E3 2015/Import Preview: Persona 4 Dancing All Night

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I was originally going to write about Persona 4 Dancing All Night in respect to the demo version I had the opportunity to play at E3. However about a week after E3, the game came out in Japan and I decided to import it. Rather than write about 20 minutes I spent playing a demo, I figured it’d be better to write about the full (Japanese) version of the game. As one might expect, the E3 demo was pretty similar to the final product, just in English so I would imagine most of this will apply to the game when it releases outside of Japan.

Persona 4 Dancing All Night is the latest in Persona 4‘s quest to invade every genre of game out there. Dancing All Night is not an RPG, like the original Persona 4, but instead a rhythm game which uses the same characters and some of the music. Similar to the other Persona 4 spinoff, Persona 4 Arena (and Arena Ultimax), there’s a heavier story focus in Dancing All Night than rhythm games usually have so that the games can tie into the original.

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As I can’t read or speak Japanese, I can’t comment very much on the story itself. The story is like a visual novel in it’s own mode in the game but I mostly just skipped through the mode for the unlocks it provided. There are some dialogue choices throughout the story but I didn’t notice any major changes from them. Based on the visuals, I believe the story is a standalone story as it contains some new characters and seemingly presents a new mystery for the members of the Persona 4 Investigation Team to puzzle out.

Periodically throughout the story there are gameplay sections where the characters have to dance to a song for reasons I can only speculate on. These parts play like a pretty normal rhythm game where the notes scroll towards an action line and the player has to hit the correct button at the correct time. The one change to the usual rhythm game formula is that instead of a single line of notes, like Rock Band, the notes radiate outward in a circle toward the sides of the screen; similar to the Xonic game I played at E3. There are also scratch notes, which aren’t tied to a button but instead are hit by flicking the analog stick in any direction (similar to Hatsune Miku: Project Diva). The game can also be played using just the touchscreen by tapping the notes on screen and rubbing on the screen for the flick notes.

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The rhythm gameplay is pretty solid for a game of this type and everything feels proper which is always important for a rhythm game. The big change from most other rhythm games, keeping track of notes on two sides of the screen, does game some getting used to. The only thing is about the gameplay is that it felt a little bit too easy to me. The story mode only lets the player pick Easy or Normal difficulty, neither of which offer much of a challenge, but even the Hard and All Night difficulties that are available in Free Dance mode (All Night has to be unlocked though) weren’t that difficult. I felt like they could have used the game’s systems a little more to add some flair and difficulty but most of the note charts seem to follow fairly simple rhythms in the song. This does mean that those coming from the RPG without much rhythm game experience should be able to grasp the game pretty quickly.

Since the game, though easy, played well, the bigger problem I had with the game was the song list. Not the songs themselves, those are all pretty good; I really like the music in the Persona series and this game is no exception. What’s bad about the song list is how small it seems. There are 27 songs in the game, which is already smaller than most rhythm games, and many of the songs are in the game twice: once as a normal version and once as a remix version. The remixes are generally very different from the normal version but they do use the normal version as a base so it’s hard for me to consider them completely new. There are some DLC songs on the PlayStation Network, both free and paid, which bring in more songs from the RPG, as well as some songs from the Persona 4 anime.

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On the plus side, the game is beautiful to look at. The Persona 4 cast has never looked better and the game has a full array of unlockable costumes, many of which harken back to moments in the original game. The main dancer is set for each song but the partner can be picked (once unlocked) so that the character that comes in during sections of the song is different. The dances are fun to watch as well, and there’s even a mode that removes all the gameplay so the player can watch the dances.

For those thinking of importing, the game is confirmed for an English release later this year. However, for anyone who doesn’t want to wait for that, the Japanese version is easily playable without much Japanese knowledge as many of the menus are already in English. The story mode is the main part that’s not translated and a few of the menus for song modifiers or purchasing costumes might take some guess and check (or googling). Atlus USA has said that the game will be dubbed for the English release, which will change the voices in story mode as well as some of the callouts during songs, however the songs themselves will not be changed. None of the songs are actually sung by the characters though, and most are already sung in English, so it’s not surprising that Atlus isn’t going to change the music.

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All in all, I’d say that Persona 4 Dancing All Night is a Midnight Channel is worth tuning in for. Fans of the RPG will get the most mileage out of the story and characters, I’m sure, but general rhythm game fans should be able to enjoy the solid, if a little easy, rhythm components. A great, but small, song list and a decent array of unlockables help round out Persona 4‘s excellent foray into the genre of music games.

Some gameplay I recorded:

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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