Persona 4: Dancing All Night Vita Review
By now you’ve probably read the unfortunate news that Persona 5, the latest and highly anticipated sequel to the acclaimed JRPG series, has been delayed to Summer 2016, despite many claims to the contrary by its publisher Atlus. Many fans are undoubtedly disappointed by the news, and probably see the latest spinoff release as salt poured on the wound. True, Persona 4: Dancing All Night may not be the next big JRPG epic that fans have been long waiting for, and at face value it may be nothing more but another fanservice cash-grab starring the beloved cast of Persona 4.
But as any Persona fan can attest to, the series has had a long penchant for doling out some of the catchiest music ever heard in a JRPG, a wonderful fusion of pop, rap, rock and endearing Engrish that is tailor made for rhythm-based remixes. Persona 4: Dancing All Night is more than just a collection of classic tunes and unlockable costumes…it’s a celebration of everything that made Persona 4 one of the most cherished JRPGs released in the last decade, from its slick presentation to its loveable cast and, of course, its music.
As with previous spinoffs, Persona 4: Dancing All Night features a full-length story mode that is far more in-depth and lengthier than anyone would normally expect in a rhythm game. Told in a Visual Novel-like format, Dancing All Night takes place after the events of the original game, reuniting Yu Narukami and friends for another supernatural mystery to solve; while rehearsing as backup dancers for Rise’s comeback, the group is introduced to her fellow pop idol stars who form the band Kanamin’s Kitchen. Before they can get over their star struck introductions, four of the five girls mysteriously vanish, the cause being that they’ve been spirited away to another world known as the Midnight Stage, which bears many similarities to the Midnight Channel from the first game. While Yu and company can summon their Personas inside the Midnight Stage, they are unable to engage in any acts of violence; instead, the only way to fend off against the waves of Shadows (led by an enigmatic voice that seeks to keep the idols prisoners) is to utilize their newly-learned dance moves to break out of the supernatural dancing stage.
From a storytelling standpoint, Dancing All Night doesn’t miss a beat in recapturing the previous game’s smart writing and likeable characters. Everyone is on point, taking their experiences from the previous adventure and confidently showing their resolve against the latest threat. The new characters, who all exhibit typical pop idol tropes, are also developed further as a commentary to the typically cutthroat nature regarding their profession. Like with Persona 4, Dancing All Night’s story knows when to take things seriously while also keeping a predominantly positive outlook, where clichés like the power of friendship and learning to accept oneself continues to feel fresh and engaging.
That positive energy is also an important part of the game’s presentation; only Persona 4 could pull off having its characters dress up and dance off without feeling even remotely inappropriate; every character has their own dancing style and a variety of costumes to choose from, and watching them perform through smooth animation and high quality character models is nearly worth the price of admission for fans. But the biggest draw, naturally, is the collection of remixes that make up the huge selection of stages; as is typical with rhythm games, the goal is to press the onscreen buttons with the correct timing in order to keep up the minimum score until the song is over. The buttons primarily include the Vita’s D-pad and face buttons, although the left analog stick is also used in order to scoop up Fever rings, which are purely optional but result in a bigger score (and more importantly, another visual treat by having a dancer’s partner come in for a duet). The interface is simple enough to follow, to the point that players should have no problem to quickly determine which button prompt will come up next, although anyone playing the game on their big screen through the Playstation TV may have to focus a little harder amidst the psychedelic light show taking place. An option to disable the HUD during replays, much less the ability to save replays, would have also been welcome features.
Once a stage is completed, new songs will open up, while the cash payout can also be used to expand your dancer’s wardrobe. The outfits continue the fanservice streak by including familiar costumes from Persona 4 as well as amusing-yet-appropriate gag outfits for each character. For anyone who has desired dressing up Teddie as a reindeer or Naoto as a butler, or to just have everyone don the infamous gag glasses, Dancing All Night has all your fan-favorite apparel covered. Naturally, a few additional characters will eventually join the fun; having Nanako cutely dance to a remix of the Junes theme should be more than enough incentive to hook in fans.
Ultimately, your level of reverence will determine whether Persona 4: Dancing All Night becomes an instant purchase. Like Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, this is a game that is simplistic in concept but catered heavily toward fans of the series. Yet unlike Theatrhythm’s serviceable-yet-sterile insert of characters and compositions, Dancing All Night goes the extra mile to ensure that Persona 4’s beloved cast bring their A-game to this endearing love letter in addition to its plethora of toe-tapping remixes.