Review: Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Atlus loves doing spin-offs and remakes, and I don’t blame them. We’ve already seen Persona 4 (originally on PS2) remade for the Vita as Persona 4 Golden, spin-off fighting games in the form of Persona 4 Arena, and a crossover game for 3DS called Persona Q. Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a rhythm game with Persona 4 characters for the PlayStation Vita that not only is an amazing game for Persona fans, but also a solid rhythm game with the most stylish look out there.

As with previous Persona spin-offs, Dancing All Night has a good story mode in addition to the actual core rhythm game. This story mode takes place directly after Persona 4 Golden’s epilogue. Persona 4 Golden is one of the best games ever and I have no intention of spoiling the story, but if you haven’t played it, stop reading and go buy it right now.

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Story mode is surprisingly long. It plays out like the story mode in the Persona 4 Arena games in a flowchart form, split up into chapters. You learn the basics of the dancing rhythm game and get a generous helping of fan service with a good plot in story mode. I’m not a fan of how slow it starts out though. The first hour was really painful to endure, but it picked up soon after.

Free mode is where you will spend the most time. This lets you play through the amazing songs and remixes of Persona 4 and the spin-off game soundtracks, but not letting me select my favourite characters for each song is annoying. Songs are tied to particular characters, and while you do get to switch partners, the main character is fixed for every song. As you play through more songs, you unlock almost everything the game has to offer in terms of content. There’s a decent amount of content you’ll unlock after clearing Story mode in the form of new costumes, Margaret, and two songs.

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I love how Dancing All Night borrows and improves upon the rhythm game formula from a few games. While traditional rhythm games like Project Diva F have notes coming from all over the place and you following a line of tapping, Dancing All Night has a more structured interface. You’ll need to press buttons or tap on the symbols on the left or right side of the screen with the targets flowing outwards from the centre of the screen. The left side has arrows for the D-Pad and the right uses Triangle, Cross, and Circle. Timing is important as getting a Good instead of Great or Perfect will destroy your combo unless you’re in Fever mode. Rings that flow outwards add to your combo and require either swiping or an analog stick nudge.

Clearing songs earns you P$ that you can spend on in-game costumes, items, and accessories. The higher the difficulty, the more you earn. Having played the Japanese version of the game on release day back in June, I was set to start out on Hard mode when I got the English version, and immediately earned a few trophies with a single song.

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I’ve played the game on both PlayStation Vita and PlayStation TV. The game works fine on the TV with a controller but it is evident that it was made for the small screen. It is hard to keep track of notes moving quickly outwards on a large screen. The art looks fantastic though regardless of platform though.

While Dancing All Night is packed with content in the form of nearly 30 playable songs and a good story mode, it has a few problems. For one, the current version does not let you disable voices during dancing, which leads to repetition in longer songs. I’m not a fan of the animation for cutscenes in the game at all. Even the opening video looks poorly done. The actual in-game art and models are beautiful. It’s a shame that Atlus decided to cheap out on the actual cutscenes because they look like B-tier and not the quality I’ve come to expect from in-house Atlus games.

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One of the highlights in terms of bonus content is the Collection area. This has a nice soft piano remix of the main theme and lets you view every character in any costume and listen to dialogue on cue. Having beaten the game twice now, I find myself enjoying the music in this mode with characters I love. Stuff like this makes me happy the Persona 4 cast got a good send-off with Dancing All Night.

Persona 4: Dancing All Night is my favourite rhythm game. It combines music from one of the best soundtracks in gaming with great rhythm gameplay and manages to look super stylish in the process. It is a no-brainer to any fan of Persona 4 and if you’re just into rhythm games, you can still enjoy this and hopefully it gets you to play Golden on Vita. Music is very important in Persona games and Dancing All Night just underlines this with amazing remixes and classic tunes brought to life with my favourite cast in gaming.

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