If it weren’t a severe breach of protocol I’d just put the giant YES up at the top of the review. But it is. So I won’t.
Atlus has Persona 4’d the rhythm game. That completely real, don’t argue with me verb first cropped up with the release of Persona 4 Arena back in 2012. With Arena Atlus had the nice folks at Arc System Works make a 2D fighting game and then wrapped it in enough story to fill a Japanese visual novel.
The difference here is Atlus made its own damn rhythm game and then wrapped it with enough story to fill a Japanese visual novel. And while the fighting genre is used to having at least a little bit of plot, rhythm games rarely do. For every Parappa the Rappa or Elite Beat Agents there are a dozen DJ Max, Tap Tap Revolution, or Project Diva games that are nothing more than a list of songs to play. Even when a rhythm game does inject some storytelling, it rarely keeps players from tapping along to songs for long.
Persona 4 Dancing All Night has no such qualms. The first ten or fifteen minutes of Story Mode, depending on your reading or listening speed, is people talking about dancing.
Set a month after the epilogue of the role-playing game Persona 4 Golden, Dancing All Night’s story revolves around main character Yu and token singing idol Rise getting the Investigations Team back for one last hurrah. Only instead of solving a series of grisly murders, this time the teens will be performing as Rise’s backup dancers at her big comeback festival.
As if dancing in front of hundreds of thousands live on stage weren’t bad enough, there’s also a rumor about a strange website that sucks people into it at midnight. And an entire idol band has gone missing. Eventually the who gang is ported into a shadowy dimension where only song and dance can save the day.
It’s a very well-told story, rife with side plots and misdirection and I’m sure people looking for plots will enjoy it. But I’m not here for plot. I am here to dance.
Okay, it’s not really dancing that I am doing, hence me calling this a rhythm game instead of a dancing game. Persona 4 Dancing All Night is all about the rhythmic tapping. Using three direction buttons on the left and three face buttons on the right, players must hit the right buttons at the right time.
None of this has any impact on what’s happening with the characters behind the button prompts. Do well, and they dance. Do poorly and they still dance, until the player does bad enough to fail the level. The only non UI-centric indicator of performance comes via voice snippets from the characters. It’s a bit jarring to hear Kanji’s “Aw man, what are you doing?” when the character on screen is dancing up a storm, but if one is paying too much attention to the scenery they’re doing it wrong anyway.
What really matters is that Dancing All Night passes the muster when it comes to matching inputs with the music. When you know the song playing by heart, even on your first try playing it’s more about manual dexterity than anticipating which notes will pop up where—it;s a natural translation.
The game features a Free Dance mode that allows players to work through the song list one-by-one, earning credits to purchase crazy costumes and accessories as they go, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a first play through. The Story Mode may be characteristically long-winded, but it helps soften a song list that’s heavily padded with remixes.
Here’s a list of songs in the main game. A couple of these are free DLC.
|“Backside of the TV” (Lotus Juice Remix)|
|“Best Friends” (Banvox Remix)|
|“Electronica In Velvet Room”|
|“Heartbeat, Hearbreak” (Towa Tei Remix)|
|“Heartbeat, Heartbreak” (“Never More” ver.)|
|“Heaven” (Norihiko Hibino Remix)|
|“Like a Dream Come True” (“Never More” ver.)|
|“Maze of Life”|
|“Now I Know” (Yu Miyake Remix)|
|“Pursuing My True Self”|
|“Pursuing My True Self” (Atlus Kozuka Remix)|
|“Pursuing My True Self” (Shinichi Osawa Remix)|
|“Reach Out to the Truth”|
|“Reach Out to the Truth” (Dancing on Persona Stage)|
|“Shadow World” (Atlus Kozuka Remix)|
|“Shadow World” (De De Mouse Shadow Swing Remix)|
|“Signs of Love” (“Never More” ver.)|
|“Signs of Love” (TK Remix)|
|“Snowflakes” (Narasaki Remix)|
|“Specialist” (“Never More” ver.)|
|“Time to Make History”|
|“Time to Make History” (Akira Yamaoka Remix)|
|“Your Affection” (“Never More” ver.)|
|“Your Affection” (Daisuke Asakura Remix)|
That’s 29 songs total, or 20 songs and 9 remixes, sometimes two per song!
Now if you love the music from the various incarnations of Persona 4, then this isn’t a really big deal. Some of these tunes are so integrated into the series’ experience that the remixes are almost alternate costumes to beloved characters.
But, should you jump right into Free Dance like a certain someone I know, unlocking a new song to discover it’s just a variation of the one you played two songs back is a bit of a let down. Nothing 10 minutes of Nanako and newly-playable character Kanami Mashita discussing how cute the former is can’t solve. Story Mode is your friend.
You’ll find a lot of friends in Story Mode if you’ve played through Persona 4. If nothing else Dancing All Night is a way of catching up with the Investigation Team to see what they’ve been up since we last left them. There is laughter and a few tears, maybe a couple of surprises—the sort of excitement that comes with any school reunion, with none of the anxiety.
Unless you’re not good at rhythm games. Then it’s exactly like a school reunion.
So yes, Persona 4 Dancing All Night was everything I expected it to be and more. I’m glad you all convinced me to wait.