We could all use a little time at PAX South from time to time.
The Great Era of Persona 4 Spinoffs seems to be finally over. I wouldn’t say any of the spinoff games were terrible, per se, but it’s a bit relieving to know that the next Persona thing we need to expect is the honest-to-goodness fifth game. We had a fighting game, a dungeon crawler, and finally Persona 4: Dancing All Night rounds out the list, a rhythm game that made everyone scratch their heads and chuckle when it was confirmed. But surprisingly, Dancing All Night is probably the strongest entry in the trio of cash grabs, and if you have a Vita or PSTV and any inkling of enjoyment in Persona 4’s music, it’s a must buy.
Dancing All Night follows in the path of Sega’s Hatsune Miku rhythm games, with nearly identical gameplay. The big hook to this game is, obviously, its ties to Persona, and those ties set it apart from its ancestor, for better and for worse. The Miku games were a love letter to her most famous songs and music videos, and while Persona 4: DAN definitely loves its music, it has to play around with the formula to actually get enough satisfying content in the game. There’s a solid amount of songs in the game, but almost a quarter of them are remixes. That can be a bit of a bummer if one of your least favorite songs gets overplayed, but otherwise the remixes are top notch and it doesn’t feel like they were hastily slapped together to pad the track list. Famous songwriters such as Akira Yamaoka and the ever-rapping Lotus Juice make great contributions to the soundtrack.
I almost wish there wasn’t a story in this game. That may sound sacrilege, but I stand by it. There are some legitimately cute moments in the story mode, and I’ll never tire of watching the Investigation Team interact, but by the fourth go-around, “bonds are what make us who we are” and “I need to be my true self” gets just a little bit old. Hearing the characters root for each other mid-dance is reassuring and adorable, especially when Nanako is trying her best and everyone wants to see her shine. The little character moments make the existence of the story worthwhile, but just barely. You can thankfully play through Free Dance mode at any time, so if you truly want to get into the groove and nothing else, that’s a completely viable option.
Actually diving into the gameplay of Dancing All Night is where the game truly begins to impress. The controls are six buttons and the control sticks, with X, O, Triangle, Up, Left, and Down serving as note buttons. The sticks are flicked to correspond to both blue record scratches that add to your score and a fever ring that allows for a multiplier segment of the song where a partner joins in and dances alongside the main dancer. I was worried the UI would get cluttered with the vibrant backgrounds clashing with the notes, but everything stands out exactly how it should, and I almost never missed a note because I didn’t see it coming. It’s simple, elegant, and fun to look at, which are the three keys to a great rhythm game.
There’s a solid amount of unlockables in the game, and you’re constantly challenged to up the ante and strut your best stuff. New songs are unlocked via playing through previously unlocked Free Dance songs, and costumes can be purchased in Tanaka’s famous TV mail order store. You can purchase nearly every great costume from Persona 4 Golden in here, from Yosuke’s werewolf attire to Yu’s Santa outfit. More costumes are available via DLC, so if you want to shell out three bucks to put the Team in Persona 2 character colors, the option is there. More songs and characters are already confirmed on the way, so Miku will arrive sooner than you expect.
Overall, Persona 4: DAN is a package that P4 fans cannot skip. Every song you love is included, and there are plenty of chuckle-worthy bits throughout. For those lucky few who own a Vita or PSTV and yearn for a great game to pass around during a post-anime convention shindig, DAN is a no-brainer. Some bits of the game may drag, but overall it’s a tight, fun experience.