The Investigation Team is back in action as they dance their way to the truth. Our review.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night presents itself as a rhythm game but it also comes packed with a 10 hour story told through the use of cutscenes and dialogue in a visual novel style much like Persona 4: Arena Ultimax.
Taking place a month after the Golden epilogue from Persona 4: Golden the Investigation Team are gathered by Rise to participate as backup dancers in her comeback concert as Risette alongside the newest idol group, Kanamin Kitchen, in the Love Meets Bonds Festival. All is well and perfect until they catch wind of a rumor that if someone goes to the LMB website at midnight a video of a dead idol dancing appears and will take anyone who watches it to the other side only to never wake up. Shortly after, four members of Kanamin Kitchen seemingly disappear and with only a rumor that sounds vaguely similar to the Midnight Channel the Investigation Team take charge and head to the other side to rescue them. Meanwhile, the last member of the idol group, Kanami, teams up with Dojima and Nanako in the real world to try and find everyone else before the LMB Festival begins.
The story doesn't skip a beat which each chapter taking on the perspective of Yu, Rise or Kanami and watching (or dancing) their way to success. Though I enjoyed the chapters that focused on Kanami, Dojima, and Nanako's efforts in the real world it was really the banter between the Investigation Team that kept the story going at times but I do appreciate that both Dojima and Nanako are given much bigger roles compared to the previous games.
The characters I grew to love in the main game have certainly matured and changed in some ways. Chie rarely talked about steak or food for that matter, Teddie wasn't playing his "all the ladies want to score with Teddie" shtick and Kanji had his moments of pure ingenious in helping with the case that surprised the likes of Naoto.
But by far the character who has changed the most is Rise. In the main game she had trouble in figuring out who her true self was, Rise or the idol Risette that people adored. Eventually she comes to the conclusion that she is and will always be Rise and Risette is just one of her many traits. With that in mind she makes the decision to go back to showbiz to show the world who she is. This plays a crucial role in her character throughout the game as she has become more confident in herself and her abilities and even takes on the role as the group's leader at various points in the story.
The story as a whole is a lesson that teaches the characters, and even yourself should you choose it, to accept yourself for who your truly are. Don't let people dictate who you are, that is for you to decide.
When the characters aren't talking that means they're on the dance floor and this is where the fun begins. Icons start flying from the center of the screen and with some precision you have to hit them as they pass through the respective button. I started on normal but I found myself having trouble with the timing and ended up failing a few songs in the process, don't be afraid to bump yourself down to easy it's still the same old song and dance but without the complex icons showing up constantly.
Outside of the story there is Free Dance which is where you pick from the 27 songs, a partner, any modifiers you would like and just dance to the song. Three difficulties are present: Easy, Normal and Hard with an unlockable All Night difficulty and let me tell you, it is not joking around. Notes come out rapidly in new combinations and missing more than 5 is an automatic failure.
Depending on how well you perform you get a set amount of money that can be used in Tanaka's shop to unlock modifiers that make the game easier or harder, costumes and accessories the characters can wear while in Free Dance.
I'm rather impressed by the amount of songs and remixes that are in the game but slightly disappointed in some of them. Not of their quality but of the number per song. For instance, "Backside of the TV" has one remix while "Pursuing My True Self" has two plus the original song. Don't get me wrong, I love all the songs available but because of the three versions of "Pursuing My True Self" I feel like some other well-known Persona 4 songs could not make it in. But I can't be too down on the song choices because WE GOT THE JUNES THEME WITH VOCALS AND NANAKO DANCES TO IT. Ahem, sorry.
The characters themselves are well-represented and packed full of little details. Their dance styles represent their personalities and interests, Yosuke dances like he's a member of a boy band to the Lotus Juice remix of "Backside of the TV" while Chie shows off her kung-fu moves in "Best Friends." Seeing Kanji embarrass himself while dancing with Naoto and mimicking Yukiko's ballet dance style whenever they're paired up brings a smile to my face. There are so many little things that I noticed, even in the dialogue. In one instance I was playing a song with Kanami with Yosuke as my dance partner and occassionally he would shout out "Go, go Kanamin goooooo Kanamin!" or hearing Nanako say "that's a bromance" when Yu and Yosuke dance together. It's the little quirks the characters have that reminds me why I love this cast so much.
Dancing All Night isn’t the first rhythm game to be released but it is the first one to bear the Persona name. Prior to this I never touched a rhythm game so I cannot really give an opinion on if the game itself brings anything new to the genre. But as far as the Persona spin-offs go this one is unique. Persona and dancing from the outset doesn't seem to match well but Atlus found a way in the same way ArcSystem Works made a Persona fighting game happen. Nothing is without purpose and it doesn't feel like a cash grab.
The game is priced at $50 and there is a good amount of content that keeps me picking my Vita up whenever I can. There are no multiplayer dance battles but leaderboards can be accessed to compare the scores with people on your friends list. Atlus has also announced that DLC for the game which includes new characters, costumes and songs will be available as well and there is no such thing as too much Persona music. Whether a fan of the series is looking for a nice story or a fan of rhythm games looking for something to play, the game is great for everyone.
With an impressive tracklist, interesting story, lovable characters and 200% more Nanako, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is not only a perfect send off for the Investigation Team but for their music that is forever stuck in my head.