Just when you thought you couldn’t get enough Persona (like that’s a bad thing, right?), Atlus goes ahead and does something off the wall. More off the wall then taking the Persona crew and putting in a fighter you ask? Sure, in fact, they’ve gone ahead and put them in a dancing game with Persona 4: Dancing All Night.
Wait, this is really good, so hear me out, ok?
Game Name: Persona 4: Dancing All Night
Platform(s): PS Vita
Release Date: September 2015 (North America), Out now in Japan
Reviewed on the PS Vita & PlayStation TV
Can you solve the mystery of the Midnight Stage?
First and foremost, this is still a Persona game and as such expect it to have all that entails that series front and center. The story being told is lively and is pretty up-tempo, just the way I like and I’m sure most Persona fans will as well. Especially the way that it introduces the characters that you’ll play as and encounter throughout the game. However, in the same setting, the story, especially in the beginning is pretty drawn out. I literally watched the story unfold from the intro and up into my first dance.
Thankfully Atlus likely figured that people would want to get into the action sooner than later while in the story mode and added a text skip, which will run through the story segments a lot faster than you could manually, only t0 pause when you need to answer a question or make a decision. Finally after all that I was able to get to the tutorial, which you have the option of skipping or playing through. If you haven’t played the free game mode (more on that later) however, you may not want to skip it as it will teach you the ins and out of how to dance in the game and trust me you’re going to want to pay attention.
It’s obvious that Atlus wants to draw the player’s attention with the game in the story mode and it definitely shows. However since I tend to do spoiler free reviews, I want to touch on it so I don’t ruin it for everyone. Just trust me when I say that if you’re a fan of the Persona series, you’ll enjoy it.
Outside of the story mode, you have access to the Free Dance mode, which is where most people will spend the majority of the time in the game. Here you’re able to select a dancer, customize them with new outfits and accessories that you can buy via a store, as well as select a dance partner and then hit the floor. It’s worth mentioning however that until you actually play the Free Dance mode, the first time around you won’t be able to select anything just yet. The Free Dance mode is also the only way to learn new songs and earn currency that can be used in a shop, which I’ll touch base on later.
Dancing its handled by using the digital pad for the left side, triangle/circle/X for the right and the analog sticks for picking the rings and collecting fever during your dance. At first, it was a bit cumbersome but after a few dances, I was in the groove, tapping my feet and moving right along with the music. I have to say and especially for someone who wasn’t a fan of dancing games that this works out pretty damned good and more importantly, it’s a lot of fun. The gameplay is pretty easy to get the hang of but at the same time, it’s really difficult to master, if you’re going for that perfect score with no misses. The idea is to use the buttons and d-pad to lock on to your note, depicted by a moving star, as close as possible.
However if you press a button to fast you only score a good score, do it too late and you miss. It definitely adds a dynamic to how fast or slow you tap those buttons. Then there are the combos, which come into play as you continuously manage to keep a streak alive. However, missing a press will drop them. Do a fantastic job and you’ll have the audience eating out of your hands, do poorly and you’ll have to restart from the start, keep that in mind. But who is the audience? You’ll have to play the story mode to find out, sorry but I can’t say any more than that.
I’ll throw in here as well that there are times where you’re judging your button press with the timing of the music, there were times where they didn’t sync up, causing me to rush into what would have been a missed chance to score. I’ve only noticed this on specific tracks, mainly slower paced ones but we warned as it does happen.
Oh, I forgot to add that there are 3 modes for songs in the free mode; Easy, Normal, and Hard. What changes between the versions are how fast the notes more and the complexity of the notes. What may have been only 100 notes in easy turns into 150 in Normal or 200 in Hard plus tossing double notes, notes that require a button press for a certain amount of time or a combination of both. Like I said, easy to pick up, hard to master. Oh, then there’s the All Night mode difficulty that opens up do certain things in the game and if you thought hard was… hard, well you ain’t seen nothing yet. All Night mode is for everyone who thinks the game is way too easy and if that’s such a thing, well I’m sure All Night Mode is going to make anyone in that position to rethink that thought.
Ready to cry yet? Let’s just say when I got to All Night mode, I got rocked and pretty damned hard. It wasn’t even close to getting near a finished stage. Still, it was fun as I scrambled and attempted to hit the right button, usually ended in complete and utter failure.
As mentioned earlier, you do have access to a store where you can buy items to customize your character and partner, as well as other items that can either help and improve your gameplay during free play mode. I really enjoyed how the store is presented as it’s done similar to a TV shopping channel, it’s really interesting and funny as you listen to the gentleman who announces the ongoings as you purchase items. The announcer actually reminded me of the announcer from the Ridge Racer series, but maybe it was just me.
The graphics are also top notch here, colorful and cheerful, to match the cute yet serious vibe that this game sets off. And that’s to the PS Vita’s small screen, the resolution of the game shines. The movements of all the on-screen characters are also vivid, as you’ll see if every step and groove while you dance to the beat.
Despite how many objects are on screen, the game never tends to experience any slow down, which helps out this already fun-tastic title. This is one of the games where the PS Vita shines and only makes me wonder why more companies don’t take advantage of this portable titan’s power. I will mention that on some of the stages, I did have a hard time making out the notes that were incoming due to stage’s background and it did almost cause me to drop a combo here and there. Try to focus on the notes and not the background if you encounter this as well. Of course, what would a Persona title be without the iconic music that helps push that series that much further and just about every fan favorite song is included? What’s more is there are typically one or two remixes of those songs as well, which can help get you that much pumped when playing.
For example, there’s a remix of “Time to Make History”, Time To Make History (AKIRA YAMAOKA Remix), that simply makes that song so much better and really ups the tempo. Sadly other songs such as “Mass Destruction” didn’t make the cut, though they may end up in the game via DLC, later down the road. Or at least I hope so. As an added bonus the game includes a section where you can listen to the in-game tunes, so if you wanted to chill with these Persona jams but didn’t want to go and purchase the sound (which you wouldn’t have to if you got the “Disco Fever” edition of the game, Atlus has you covered.
Interesting enough this game also makes for a fun party game, if you’re playing it on the PlayStation TV that is. I hooked the system up in my living room and challenged my children to play, to see who could do it the best and it was hilarious. A versus mode or even a co-op mode for use on the PlayStation TV would have been a nice addition. However, seeing how support for the PS Vita is already fledgling, I’m happy to see that it was even implemented.
If there’s one negative thing to take away from the game, it’s more along the lines that it’s only available on Sony’s ill-fated portable device. The PS Vita doesn’t have a massive following in the North American market and thanks to how Sony is handling the system and the lack of games, the sales are merely declining every year. Still, I’m sure that the game is selling like hotcakes in Japan and hopefully the game will manage to do the same in the West.
I only wish that this game eventually gets a PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 release as it’s a fun and enjoyable and I’m proof that this game will be loved by anyone who picks it up and takes the time to learn it. The plus to this is that the game is PlayStation TV compatible, and with many shops selling that system for under $30 now, it may be the best way to play Persona 4 Dancing All Night in the comfort of your house and it doesn’t look half bad to boot. Atlus really knocked this game out of the park.
Now, if you excuse me, I have to get back to mastering ALL of the hard songs and then maybe I’ll attempt that All Night mode, again…. maybe
** Review copy of Persona Dancing All Night was provided by Atlus USA / SEGA.
All in All, Persona 4 Dancing All Night, at first did not see that interesting to me, that is until I got my hands on it. Full of kick-ass music, fast and frantic gameplay which will have you on the edge of your chair as you try to hammer out a perfect gameplay session and of course, your favorite Persona 4 characters for you to choose and play with. Aside from the fantastic and colorful presentation, Atlus has created yet another exciting and fun entry in the Persona series, even though there are fans who may argue that this game has nothing to do with the series.
I did have an issue at times when it came to the timing of certain button presses, as the music and the actual press were a little off. Nothing that will take away the fun, but it will hurt your scoring. And as mentioned previously, not all those iconic Persona tracks are available in the game.
Definite,ly a game that anyone who owns a PS Vita or PlayStation TV should not miss out on.