed and Shadows prey on the hopes and dreams of idol culture. When said video ends up dragging four major idols and their manager into its clutches, it’s up to our heroes to enter this new world themselves and rescue them before the big concert in a few days. How do they accomplish this, you may ask? Why by dancing of course.
- While that’s going on, Kanami Mashita – a younger idol who has been briefly mentioned in all the previous Persona 4 material but has never made an official appearance before now – notices that everyone has gone missing and asks Ryotaro Dojima to help find them, as well as discover the truth behind these mysterious circumstances. This leads to dark revelations regarding Kanami’s insecurities tied to her past, as well as an excuse to play as Nanako in this game because it turns out she’s a naturally gifted dancer. Huh. Who woulda thought?
- The story is basically a criticism of the idol industry and how fake it can be, whilst still acknowledging that there are benefits to the profession, even if I’m not sure how much those benefits actually extend to real-life Japan. Pretty much every idol the gang meets goes through insecurities regarding how fake their personas are compared to what they’re like in real life, and they’re all pretty well-written for the most part, even if the quality is a bit inconsistent and the most important one isn’t very well-grounded.
- Unlike Persona 4 though, only Kanami and arguably the manager stays important after their dark sides are revealed. The others pretty much just disappear from the story altogether after all is said and done, which is a big detriment to a story mostly centered on characters who have already gone through all their character growth in the previous games and thus can do nothing but function as plot devices with amusing quips that can drag on too long.
- Dancing All Night’s story is presented to us in visual novel format and I’ve made it clear in the past that I’m really not a fan of that style of gameplay because whilst expressive on the characters, it’s not very expressive for much else, and there’s a limit to how much Yosuke’s comedic humiliation can carry me through nine hours of story if the only action we see of it comes from his mouth.
- Yeah I could have skipped through the dialogue in order to lessen the tedium, but I just like the English dub for Persona 4 too much to do that, even though a good chunk of the voice actors aren’t the same as they were in the original P4. Having said that, while I didn’t hate Ashly Burch’s voice like most people seem to (especially compared to Naoto’s new voice), she gives Rise a completely different personality from Laura Bailey’s rendition. Rise in this game is lot more huffy and less of a sweet girl, from her dialogue to the way she dresses. At least Junpei in Zero Time Dilemma had an excuse and a year to carry out that excuse. This game only takes place about 1-2 months since the last time we saw these guys.
- As for the gameplay, what do you want me to say? It’s a rhythm game, and a pretty simplistic one at that. You basically press the buttons in conjunction with what the screen tells you and that’s pretty much it. Once in a while you’ll activate something called “Fever Time”, which allows other Persona characters to dance alongside you and increase your score, but that’s pretty much it, and it’s very hard to appreciate the visual presentation given how it’s almost impossible to pay attention to the characters’ dance routines whilst focusing on pressing buttons at the same time.
- Obviously there’s more skill to it than that on the higher difficulties, but that should go without saying in any rhythm game ever. For the record, I always play games on Normal difficulty during my first time, so I was basically Easy Mode-ing the entire game. And thank god for that, because all those videos I’m linking for this review are King Crazy difficulty, and I’d rather not give myself hand cramps before the next family ski vacation.
- While it’s nice to see these characters again, dancing to cool remixes of good songs in swanky outfits that you unlock with the money earned playing through the story and Free Dance modes, Persona 4 pretty much wore out its welcome before it even became a franchise, and Dancing All Night only adds to the tediousness. The story has mature parts to it, but the overarching plot connecting them is pretty token. And while not to the level of P4: Arena, it still has that “Happy Days-reunion special” feel a lot of products that try to get all the characters back for a new adventure have, which isn’t exactly what most people want from a P4 game.
- Personally, if you want to experience the true appeal of this game, I recommend just watching these Youtube videos. That way, you can listen to good music whilst being able to actually see the dancing taking place.
- One wonders how the Atlus localization team can get Amanda Wynn Lee back to voice act given she’s never around anymore.
- I heard they were planning on making a P3 version of this game as well, but I’m pretty sure the backlash to this game’s announcement means that’s never going to happen.