|System: PS Vita|
|Release: September 29, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating|
by Angelo D'Argenio
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a rhythm game on the PS Vita based on a JRPG whose main plot involves a serial killer, an alternate dimension that is linked through big screen TVs, and demons manifested via your personality and social issues. I could not have made this up if I tried. The Persona series has only very recently gone mainstream, building hype with trailers for Persona 5 and splitting off into spin-off games like Persona Q and Persona 4 Arena. But every Persona 4 property so far has had this dark tone to it, as if the echoes and ripples from Persona 4’s original murder case simply wouldn’t go away. Can a more lighthearted Persona game really strike a chord with Persona fans?
The game is rather simple. On the left side of the screen are three d-pad directions, and on the right side of the screen are three face buttons. Little markers will spawn in the middle of the screen and will travel outward toward these buttons to the music. Your goal? Press the right button in time with the music. It’s DDR with your fingers.
Personally, I think Persona 4: Dancing All Night missed a lot of good opportunities to use the Vita’s touch screen. Some of the most fun rhythm games that I have ever played came from the Elite Beat Agents (Ouendan) series. Heck, my favorite rhythm game is Re-Rave, an arcade game based on touch and touch alone. The Vita has two touch surfaces, yet the majority of the gameplay is all about pressing buttons. Frankly, I just don’t get it.
Anyway, as you continue to press buttons to the beat, your character dances in the middle of the screen on a stage in TV world. Part of what holds this game together are the incredible characters models. These are the highest definition Persona 4 models we have seen yet, and simply watching your favorite characters move is kind of a delight. Once again, it feels like this is missed potential, however, because characters this highly defined feel like they should be in an actual mainline Persona title, not in a dancing game spin-off.
Another thing that holds the game together is its soundtrack. Unlike many rhythm games, you aren’t dancing to current pop music hits. Instead, you are dancing to the Persona 4 soundtrack and other Shin Megami Tensei hits. SMT fans know that the soundtracks of the franchise are some of the weirdest and coolest things it has to offer. This makes the game rather unique, in the grand scheme of rhythm games. If you are one of those people who listens to anime soundtracks and hacks Rock Band or Guitar Hero just so you can play the latest opening to Naruto on it, then Persona 4: Dancing All Night is practically made for you. Of course, this same feeling of anime fan bait is sure to turn off any other mainstream gamer, making Persona 4: Dancing All Night the nichest of niche games. It will only appeal to fans of Persona 4 that also like its music, enjoy rhythm games, and own a Vita, and that is a small cross section indeed.
The weakest aspect of Persona 4: Dancing All Night is its progression system, which is wholly based on score. Your goal? Get a high enough score that you can summon your Persona at the end of a stage. What does this do? Nothing. It just signifies that you got a high score. Keep playing new songs and new stages to get new characters, songs, and stages, lather, rinse, repeat.
One of the things that made Persona 4 Arena so interesting was that it was a fighting game that incorporated elements of the Persona series into it, like status effects, SP, and the like. It felt like more than just a fighting game with a Persona coat of paint, because it worked so hard to include the things that make Persona, Persona. Persona 4: Dancing All Night does no such thing, and without the Persona coat of paint, this simple rhythm game engine would not stand on its own.
While music is certainly a standout part of the Persona series, it’s not really enough to make Persona 4: Dancing All Night feel like a true Persona game. The combination of Persona and dancing just feels too far out there and betrays the dark nature of the series itself. Instead, this just kind of feels like a bare bones Vita rhythm game and nothing more. As one of the only Vita games shown at the show, I can only wonder if this is the sort of thing that gamers really want out of the struggling handheld. Maybe the Vita really is just the device of the rabid anime fan, which is all well and good considering I’m a rabid anime fan, but doesn’t bode well for the lifespan of the device itself.
Senior Contributing Writer
Date: July 1st, 2015