Going from an internationally famous RPG to a dancing game is a bold move. But that is no problem for fearless Atlus who suddenly throws itself in the select club of rhythm games, sending Persona 4’s party onto the dancefloor.
Persona 4 Dancing All Night won’t party its way to success by merely copying the competition. The disco-themed opening and menus make it very clear : we’re far from the Vocaloid universe here. The general design is a gigantic tribute to the 70s’. Among other curiosities, the accessory shop is old-fashioned teleshopping, the “collection” menu is a shelf full of LPs and listening to music is done by a good old jukebox. This one works extremely well, because it doesn’t when the Vita enters sleep mode.
Other specificity : nearly all the songs are in English. Project Diva players will be thunderstruck but they will no less appreciate some very good compositions. Time to Make History is the best one while Snowflakes, Shadow World, Best Friends (+ another one I’ll be talking about later) are enjoyable in their own style thanks to their lively tempo. That said, there are no more than 20 songs original songs or so in-game, and there are a lot of remixes of some to make the Free Dance mode a bit longer. On a character point of view, Persona 4 Dancing All Night is rather unsatisfying since every song can only be played with the preset character : no way to experience your favorite music with your favorite character. That is a real pity, and even more so when you consider that Atlus’s game displays peerless graphics and animation. Still, the choreographies look a little too classic compared to the ideas behind Projet Diva’s clips or even the artistic side of IA/VT Colorful’s.
On a personal level, I am appalled by the fact that Naoto show up in her Persona 4 version only. I know this makes no sense but let me explain : as I do things the other way around, I got into the Persona series by reading the manga called Persona x Tantei Naoto. So from there in my mind, Shirogane Naoto looks like that. Therefore, if they show her dressed like a boy, speaking with a boy’s voice, in a rhythm game where visual and sound aspect are dramatically important, I say NO. Beyond that and that’s rare enough, the Japanese voice cast of Persona 4 Dancing All Night is not that convincing.
I’m not that good at Persona 4 Dancing All Night, but I would say that the game system is not completely so either. The buttons you have to push are displayed on the edge of the screen and the moving are neutral. It is very confusing and you also have to manage the scratch with the L/R buttons at the same time! Needless to say that you get lost in the first hours, but fear not, because as always in the genre the brain naturally adapts to the new interface with some training. Eventually, it is not difficult to master at least the normal mode. Huge mistake : the lack the colors on icon. If Sony implemented damn forms and different colors on the Playstation buttons, it’s not just for show! All this make Persona 4 Dancing All Night less intuitive than the competition.
Undoubtedly an added value compared to its rivals, the story mode in Persona 4 Dancing All Night is long enough to keep you busy for more than a dozen of hours. Several people went missing as an eerie video mysteriously airs on the web at midnight. Come to help Rise for her comeback in the idol business, Persona 4’s team get thrown into a parallel world where they will intend to pin the culprit and rescue the victims. Even if it does seem really dull at times, especially by its stiff structure and uneven story-telling, the narrative contains enough humor and suspense to renew its interest, let alone the miscellaneous direction in cut-scenes and the surprising illustrations.
I was telling you that Persona 4 Dancing All Night was cutting itself from the Vocaloid craze, but that’s actually not completely accurate. Because if you talk dancing and rhythm on PSVita, Hastune Miku is never too far. Atlus will market a dozen of DLCs priced from 0 to 800 yens (count up to 5-6€ in EU, 2 of them being free). The Heaven Remix that features the virtual singer is violent techno hardstyle served by explosive highs, but still very interesting to play and listen. The modeling and animation of Miku transcends everything you could see in Project Diva : it’s so bloody GORGEOUS! Marie’s DLC song Break Out Of… appears as classic pop music. Not especially a wonder in my honest opinion, it is nevertheless quite the challenge because icons go counterclockwise, despite the rest of the game keeping to clockwise rotation.
Even though Persona 4 Dancing All Night is definitely a enjoyable experience, it remains “weaker” than other rhythm games on Sony’s handheld. It does have a stye of its own, a interesting story and a decent tracklist, but kinda misses the cue in its game system and overall content.