When Persona 4: Dancing All Night was announced I bought it despite never having played any of Persona game series in the past. The game is a half-rhythm/half-visual novel hybrid and while I mostly enjoyed the rhythm half of the game the visual novel part wasn’t really my cup of tea.
|Title||Persona 4: Dancing All Night|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4|
EU: NIS America
AU: Bandai Namco Entertainment
JP: June 25, 2015
NA: September 29, 2015
PAL: November 6, 2015
JP: May 24, 2018
|TEEN - Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.|
Gameplay consists of the usual rhythm game tropes: push notes, hold notes and double notes. These notes emanate from the middle of the screen outwards towards six target zones activated with up, left and down on the d-pad and triangle, circle and X on the face buttons – right on the d-pad and square on the face buttons are not used at all.
It also adds scratch notes that pulse from the centre of the screen that must be activated by moving an analogue stick (or by pressing L or R after an update) which aren’t necessary for maintaining combo but must be hit if you wish to activate fever mode and call in a dance partner for a score bonus. The timing of your button presses is graded as PERFECT, GREAT, GOOD or MISS with GOOD and MISS being poor enough to break your combo.
Unlike most rhythm games which focus mostly on a free play mode, Dancing All Night incorporates a story element to the game. The story centers around an idol group who have been pulled into a ‘shadow world’ by ominous beings. The Investigation Team from the previous Persona 4 games finds themselves drawn into the affair and must solve the mystery behind their disappearance and save them from oblivion using only the power of dance! The story unfolds in the form of a visual novel with static character avatars chatting together to progress the story.
As neither a massive fan of visual novels or anime, I quickly discovered the story mode was not for me. The story sections are extremely long-winded and, after trying my best to read through the first few chapters fully, I soon found myself skipping these sections. I have heard through other reviews of this title that the story follows similar themes to the original Persona 4 Vita release so returning fans of the series will likely find a lot to love here. Unfortunately, the story didn’t grip me at all.
The biggest gripe I had with story mode was the fact that these sections can’t be fully skipped. Instead, you must activate a skip text mode in the options or sit and hold triangle until the next rhythm section arrives. This means that you will find yourself sitting for minutes at a time holding down the triangle button waiting until you’ve cycled through each cutscene which can be boring and frustrating. Again, if you are gripped by the story you won’t have a problem here, but people just want to jump right into the rhythm portions will find themselves frustrated.
The heart of the game is, of course, the Midnight Stage areas in which you finally get to control one of the Investigation Team in a dance routine. In the Midnight Stage mode target zones are positioned evenly around the screen, d-pad prompts to the left and face button prompts to the right. As the dance progresses, your character will be busting moves in the background and will occasionally be joined by a partner to rock out with. The character models and background scenes within each song are very imaginative and beautifully designed.
In the rhythm parts of the game, you must keep your combo up by hitting all notes to attain high scores and keep your performance meter at an acceptable level. The performance meter can be quite unforgiving and even a few missed notes can earn you a failure and a Not Complete rating. Although the song’s patterns are never overly challenging, difficulties in maintaining your meter arise for a number of reasons.
The background action can get very busy at times making notes difficult to spot, especially scratch notes. Additionally, there are no color variations to the single tap notes which link them to Vita’s face buttons (purple form square, blue for X, etc) ala the Project Diva or IA/VT rhythm games which can cause some confusion until you memorize the button prompt positions around the screen. All single tap notes are yellow which, coincidentally, is the most prevalent background color, again making notes hard to spot at times as they seemingly blend in with the stage video.
Finally, the Vita screen is quite wide which means that if you don’t scan the screen quickly after each section of the song you can miss a note that appears on the opposite side of the screen – luckily the patterns usually follow a clockwise position which counteracts this issue somewhat.
The game has quite a small playlist consisting of a mere 27 songs, many of which are remixes. Luckily, there are enough catchy songs in the roster to keep you engaged and, even though many other reviewers were a bit peeved at the use of remixes, I must admit to liking them as many of them are more upbeat and intense versions of their original source material.
A number of people who have reworked the songs are quite well known including Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame and their efforts are the real standouts of the songs available. You will, however, be playing the same songs many times over in your quest to beat the game and song repetition can become grating at times.
Depending on your performance, members of the Investigation Team will shout encouragement or congratulate you on your dance moves. I found this hugely distracting, breaking my concentration from the background music but luckily these cheers can be turned off in the options menu. Tap and scratch notes also have their own distinct sounds which can be changed or muted if you desire. I found that muting the scratch notes helped improve my performance so if you are struggling with them or the game, in general, this option might be worth bearing in mind.
The manageable difficulty level means that 100% trophy completion is very achievable – in fact, this game must be one of my easiest rhythm game platinum yet, acquired in a mere five days. There are additional challenges in the form of medals in the Collection areas of the options screen which add another element of challenge for gamers who really want to push themselves.
However, ATLUS, the same publisher of a social simulation Persona 5 game, did the right thing by keeping these requirements separate from the trophy list as some of them would are extremely tough to beat. ATLUS have done a great job at making the platinum trophy accessible even to rhythm game beginners – something some rhythm developers seriously overlook.
The rhythm elements of the game are solid enough and I never found myself becoming overly frustrated by the button patterns which are very conquerable with practice even on hard difficulties. Where Dancing All Night falls flat, however, is its lack of content in comparison to other rhythm games on the Vita.
As already mentioned, the song count is quite low, but unlockables are also in short supply when compared to the Project Diva and other similar games. Of course, each performance earns you P$ which can be spent in the shop. You can purchase costumes and accessories for the characters and items that make songs attempted in Free Dance mode either more difficult or easier (with certain benefits and penalties attached). The problem is, most characters only have a small number of costumes to unlock and the accessories are mostly identical for every character with the odd exception.
You’ll unlock all of these items soon enough and then all the P$ you hoard from there on it will be totally worthless. While there are a total of 4 difficulty levels giving a total of 108 song variations this again pales in comparison to other rhythm games such as IA/VT Colorful and Cytus Lambda which have double or more in their rosters.
Overall, Persona 4 Dancing All Night is a decent rhythm game. Fans of Persona will likely love the entire package, the story included, but people like me, here mainly for the rhythm heart of the game, might find the story mode a bit of a drag. ATLUS have done a sterling job with their presentation of the game.
It looks stunning – a real treat for the eyes – and incorporates lovely character sprites, some very imaginative and colorful load screen transitions and impressive menu designs. The rhythm elements of the game are very solid and a joy to play once you memorize the button placements and get the hang of hitting those sometimes difficult to spot scratch notes.
The main thing that stopped the game pushing for a higher score is its brevity. There is a real lack of content to the game from a small song list to meager offerings in the shop.
Additionally, even an intermediate rhythm gamer player will likely be able to platinum the game within a few days of intensive playing owing to the forgiving difficulty level. That said, while the game lasts, it is quite fun and worth a go if you enjoy music games or want to prolong your time spent with the whole Persona 4 crew.
Are you for more rhythm game reviews? Check out our review on DJMAX Respect!