Before I start this review, I have a confession to make; I’m extremely picky when it comes to rhythm games. To be more specific, I love games that make you feel like a rock star, but I’m not a fan of mindlessly pressing buttons while a character dances happily on the screen. Unfortunately for me, Persona 4: Dancing All Night falls into the latter category. So, I guess the obvious question is: could this be the game to finally change my negative attitude towards the genre?
Persona 4: Dancing All Night once again stars Yu Narukami and the rest of the Investigation Team, and is set approximately one month after the events of Persona 4. Japanese idol Rise Kujikawa is set to make her comeback performance at the upcoming Love Meets Bonds Festival, in which her friends from Inaba will take on the role of her backup dancers. During a late rehearsal, Rise recalls a strange rumour about the LMB Festival’s website; if viewed at midnight, you will be transported into another dimension, and sleep for eternity in the real world.
As you can no doubt predict, the rumour turns out to be true, and it’s not long before Yu and the gang find themselves in the Midnight Stage; an area not dissimilar to the TV World from Persona 4. The gist is that a popular idol group is being held captive there, and only the power of dance can save them! In truth, the story makes no logical sense whatsoever, but it’s still an enjoyable ride; particularly if you are already familiar with the characters from Persona 4 and its spin-offs.
Being a Persona game, there is of course a lot of dialogue, to the extent that I was over an hour into the Story Mode before I got my first burst of non-tutorial gameplay. The good news is that it’s all fully voiced, and is – for the most part, at least – well written and competently delivered. In fact, this is actually a real achievement, given the sheer ridiculousness of the plot! The usual bright and colourful visuals are also present and correct, as well as the franchise’s striking anime art style.
During the dance sections, icons are placed around the edge of the screen, which represent the down, left, up, triangle, circle and X buttons of the PS Vita. Notes gradually move out from the centre of the screen, so the player must press the corresponding button whenever a note passes over one of the icons; preferably in time with the music. As I mentioned above, I personally find this kind of gameplay very dull, and Dancing All Night disappointingly did little to change my opinion. It’s worth noting, however, that if you already enjoy the genre, you’ll probably find a lot to like.
As well as the main Story, there is also a Free Dance mode, in which you can play any currently unlocked song to earn high scores. There are plenty of other unlockables too, including alternate costumes, accessories, character details and various artwork. It’ll definitely take a while to discover everything, so completionists should expect to spend dozens of hours with the game.
Rhythm titles live or die by the quality of their soundtracks, so it’s convenient that the Persona series features some of the catchiest J-pop ever produced. This is obviously awesome if you’re a fan of that genre of music; and, if not, then why the hell are you even playing a Persona game in the first place?! In a nice move (if you’ll pardon the terrible pun), Dancing All Night includes remixes of classic songs from the P4 franchise, as well as brand new compositions that make their debut in the game.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a bit of an anomaly, and is therefore a difficult game to judge. Despite being a rhythm game, most of your time in the Story Mode is actually spent watching conversations between the various characters. To make matters worse, when you finally reach some gameplay, it doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from other games in the genre. In short, it looks great, sounds amazing and has an entertaining story, but unfortunately the gameplay fails to hit the high notes.