Persona 4: Dancing All Night (PS Vita) Review

By Nikola Suprak 23.09.2015

Review for Persona 4: Dancing All Night on PS Vita

At no point after finishing Persona 4's robust story did anyone think to themselves, "Wow, this really seems like the perfect set-up for a dancing rhythm game!" Strangely enough, though, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is just that. It is a rhythm game that follows the lore and characters of Persona 4 and tells a brand-new story in the in-game universe. The series has been branching out a bit as of late, with a couple of other titles in two totally different genres already previously released. It is a bit weird seeing Persona trying all these different genres, because it is one of the true standouts of modern JRPGs, and Persona 4, in particular, was a modern classic. It feels like Mozart is taking a break from the whole composing symphonies thing to take up his true passions of kickboxing and interpretive dance. It might even be annoying if these spin-offs weren't consistently such high quality, and Persona 4: Dancing All Night is yet another "not really Persona" Persona game that truly impresses in a genre the series isn't known for.

Persona 4: Dancing All Night starts off soon after the events of Persona 4 Golden conclude. Rise has hung up her monster fighting boots and returned to the simpler, down to earth life of a J-Pop idol. Unfortunately, the Persona 4 crew can't go more than a couple of hours without triggering some sort of life and death mystery, and Yu and the others are soon called in to help Rise with a disappearance. A member of a popular J-Pop group has gone missing and her disappearance has been linked to a spooky video associated with vague promises to bring all that watch it to the "other side." It is basically a retelling of The Ring if the girl from that movie crawled out of the television and then broke into the jitterbug. Rise must now solve the mystery of the creepy video and the missing idol, and also possibly find someone capable of teaching him how to dougie.

Screenshot for Persona 4: Dancing All Night on PS Vita

It would be a bit understandable to approach the story here with some trepidation, as a mystery that can only be solved with a lot of dancing doesn't really sound like that promising of a set-up, especially considering the rather serious tone the original game could take at times. Thus, it is both surprising and fortunate that developer Dingo somehow managed to put together a really compelling and interesting story. There is just the right amount of campiness, and while the gameplay is from a totally different genre, the story very much feels in line with something expected from the Persona universe. The writing and characters are both great, and it manages to build off of its really interesting set-up into something memorable and fun. This isn't some throwaway tale tacked on as an excuse to connect the songs together, and while it might not quite reach the same heights of Persona 4 itself, it does a remarkable job of coming close.

The gameplay is divided into story mode segments and freeplay dances. The story here is actually pretty substantial, with large chunks of dialogue and development between the various songs, but less patient people can just replay the free dance mode if that's all they want. The mechanics of the rhythm portions are simple to learn and pick up, making it quite easy to jump into the game almost immediately. The various button prompts pop up in the middle and move to one of six target areas around the sides of the screen, and pressing the indicated button at the right time will give out a certain amount of points, depending on the accuracy. There are six target areas in total, requiring the use of three directional keys and three buttons. For the most part, this is essentially all that needs to be learned to have a full grasp of the gameplay, although the game will mix it up occasionally with some tricks, such as button prompts that need to be pressed for a certain length of time, or certain ones that require the pushing of two different buttons simultaneously. It is a simple system, to be sure, but a remarkable job is done making sure the timing is absolutely perfect.

Screenshot for Persona 4: Dancing All Night on PS Vita

The core mechanics are very well polished, but there are a couple of minor issues worth mentioning. It is a very simple rhythm game, with only a handful of tricks along the way. This might be an issue to someone wanting a bit more complexity, but, honestly, the focus on strong fundamentals without any unnecessary frills helps the game quite a bit. It allows it to focus on the slick gameplay and infectious track list, and while the gameplay is simple, it doesn't mean that it is easy. The other, and more annoying, issue is that the manner in which the notes move out from the centre screen can get annoyingly hard to follow amidst all the bright lights and chaos. On the easier difficulties, it isn't much of an issue, but on the harder difficulties when notes are flying out every direction so rapidly, it becomes almost certain that several notes will slip by simply because of the somewhat messy way they're presented on screen. The notes naturally drag the player's eyes to whatever corner they go to, and by sending out several in rapid fire in different directions it becomes more chaotic than it needs to be. It becomes almost necessary to hold the screen a bit further back from a normal playing distance just to get a good gauge as to what is happening and what notes need to be hit next.

These concerns, though, really are only minor quibbles, and for the most part, Persona 4: Dancing All Night absolutely hits every note that a rhythm game needs to hit. The gameplay is infectious and tremendously replayable, with almost perfect timing and button inputs that are responsive and accurate. Perhaps more important is the track list, which is a fantastic composition of older songs and brilliant remixes, and there are so many in the track list that basically beg to be replayed for the sheer catchiness alone. There is some excellent diversity from song to song, and it never feels like the game is getting lazy and throwing out similar songs to bloat the track list. There are a handful that aren't that great, and, of course, individual mileage may vary, but for a series that isn't really known for music or rhythm elements, Dancing All Night puts forward an impressive list of songs to play through. It is a great handheld title on top of that, perfect for playing a couple of songs in spurts during quick breaks. This really is the kind of game rhythm fans can get lost in, offering up a solid core concept around Persona 4 characters and songs.

Screenshot for Persona 4: Dancing All Night on PS Vita

It is hard not to be impressed with the overall packaging of the title, and a lot of work was clearly done polishing up everything they could think of, because the presentation value and charm are absolutely off the charts. The title screen has this wonderful 70s movie aesthetic to it, and while the game itself never really follows up on that, it still looks impressive from a pure technical standpoint. The colours and visuals really pop on the PS Vita's screen, and it takes full advantage of the system's technical prowess. The dancing is a bit dull at times, and while the game is great to look at from a technical standpoint, a lot of the dances sort of blend together and don't have the same amount of heart or character most other elements of the game have. The dances themselves simply aren't terribly interesting to look at, and, furthermore, a poor job was done actually getting players to look at them. The flying button prompts need to be followed, which draws the eyes away from the centre of the screen towards the edges, and makes all the fun stuff occurring there difficult to follow. The developers seemed to realise this themselves, and have improved the issue somewhat by including an option to immediately rewatch the scene afterwards, but the specific dance performances wouldn't really be interesting if it wasn't a Persona 4 character performing them.

While there is a lot to like about it, one area where Dancing All Night certainly could use a bit more work is in terms of sheer volume of content. There aren't that many songs to play through, and while each song offers multiple difficulty levels to incentivise replays, it would have been better to have more to play through. The track list is excellent while it lasts, but it seems rather fleeting and the anaemic track list and rather simple gameplay mechanics hurts the overall replay value a bit. It is fun to jump in and play through some favourite songs from time to time, but, ultimately, it would be less of a hassle to just listen to the track list again on YouTube. The story and characters are enjoyable, and the songs are excellent, but the less than robust tracks and somewhat poor variety in terms of gameplay mechanics might make this a better experience to watch or listen to rather than actually play.

Screenshot for Persona 4: Dancing All Night on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

It was a bit surprising when Persona 4: Dancing All Night was announced and everyone learned the newest Persona spin-off would be a rhythm title. A rhythm game with Persona imagery draped over it is a bit bizarre, but even more bizarre is how thoroughly entertaining it is. It is a really competent rhythm game at its core, with solid mechanics and a stellar track list. Fans of Persona 4 absolutely should join along for Yu's latest adventure, but this really isn't a game for just Persona fans. This is an enjoyable title with a fun story, plenty of camp value, and an extremely entertaining and replayable series of songs that just happens to feature everyone's favourite Persona 4 characters. There are some minor issues, but the overall package is so well made that it is easy to forget some occasional game design wonkiness. At this point, it is worth checking out pretty much anything Atlus puts out with the Persona title attached to it, because if they can conquer the rhythm genre, they should be able to do just about anything. PS Vita owners might be getting desperate for some exclusive titles, but Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a title that was worth waiting up for.

Developer

Dingo Inc.

Publisher

Atlus

Genre

Rhythm

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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