Dancing with the P4 guys.
Persona 4 has quite the following, which is no surprise really as the JRPG managed to pack in an incredible amount of content, all held together with interesting characters and solid mechanics. The series may never have hit the big time here in the UK, but the large number of fans are forever crying out for more and their voices make a lot of noise.
With Persona 5 not due until next year, Atlus are keeping those fans satisfied with another spin off title in the form of Persona 4: Dancing All Night for the PlayStation Vita. While it may not be requiring a massive investment of time in a traditional JRPG style, or even the combat of the previous spin off, Dancing All Night offers something a little more … unusual – dancing (in case you hadn’t already guessed).
This time around, the Persona 4 characters come back together to save the day with the power of dance. Sounds like a good excuse for a rhythm game, doesn’t it?
It may come as a surprise to hear that Dancing All Night actually has a fairly deep story, something which is quite unusual for a rhythm game. Without giving too much away, the Persona 4 team find themselves reunited and investigating a video running on a website which seems to be making people disappear. Players of Persona 4 may notice some similarities as the missing people have all been sucked into another world from which they cannot return. So, of course, the team jump in and find themselves transported to the Midnight Stage, a place where they have to dance to survive as they try to solve the mystery.
As with the other Persona stories, the core thread may be a little strange. But the real draw here is, as always, about the relationships between the different characters and the way they interact. The downside to this is that players who have no experience with the Persona series will find the story and the character relationships difficult to follow. In Persona 4 there was a lot of emphasis on the characters own internal conflicts and the resolution of these issues, which really built a bond with the player. Dancing All Night doesn’t venture so deeply, with the characters already established, so newcomers will be mostly left in the dark.
That is not to say that there is nothing here for the newcomers to the series. Aside from the core story mode, which carries on for a good eight hours, there is a Free Dance mode which will allow the player to earn money for unlocking new outfits, accessories and such for the characters. There are also the very solid mechanics which will draw in players of other rhythm games.
Once the dancing begins, players will find themselves bombarded with information on the screen. Icons will fly from the centre towards six positions on the outer screen, three on each side corresponding to the D-pad and face buttons. As the icons hit the target, players must press the right button with incredible accuracy to score the note. Most notes require a simple tap of the appropriate button, but sometimes players will have to hold the button down for a time, or press two buttons simultaneously. The player is scored for each button press with a comment from “Miss” to “Perfect” and completing the song will require building the hype with mostly accurate button presses.
Too add to the gameplay, scratch notes appear as rings which will require flicking one of the analog sticks as they pass a circle. Some of these rings will fill a fever gauge that, once full, will bring another character onto the stage to join the dancing. There is a lot going on here, but nothing that a few simple tutorials can’t easily explain. Dancing All Night also has multiple difficulty levels, so there is plenty of scope for even the most hardened rhythm gamer to find a challenge.
The selection of tracks are as important in a rhythm game as the mechanics, and Dancing All Night doesn’t disappoint. There is a fantastic selection of memorable tunes and remixes, all of which are enjoyable to dance to. Most of the songs are catchy and will get stuck in your head, especially if the player repeats them more than a few times.
In fact, in all, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a great rhythm game. The only real problem comes from the fact that the core story mode is so inaccessible to series newcomers. The appeal of Free Dance mode is limited for those who have not played the story mode, leaving very little content for newcomers to enjoy.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a rhythm game that will have instant appeal to the Persona fans. The mechanics are good, the tracklist is sound and the visuals are really easy on the eye. However, the niche nature of the series will limit the appeal for those who haven’t already played Persona 4. Worth grabbing if you are a fan, while waiting for Persona 5.