Quick Take: In Persona 4: Dancing All Night, players put their music-rhythm-dance skills to the test in order to save a J-pop Idol group from a shadowy realm.
The Persona (or Shin Megami Tensei: Persona) franchise has a huge following, and it’s not hard to see why. There is something about these characters and situations that resonates with fans, and each new game in the series moves the story forward, pleasing those fans, building on the core series, and fleshing out the further adventures of the characters. The most recent numbered core game, Persona 4, introduced Yu Narukami and his Investigation Team, and they are the group of teens carrying the Persona banner for now.
The newest Persona game is a major change from the RPG and fighting games that we’ve seen in years past. Persona 4: Dancing All Night takes the Persona story in a new crazy new direction: a music/rhythm dance game — and the story is 100 percent canon.
The story of Persona 4: Dancing All Night centers around a group of Japanese pop idols known as Kanamin Kitchen, who disappear one night after watching an online video at the stroke of midnight. Kanamin Kitchen was scheduled to perform in a huge new festival, and their disappearance spells doom for the much-hyped show. Luckily, Rise Kujikawa, along with Yu, Teddie, Naoto, Kanji and the rest of the Investigation Team were also scheduled to perform, marking Rise’s return to the idol stage. Because of this, the team uses the mysterious online video to transport themselves into the shadow-filled Midnight Stage world, and they work to save each member of Kanamin Kitchen by expressing themselves not with violence or with their powerful Personas, but with dance.
The story works to set up a series of rhythm dance segments, using the iconic songs from the whole Persona series. The dance/performance segments allow players to earn P$ that can be used to purchase new costumes and songs, as well as save the members of Kanamin Kitchen. Some songs are presented in their original forms, other have wild remixes. And for fans of J-pop or anime, the music is incredibly infectious.
A good portion of the six-to-eight hour story is presented in visual novel form, meaning there is a ton of exposition to wade through. In fact, the entire first chapter of Story Mode runs about an hour and a half, and there is no dancing until the very end of the chapter. It was mind-numbing to get through it all when all I wanted to do what try out the dance mechanic. Once the story really begins to move in chapter 2, the dance segments come at a much more decent clip and the true beauty of the game is realized.
And make no mistake: Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a gorgeous game. The player models pop off the PS Vita’s five-inch OLED screen, and the voice acting is top notch. I actually became a huge fan of Rise Kujikawa, based solely on the voice performance by Ashly Burch (Attack on Titan’s Sasha).
Once the story wraps, players can play the Free Dance mode from the main menu, which unlocks more chances to earn P$ and new costumes, characters (including legacy characters), and songs. It even unlocks a harder mode, but stock up on Visine before you attempt the harder mode, as your eyeballs will dry out while playing. I’m not kidding.
The controls are relatively simple for rhythm game veterans. Icons appear in waves pulsing out from center screen to two semi-circles on each side. Players hit the corresponding buttons for up, left, and down and triangle, circle, and x button in time to earn points. There are also circular Fever waves that can be hit by flicking either of the Vita’s joysticks. I didn’t have too much trouble seeing the quickly-moving icons until later in the game when the icons begin to pulse at a much faster clip. The higher difficulties do become an issue, so be warned.
Atlus has also unleashed a ton of DLC for P4D, most of it free at launch, giving post-launch support to a game that will thrill fans of the long-time franchise, and attract new fans to this new, fun, and unique world.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a fun addition to the Persona series, and the rhythm/dancing portions are a joy to play. The visuals are gorgeous and the songs are infectious and the whole package shines like a disco ball above a crowded dance floor. I was not too familiar with the characters or the mythos behind the Persona saga before playing P4D, but now I feel I know them well enough that I can jump into the upcoming Persona 5 and enjoy the game — even with a new cast and story.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is available now on the PS Vita in both retail and digital forms. There is also a deluxe, Disco Fever version that comes with soundtrack CDs, themes for the Vita, exclusive DLC, and so much more. This review is based off a review code provided by the publisher.