By Joe Sigadel / September 22nd, 2015
|Title||Persona 4: Dancing All Night|
|Release Date||September 29, 2015|
I’m sort of a betting man, and I’m willing to bet that the first time you saw the Persona 4: Dancing All Night trailer on YouTube, you were pretty dumbfounded. “Can you imagine the step? It’s genius!” “That smile is Megidolaon cute!” What was going on here? The idea of a Persona 4 fighting game didn’t seem that odd, and Arc System Works has done a marvelous job translating the Persona 4 universe into a competent and mechanically sound fighter with Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. So why go with a dancing rhythm game for a spinoff? It doesn’t seem like a natural next step for cashing in on the Persona 4 brand, does it?
Persona 4: Dancing All Night’s story follows up on the events of the original Persona 4 game, so if you haven’t played it, you may feel pretty lost here. I’ll try to sum P4D‘s plot as best I can. Rise Kujikawa, a young teen idol who briefly gave up stardom to live a quiet life in the Inaba countryside, has decided to make a comeback to the industry. She invites her friends, the members of the Investigation Team, along to assist her as backup dancers. They’re training with her for the upcoming Love Meets Bonds Festival, with an idol group called Kanamin Kitchen headlining the event. Kanami and the other four girls making up Kanamin Kitchen are friendly rivals to Rise, and they have this strange gimmick of being personified food which carries some bizarre sexual overtones, if you ask me.
In its story mode, Persona 4: Dancing All Night casts a bit of a spotlight on what pop idol life is like in Japan. Just to give you a bit of an idea, I’ll tell you a few things about it. Your schedule is strictly regimented, with little free time, and pretty much everything is decided for you. They even have contracts saying that they cannot be caught dating. It sounds rough, but Rise and the others seem to enjoy it well enough. That is, until chilling rumors about the LMB website start spreading. At midnight, if you look at a certain video, you’ll see the ghost of a dead idol, pulling you into a dream world from which you will not wake.
Because this is the Persona 4 universe, the four girls that make up Kanamin Kitchen (minus Kanami, who gets her own POV chapters) get pulled into that other world, and it’s up to the Investigation Team to save them by dancing the Shadows away. Yes, I’m serious. There’s some kind of no violence rule in place, which prevents the Persona users from using their avatars to fight. Instead, you have to move to the beat and summon the Persona to make the Shadows disappear with musical instruments.
The story is told in a visual novel format spread out into eight chapters, so I hope you’re prepared to do a lot of reading. In fact, I’d say you’ll spend most of your time in the story mode reading and not a lot of time dancing. Sure, you can rush through it, but you won’t really know what’s going on or why you have to dance all of a sudden. I don’t think the pacing is very good, but I’ll grant that it makes sense, given that there’s a lot of plot elements to grasp. I do wish they had toned down the visual novel segments, because they dragged on a bit too long for my taste. All the dances you perform in Story Mode are done on the Easy difficulty, so none of them are too challenging, but you do have to complete it to get access to everything on the Free Mode playlist. This is where you’ll likely be spending the majority of your playtime when you finish, and if you dig the music, you’ll be playing these songs again and again until you get them just right. I found standard difficulty to be reasonable for most people, especially those not practiced with rhythm games like this. Cranking it up to Hard will really test out your skills.
As for the dances themselves, they’re a very bright and colorful affairs. Yu and everyone else from the Investigation team have never looked better while they’re getting their groove on, and you can use currency you’ve earned from both Story and Free Mode to buy and unlock costumes for them to wear. To dance, you use three directions on the d-pad and the triangle, circle and X buttons to match the beat, while occasionally flicking the sticks to do record scratches. Some of the scratches will put you into FEVER where you can dance with a partner and really get the crowd roaring.
I’ve always liked Persona 4‘s soundtrack, and there are some pretty great remixes and arrangements to dance to. There’s a couple of songs from the other Persona 4 spinoff games like “Electronica in the Velvet Room” from Persona 4 Arena and Persona Q‘s “Maze of Life” Even so, the song selection feels a tad limited, and I think they could have tapped more of the original game’s OST for material, like some of the other dungeon themes. Thank goodness there’s DLC songs that bring up the tally a little bit.
In any case, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a pretty well done rhythm game spinoff that stays true to the spirit of the original game. All your favorite characters are here, and playing through this game feels like reuniting with old friends you haven’t seen in a while. I highly suggest you play the actual Persona 4 game before getting into this, otherwise you won’t get the full appeal and wonder why you have to sit through a 7-8 hour visual novel to unlock all the songs. If you’re really into the songs, I could see you spending hours practicing and challenging harder difficulties to get the beat just right. Oh, and Kanami really is “Megidolaon cute,” if you ask me.
Review copy provided by the publisher
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