Review: Persona 4: Dancing All Night (PSV/PSTV)

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Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
Title: Persona 4: Dancing All Night
Format: Game Card / PlayStation Network Download (3.1 GB)
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Original MSRP: $49.99 / $79.99 (Disco Fever Edition)
ESRB Rating: T
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is exclusive to PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation Vita download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Persona 4 Dancing All Night picks up after the events of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, with Rise set to make her comeback as a pop idol after her hiatus during the events of Persona 4. Although she has been working for several months, her big breakout is set for the Love Meets Bonds Festival, a big pop idol concert. Rise has asked Yu, Naoto, and the rest of the Investigation Team from Persona 4 to help her with her re-debut by performing in the LMB Festival as backup dancers.

Meanwhile, there are strange rumors about the Festival. They say that if anyone visits the LMB webpage a midnight, they can see a video featuring a dead pop idol, and watching the video will make them disappear. On top of that, four of the five members of Kanami Kitchen, another idol group set to perform at the LMB Fest, have gone unaccounted for. A new mystery is afoot and the Investigation Team just so happens to be on point to take the case.

Gameplay:
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.

The story is told through the normal visual novel means and I was rather surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The other spinoff Persona 4 games, like Arena and Persona Q, were fun but ultimately just an excuse to merge the Persona 3 and Persona 4 casts.

Dancing All Night does add some new characters, namely the idols from Kanami Kitchen and a couple administration members for the different idols, but these characters, outside of Kanami herself, are just the devices to advance the story.

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Not that the non Persona 4 characters lack character. Most of them get a chance in the spotlight and I rather liked how Dancing All Night took a slight change on the original’s theme of accepting oneself. Dancing All Night still does that with the new characters, but with an approach that feels more appropriate for these pop idols who have an outward facing persona they use on television and their normal selves outside of work.

Still, I’m sure that those coming into Dancing All Night from the previous games will appreciate that the original cast gets plenty of opportunities to shine. After all, these were the characters players grew with in the first place and seeing them work together to solve a new mystery was an aspect I enjoyed. I also liked that the mystery itself wasn’t as straightforward as in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax.

It’s still pretty easy to figure out the general direction it’s going and to put a few pieces together before the characters do but the story still had a few minor twists that had me second guessing the deduction I had formed in my head. And although the story doesn’t branch at all, there is the occasional dialogue choice where a character will summarize some evidence they just found and the player can pick between options of what they think it means. It doesn’t change the story at all though, as the other character will gently correct you if you pick the wrong option.

… the note charts feel good …
For those coming into the game without having played previous Persona games, Dancing All Night is nice in that it is mostly a standalone adventure. The game does assume the player has some knowledge of the existing cast so it doesn’t do a whole lot to introduce everyone (just a few stray lines here and there) but it also doesn’t build on anything spoilery from previous games either. There’s a stray reference to specific events in Persona 4, Persona Ultimax and even Persona 3 but nothing that would give away any spoilers for any of those games.

Periodically throughout the story there are gameplay sections where the characters have to dance to a song for story reasons I won’t spoil. These parts play like a fairly generic rhythm game where the notes scroll towards an action line and the player has to hit the right button at the right time.

The one change 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, kind of 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 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 gameplay is pretty solid for a game of this type. It’s not a huge change from a typical rhythm game of course but watching the different sides of the screen does take some getting used to. For the most part, the note charts feel good and sync well to the songs although there are a couple of exceptions. The note charts themselves are a little on the easy side though.

In story mode, there are only the Easy and Normal note charts but Free Dance mode has both the Hard and the unlockable All Night difficulties. Even on All Night, the note charts typically just sync up to the quarter and eighth notes in the song meaning they feel very straightforward.

The only difficulty in the game comes from the pass/fail mechanic. During a song, there is a meter in the top that changes color: green or flashing means passing; white, yellow, or red mean failing. Because the pass/fail meter isn’t a bar, it can be hard to tell at a glance how well the song is going.

… the game seems a little small …
On top of that, the meter felt very inconsistent to me as sometimes it seemed to take over one hundred notes to change colors and other times just a couple dozen. Still, even with all that, the game was never particularly hard for me. Only a couple songs gave me any trouble, but that may be my experience with this genre speaking.

Other features in the game include a collection for seeing records and unlockables, and a store for buying in game items like costumes. The store also carries song modifiers that either increase or decrease the score on a song but also make the song harder or easier respectively. They’re the usual rhythm game modifiers such as making notes scroll faster or having the notes fade out.

Overall though, the game seems a little small, especially when compared to the sixty-plus hour RPG it is a spinoff of. The story lasts around six to seven hours and unlocking everything else in the game only took me another four hours or so. DLC will probably extend the game a bit but the base game is looking like ten to fifteen hours depending on the player’s efficiency and proficiency.

Visuals:
One of the places Persona 4 Dancing shines the most is the visuals. Of the spinoffs since Persona 4 on the PS2, the Arena games use 2D art and Persona Q is purposely cutified for the 3DS.

The Persona 4 cast has never looked better than they do in Dancing All Night, at least in terms of 3D models. The game uses the power of the Vita well both in terms of graphical fidelity and just overall style.

… plenty of additional flair …
Persona 4 and its spinoffs emanate that quirky but pleasing style and Dancing All Night has it in spades from the character costumes to the choreography of the dances.

There is a full array of unlockable costumes in the game, many of which harken back to moments in the original. Many have been lifted from Persona 4, like the school uniforms or each character’s casual clothes. Others were unlockables added in the Persona 4 Golden remake. On top of that there are plenty of accessories to deck out each character including their iconic glasses from the RPG.

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As I mentioned before, the game’s style also extends to the dances in the game. Although the theme of the game is dancing, there’s plenty of additional flair to the dance videos in the form of background visuals that appear during parts of the songs.

The Junes theme song, for the fictional in-game department store chain, has a fun animation about shopping at Junes while songs play, for example. I was also impressed by how they managed to bring out the characters’ personalities during the dances.

Chie’s dancing, for instance, seems to incorporate kung-fu moves to show her love of kung-fu while Yukiko’s dancing seems more refined like the traditional Japanese dancing she knows. The dancing is fun to watch both in the background while playing and in the mode that removes the gameplay to watch it.

Audio:
The story mode is completely voiced but like most of the other Persona games, it is only English dubbed. Still, it’s a pretty good dub, even if a few of the character’s voices have been changed for logistical reasons.

The one exception is that the audio during a couple of the animated cutscenes sounded slightly distorted to me, almost like the audio part of the video had been compressed. Not a huge complaint but it was noticeable.

… good luck actually getting onto the leaderboards …
The game does keep all the same songs as the Japanese version though. Most of the songs already had English lyrics so it probably didn’t matter too much. The Junes theme is slightly jarring for those used to the English version jingle as that song is still in Japanese. So is another song that is important to the story. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that you can unlock the song in Free Dance by completing the story and by playing every other song in Free Dance mode. Outside of the playable music, there’s also plenty of BGM in the story mode, much of it returning from Persona 4 and all of it still great.

What’s there is great but the only downside to the music in the game is that there isn’t enough of it to dance to. By my count the main game has twenty-seven songs total, which is already a smaller set list than most full priced rhythm games.

But on top of that, eight of the songs are remixes of songs that are already in the game in un-remixed form. While these are also good, it does make the set list seem even that much more limited.

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Online/Multiplayer:
The only online feature is a leaderboard. There doesn’t seem to be a way to force the game to upload scores, however, and during my time with the game pre-release, it didn’t seem to want to auto-upload all of my scores either.

That said, if this is anything like the Japanese version, good luck actually getting onto the leaderboards post release. There’s a modifier in the game that makes all of the notes invisible and gives a huge score multiplier and the Japanese leaderboards are dominated by players who can perfectly play a song with this modifier active. At least players can download the top replays and watch them score tons of points.

… more strengths than weaknesses …
Conclusion:
Persona 4 Dancing All Night does manage to hit most of the right notes. Fans of the RPG can come in and enjoy the story mode. It may be a little repetitive but it is otherwise a fun romp through the world of Persona.

The story is backed up by the competent gameplay. Although the rhythm component is never ball-bustingly hard, perhaps to the chagrin of the most hardcore rhythm fans, it does provide enough that the rest of the rhythm game fans will likely enjoy it.

The big hit against it is the amount of content in the game. While I will generally judge a game on quality over quantity, the fact that I was done with the Platinum in just under 12 hours did leave me yearning another refrain. This speaks as much to the lack of quantity and the overall quality though, I suppose. All in all, Persona 4 Dancing All Night has more strengths than weaknesses and I’d say that this Midnight Channel is one worth tuning in for.

One side note for PlayStation TV owners, while this game is PS TV compatible it does come with a risk. There’s no lag compensation in the game like one would normally see in a console rhythm game. This means that it will have a degree of lag depending on one’s television setup. This could range from a slight annoyance to almost unplayable depending on the setup and how much lag the TV adds. Keep that in mind if you want to go that route.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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