It seems that in the last few years video game company Atlus is determined to pay the bills with Persona 4 spin-off products. There is a Persona 4 manga, an anime adaptation, an anime adaptation of the original game’s re-release, two fighting games, an Etrian Odyssey style dungeon crawler and now a rhythm game.
“Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a story-driven music game that takes place after the events of 2014’s fighting game, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. Players get pulled onto the Midnight Stage when the spotlight turns to mega-idol Rise and her junior group, Kanamin Kitchen. Members of Kanamin Kitchen have disappeared into the Midnight Stage and it’s up to Rise and the Investigation Team to mount a rescue mission – only they discover the same monstrous Shadows from the Midnight Channel. To make matters even worse, their old powers no longer work, and the Shadows in P4D can only be defeated by dance, so it’ll be up to players to bust out powerful dance moves in order to save the day!” – NIS America
A rhythm game with Shin Megami Tensei music as its focus is a fantastic idea on paper and Persona 4 has both the kind of music that lends itself well to building a rhythm game around as well as numerous remixes from all its spin-off games. In this way half of the difficult work of making a good rhythm game, getting the music, is already done for you. Dancing All Night does just that, taking a selection of music from Persona 4 and its many spin-offs and adaptations.
The story is really good, yes, this is a dancing spin-off. But Atlus have really put a lot of time and effort into making not only a fun game but also focusing on creating a wonderful story. All of the characters return and it’s so nice to see them facing new challenges.
Sadly the actual rhythm mechanic the game gives us to interact with leaves a lot to be desired. The player needs to hit six buttons on the vita that correspond to six parts of the outer edge of the screen. This is the first problem;unless you are using the touch screen, the buttons on one side are the up, down and left buttons on the d-pad while the other side uses the cross, triangle and circle buttons. These buttons on your Vita do not feel the same, and they thusly take differing times to press that in harder modes can really throw you off and lose you a streak. However, if you don’t mind using the touch screen, you’ll find the game far more enjoyable. Sadly, however, this brings us on to problem number two.
The second problem is that when compared to the similar Vocaloid Project Diva games and the almost perfect Gitaroo Man, Dancing All Night has completely misplaced its target zones. With the target zones all the way on the edge of the screen and the markers travelling just to the side making it very hard to watch the dancing taking place until you have already played the song several times.
That is a shame because Dancing All Night has the most detailed and expressive models for the Persona cast we have ever seen and the choreography is a joy to watch, although it is just enough for half a song and is repeated once it reaches the middle. The unique fever mechanic is a good example of positive fan service too. Hit enough of a specific note and keep your score high enough at the correct part of the song and another character will join in (mostly in story mode) for a brief duet. These moments are the most interesting and unique part of playing Dancing All Night and worth it to see the interaction between all the different characters. The developers know what ships are out there and cater to everyone, even people who think that Chie and Yousuke actually have interpersonal chemistry, rather than the two mutually destructive elements they clearly are.
Indeed, Dancing All Night is at its best when it is celebrating everything that was positive about Persona 4. Especially in story mode where there is a lot of time for each character to show off what made them so loveable. A solid move as only people who care about Persona 4 will buy Dancing All Night to see high polygon models of their favourite costumes from other games… dancing to a house remix of the dungeon selection music.