We finally know when Persona 5 will grace our sweaty palms so my hype for the franchise is at an all-time high. I purchased the collector’s edition of Dancing All Night a few months ago and decided now was the perfect time to jump in. It’s important to take note that Dancing All Night is not your typical Persona RPG. Atlas has taken advantage of the popularity of Persona 4 to craft several spin-off games that explore other genres such as their previous two Persona fighters. This time, we join our cast of amateur detectives as they save the world through the powers of friendship, self-confidence and most importantly…dance!
I’ll start by first discussing the actual dancing in the game which is fairly simple. You simply press the corresponding buttons as the note reaches it respective place on the screen. You also have the option to ‘scratch’ which gives you extra points and builds up your fever meter where you get a chance for bonus points and if you’re doing well enough one of the other characters will join you for a joint dance routine for an exponentially higher score. The concept is simple and you should be familiar with the set-up if you’ve ever played Parappa the Rapper or Dance Dance Revolution. Thankfully the songs quickly ramp up in complexity and difficulty and they will truly test your rhythm and the dexterity of your hands! Atlas has presented players with two modes to tackle their challenge of hip shaking rhythm mayhem: story mode and free dance mode.
The story mode is essentially a visual novel sprinkled in with a few dancing segments. The scarcity of the dancing segments is my main gripe with the story mode. The experience is largely a passive one, giving you the opportunity to make occasional dialogue choices that don’t have a significant impact on the plot and occasionally you’re presented with a dancing segment. I believe it took me a good thirty minutes to reach the first dancing challenge and it was close to another twenty minutes before the next. The frequency of the dancing sections does pick-up in the latter half of the story but I’d estimate that in the entirety of the eight-hour story I may have encountered maybe twenty dancing segments which are about 2-4 minutes each.
The good news about the story mode is that I found the plot engaging and the returning cast of characters is as great as ever! The plot is once again framed in a mystery for our young detectives to solve and is now separated into three different points-of-view allowing you to get a full understanding of the events. By the end of the eight-hour story everything is tied up nicely and I loved how Atlas explored the theme of self-expression in this Persona plot. Each installment of Persona is ultimately defined by its cast of characters and the returning cast of Persona 4 is excellent as always. You get the opportunity to be filled in on what’s been happening in their lives and it truly feels like you’re catching up with old friends. The majority of the drama centers around the new cast of characters who I found to be memorable and they compliment the original cast nicely even if none of them truly stand out as a character I’d really care to see again.
Outside of the story mode you have a free dance mode which is exactly what you’d expect and this is where you’ll find the majority of the actual gameplay for this game. Here you can select any song in the game along with a difficulty setting, costumes and accessories for the characters as well as special game augmentations that can either make the game easier or more difficult for your liking. The more difficult you decide to make the song through the difficulty settings and augmentations, the more money you’ll get to buy costumes and accessories in the shop. Dressing up your characters with these purchased costumes is a joy and several of the items you can purchase reveal some fun surprises that I won’t spoil for you!
This game is definitely no slouch in the audio department. The entire cast of Persona 4: The Golden has returned to reprise their roles for this installment and they are on point once again. However, the real star of the show is the soundtrack! The track list consists of a compilation of remixed songs from Persona 4: The Golden and I honestly can’t tell you that there was a single dud among them! While playing this on my daily commute I often found myself embarrassingly bouncing and swaying to the tunes while I matched notes! If you were a fan of Persona 4’s soundtrack then you will most likely be pleased. If not, I highly suggest that you check out a few of the tracks on YouTube because it’s the true star of the show.
In terms of visuals, the game is simple but gorgeous on the PS Vita. The visual novel portions of the game consist of beautifully drawn static 2D backgrounds with talking portraits of characters overlaid in front of the scenery. These scenes truly pop off the screen and look fantastic on both the OLED and LED models of the PS Vita. The dancing segments themselves are rendered in 3D and you get to see your favorite Persona 4 characters rendered in more detail than ever! The dance choreography of these scenes were motion-captured and animate both smoothly and expressively along with psychedelic effects that surround them as you watch the 2D notes scroll across the screen. My only complaint about the dancing visuals is that you’re often too distracted focusing on the notes to really give the dance routines that Atlas lovingly created the attention they truly deserve.
Persona 4 Dancing All Night is definitely a product that is the sum of all its parts. Excellent gameplay, sound, visuals and storytelling combine to make an excellent and unique exclusive to the PS Vita. If you’re a fan of rhythm games or just the Persona franchise itself you truly owe it to yourself to give this a try. You can thank me later as your walking down the street humming some sweet j-pop tunes to yourself!