Persona 4 has become a beast all its own. Since the critical acclaim of the third game, the Atlus franchise is more than likely its most profitable franchise and with good reason. When it was announced that a game that was rhythm based dancing game would be releasing for the PS Vita, most people, even fans of the original game, would have been justified a bit with an eye roll of two. There are great sequels or spinoffs, then there is just milking it for all its worth.
Fortunately, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is not the game you are thinking it would be. Well, it is to be fair, but with a lot going for it above many people’s expectations.
It would have been easy for Atlus to produce a rhythm/dancing game where you simply play as a character and dance through all the songs. While that portion does exist in the game under another mode, where the game shines is its lengthy story mode.
Everything that made Persona 4 such a great game in the first place were the personalities of each of the characters, and everyone in the group is back and like you remember from the PS2/Vita game and they are tasked with solving another supernatural case.
There are a lot of similarities to the plot of Dancing All Night compared to the original game, as there is a website that is promoting an upcoming concert and at midnight, as per usual in Persona games, there are shadowy images that appear and if you see it then you go into a coma. Initially the group has been tasked to be Rise’s backup dancers, but when an upcoming teen idol group goes missing, the group comprised of everyone from the original game take it upon themselves to solve the case. The premise is not unusual for Japanese/Anime styled games, so the plot line shouldn’t be that surprising and that is what makes Persona so charming in the first place.
Getting to the gameplay takes a long while to get to in the story mode. In fact, there is a lot of reading and dialogue in the game in general which is not uncommon in these games, but at least the original had you walking around the area. Most of this game comes off as more of a visual novel than it does a game, but if you are invested in the characters then it probably won’t matter to much to you.
Once you get the meat of the game, the chapters usually consist of three dance numbers involving someone from the group trying to dance and release the shadows and help the group members as well as the people in a coma. Silly? It is, but the writers do a great job of making you buy it and get into it.
The gameplay during the dance offs is pretty simple to get the hang of, it just depends on what difficulty setting you have it at; try it on normal mode at least as the easier mode is a little too easy. It is essentially what you would expect for a rhythm based game, when an icon reaches an area, you tap the button that is corresponds with and based off that you can do perfect, good or just flat out missed the beat. The use of the directional pad and the Triangle, O, and X buttons will be used the much as there are moments when a blue ring will come around and you flick the analog stick to catch it that fills up a gauge that allows another character to dance with you for a moment.
You are ranked based off your performance at the end and obtain money that is used to but outfits, accessories, and items. These don’t really do much in the way a gameplay and are a way to keep the player engaged by buying these thing to unlock trophies as that’s the only kind of achievement you get by doing it, unless you love dressing up characters. The items on the other hand can be used to make the Free Dance Mode a little more difficult.
These thing are great and keep up with the aesthetic for Persona, but do very little to keep you engaged in the game. If you are a trophy fiend then this game can offer a lot to you, but if you are in it for just the dance aspect and not the story, then the replay value is very low.
The songs in the game are essentially remixes of the tracks from the original Persona 4 soundtrack. This game is for Persona fans through and through. Even with a great soundtrack in of itself, if you are unfamiliar with it in the first place it will do very little to make you fan. However, if like the little musical gems like “You Affection” then go ahead and get down with your bad self.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a better game than expected, mostly because of the lengthy story mode that will keep you playing for at least seven to eight hours if you read and listen to all the story thoroughly. The developers did a great job at keeping the game filled with unlockables that will make you keep playing, but if you are more into the story mode than there probably won’t be a lot that you will want to do after the fact. The soundtrack is still great even after all these years and Persona fans will enjoy it but may be disappointed with what’s left in the end.