Persona 4: Dancing All Night
The cast of Persona 4 returns to uncover the mystery of a new rumor during the Love Meets Bonds musical festival.
8 Hour Story (with two difficulties)
Free Dance for replaying 26 songs (with four difficulties)
Alternate Costumes available for unlock
Track and Costume DLC
8 Hour Campaign
September 29, 2015
Rating: T for Teen
With Persona 3 and Persona 5 versions just announced, it’s worth a look back at the original Persona music spin-off. Despite an outrageous sounding concept, Persona 4: Dancing All Night manages to maintain a lot of the story depth and themes of its main title while centered around a fun rhythm game with a great soundtrack.
Spiritual Content: The main cast’s personas return, one of which is a Shinto god. Personas remain a manifestation of one’s ego or personality however. Celebrities are referred to as idols, but this is simply a cultural term for celebrities/singers in Japan.
Violence: The characters try to be violent at certain points, but by nature of the story, violence is literally impossible when they’re in the fantasy world. A central plot point involves a suicide.
Language/Crude Humor: Sh*t, d*mn, D*mmit, dumb*ss
Sexual Themes: One character is showing cleavage. One area is based on a night club and a monster from it is sexualized by being given a large chest. During this section, some characters make references to another character’s bust size. Some optional outfits in Free Dance mode are revealing. Both men and women have swimsuit DLC
Drug/Alcohol Use: N/A
Positive Themes: In this game, violence is not the solution. Instead, the characters have to progress by expressing themselves. The story is ultimately about working hard to be the person you want to be rather than the person that others or society expects you to be.
The story starts out with Rise from the original Persona 4 inviting her friends to join in on her performance during the Love Meets Bonds music festival. During practice, they hear of another rumor, similar to the one in Persona 4. If you go to the festival website at midnight, a video with a dead performer plays and you are then taken to “the other side.” During the cast’s investigation of this rumor, they find themselves in yet another mysterious world. And once again, they must rescue people who have become trapped in this world. They don’t accomplish this by fighting with their personas this time. Violence is strictly prohibited in this world. Instead, they must express their feelings through dancing in order to progress.
The story sounds pretty ridiculous on paper, and at certain points, it can be, but for the most part, the writing manages to make dancing to fight against monsters actually make sense. It’s not without a few cheesy lines like “I’ll show them my feelings” during a climactic moment, but it works well for the most part. While Persona 4‘s story deals with characters who had parts of themselves they are afraid to show to the world or admit the existence thereof, Dancing All Night has characters who instead must accept that they are their own person and they cannot let other people dictate who they will become. It may be a subtle difference, but it’s a spin on the original concept that works well. While the characters in question who must learn not to conform to other people’s expectations are side characters, their brief learning moments are still very poignant.
The main problem with the story, however is that it feels extremely long. In terms of raw hours, it isn’t actually that long, but sometimes the dialogue drags. The story segments far outweigh the gameplay segments. This isn’t really new for the Persona series, but there are literally only two things you will be doing in Dancing All Night: dancing and listening to dialogue. The songs only last a couple of minutes, so much of the eight hours the story takes to complete, comes from the dialogue. It’s well written to be sure, but sometimes it feels more like reading a book than playing a game. Not helping is the protagonist narrating their thoughts as in Persona 4 Arena/Ultimax. The protagonist narrating their thoughts is never necessary in the mainline Persona series, but I suppose since the story is only told with sprites instead of 3D models, Atlus feels it necessary for the protagonist to describe what is happening since there are no 3D models to depict it.
The gameplay itself is pretty simple, but can get very challenging on harder difficulties. As you can see from the screenshots above, there are six buttons used, three on each side of the system. There are 4 types of notes. The standard, gold notes just require you to press the corresponding button when the note reaches the symbol indicating it. Green notes require you to hold the button and release it with proper timing. The pink notes require you to press two buttons at once. One final element are the scratches. Blue rings will expand towards the edges of the screen, and you flick one of the sticks to complete these (unless you have this action remapped to L and R). They are completely optional, however. There are variants that say “fever” though, and successfully “scratching” three of these will let you enter Fever Time at specific points in the song. During Fever Time, a partner can join you in your dance (completely cosmetic and only if you’re doing well when the fever starts) and getting a “good” rating will no longer drop your combo. It should also be noted that you can tap the screen instead of pressing the buttons, but using this method is too unreliable to be used on anything above easy difficulty for the most part.
If your audience is appreciating your performance enough (indicated by a meter of sorts at the top of the screen), then you pass the song. Dropping notes will cause the meter to drop. You can fail at the tail end of the song if you drop a bunch of notes, even if you were doing perfectly the whole rest of the song. This element of scoring can be a bit aggravating, but it also means that misses early in the song can be made up.
Songs may only be played on easy or normal difficulties when playing the story mode, but once you complete a song in story mode, it is unlocked for Free Dance where you can play on hard or the unlockable all night difficulty. The partners that join the dance during fever mode vary on the difficulty, though they can be unlocked to be used on any difficulty. Free Dance also allows the use of unlockable modifiers that do things such as speeding up the notes or making them fly in random directions. Free Dance also allows the use of many cosmetic unlockables.
The songs themselves are from all across the Persona 4 series of games, from the original Persona 4 to Golden to Arena to Persona Q. If you have not played these games than, as one would expect, the game may not be as enjoyable for you. There are also multiple playable characters, some of which were not playable in any other Persona game. Most characters have two songs, but a few have more or less.
In the end, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a fun spin-off that retains a lot of the depth in its story that the Persona series is known for. Unfortunately, the way the story is delivered can sometimes feel like a drag, but overall, it’s an incredibly enjoyable. Thanks to Free Dance, it is also a replayable experience.
+ Deep story themes
+ Multiple cosmetic unlockables
+ Easy to understand gameplay system
+ Songs from all across the Persona 4 series of games
- Dialogue can drag
- Occasionally cheesy story