Persona 4: Dancing All Night Review
Persona 4: Dancing All Night has two distinct modes: Story mode and Free mode. Being a Persona game, the story mode is very interesting, a tad bit weird, and heavy on the dialogue. From the beginning of the game there is a very eerie tone. This isn’t what you may expect from a rhythm game, because dancing games generally have an overall positive feeling, but that's okay. The dark tone of Persona 4: Dancing All Night is balanced by the uplifting soundtrack that is really enjoyable.
The game’s major events are all surrounding the upcoming “Love Meets Bond” music festival. The two main acts of the festival are Rise Kujikawa, a former idol making her return after she has taken a brief hiatus and the Kanamin Kitchen Girls, a very popular group of idols. Rise asks the familiar faces of Persona 4, Yu, Kanji, Teddy, Naoto, and a few more to be her back up dancers. Shortly after Rise introduces the supporting act of the Kanamin Kitchen Girls to the rest of the gang, the Kanamin Kitchen girls get sucked into a mysterious world known as the Midnight Stage. The Persona 4 team decides that they should enter the Midnight Stage world and rescue the Kanamin Kitchen Girls and thus the adventure begins.
Now that we’ve gone through the introduction, we know the premise, and exactly what are our goal is. This means that we get to dance, but why dancing? Inside the Midnight Stage, you are unable to get hurt or inflict pain. There are shadow-like monsters that reside in the Midnight Stage that can only be dispersed by showing off your best dance moves. As long as you can keep the shadow monsters happy by getting high combos with a low amount of misses, the monsters will be forced to leave and you will live to dance another day.
At first the dancing mechanic feels a little confusing, because the game uses controls rather than the touch screen. This feels like a missed opportunity, but it quickly becomes a welcome feature. Persona 4: Dancing All Night doing away with the touch screen means that you use the up, left, and down arrows as well as the triangle, circle and cross buttons to connect with beats. You also frequently use the left and right stick to add optional bonuses to your combo score and Fever meter, which gives you a score boost. Don’t worry if you miss these score boosts though, because there is no negative impact on your overall combo or score if you do miss. For me, using the controls for Persona 4: Dancing All Night rather than the touchscreen was better because it never felt like I was blocking what I was doing on screen.This is an issue that I've run into with touch screen games in the past. There were even times where it was hard to see my character was dancing, but I was successfully completing the objective. Luckily, there is a handy replay mode that allows you to watch your performance after you finish the dance.
While the gameplay is fun and there are a lot of songs to play, Persona 4: Dancing All Night does have a downside. The actual dancing is great and you can’t wait for the next song, but you're going to have to get used to waiting around for a long time. The game is so dialogue heavy that the time between dances can feel like an eternity. After the first few hours of the game the dances become more frequent, but then comes another problem. There are four Kanamin Kitchen Girls that you have to rescue individually. This wouldn't be a big deal, but with a limited amount of variety between scenes it causes a lot of repetition. This repetition can quite honestly feel like a chore a times, because you are conflicted. You don't want to skip the story, but you really want to get to the next song. I think it’s commendable for any rhythm game to have a story mode, but maybe there is a reason why the majority don’t.
I found myself very tempted to use the quick skip option to get through the text, but I never used it. Persona 4: Dancing All Night is considered canon, so it is important to the story arch of the Persona series. As a true fan of Persona, you definitely want to keep track of what’s happening, but even at times the most hardcore Persona fans may find themselves eyeing that skip text button. The good thing is, once you get toward the last few hours of the game it really starts to pick up. You find yourself dancing more and the story becomes much more engaging.
The other aspect of the game is Free Mode. This is exactly what it sounds like, a mode where you are free to dance as much as you’d like! This is where Persona 4: Dancing All Night really shines. You start off with a select amount of songs and as you progress you unlock more songs. On completion of songs, you also receive a certain amount of money based off the difficulty you select: easy, normal, hard and eventually the unlockable difficulty All Night. The higher the difficulty and the better you do, the more money you earn. The money you earn is used to buy costumes, accessories, and items. While costumes and accessories are purely aesthetic, items can make dancing easier or harder. If you decide to select something that makes your dance routine easier, you will receive a negative bonus on your score and it will lower the amount of money you earn. If you choose to make your difficulty harder, you get a positive bonus that increases your points and the money you earn. Despite having a rough time making it through the story mode, I still find myself making playing the free mode, even after I completed everything 100%.
The verdict on Persona 4: Dancing All Night is that the Story Mode can drag on for what feels like too long at times, but whenever you need a break from the story you can always get your dance on in free mode. When I first played through the game, I focused solely on the Story Mode. I don’t know if this was the right way to go, because I really wanted to get to the next dance. I recommend mixing it up whenever you feel like you just want to engage in some gameplay and then head back to the story to discover all the hidden secrets of the Midnight Stage.
3.75 out of 5.
Thanks to Atlus for supplying a code for review.