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Persona 4: Dancing All Night Review: Beary Bonds

/ Oct 9th, 2015 No Comments

Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Mixing two completely different genres is risky. Certain items go together like peanut butter and jelly, but other pairings leave you wondering how things so at odds end up working — like Pop Rocks and chocolate milk. Persona 4: Dancing All Night is one of those bizarre pairings that makes you wonder how it’s going to work.

The game mixes the serious story-telling elements of the JRPG genre with the jazzy gameplay mechanics of a rhythm game, and it does it rather successfully. The acute and strong characterizations of the Investigation Team make you feel right at home as they investigate yet another new media world filled with shadows. It is the grounding of these familiar faces that pulls off the often goofy dancing theme the game is framed around.

Viral Marketing

Did you hear? If you visit the Love Meets Bonds festival’s website at midnight, a bizarre video will play automatically and if you watch the whole video then you will be taken to the “other side.” This fanciful, seemingly harmless rumor incites a large number of young people to try it out. The problem is there is a bit of truth to it; those who finish watching the video occasionally enter into a catatonic state. In a real stop-if-you-have-heard-this-one-before turn, Yu Nurakami and his friends end up deeply entwined in uncovering the truth behind the malicious website.

Six months is all the time off the Investigation Team enjoyed after solving the serial murder case involving the TV World. During this time, Yu moved back to the city and Rise returned to her career as an idol. It is Rise’s return to the stage that spurs the gang to get back together to be back-up dancers for their friend. As the team gathers in the city to gear up for their performance at the Love Meets Bonds festival they encounter a number of new faces: Kanami, Nozomi, Tamami, Sumomo and Tomoe.
 

Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Naoto gets a bit meta off the bat.

Before meeting up with the rest of the team, Rise, Naoto and Yu are pulled into a bizarre stage similar to the TV World. Populated with odd Shadows, an ominous song playing weakens them. They learn the only way to affect this strange place is by expressing their feelings. As the team digs further into this dancing world, four of the junior idols go missing and Kanami almost gets abducted by mysterious yellow ribbons during a photo shoot. It is once again up to the Investigation Team to solve another shadowy mystery, but this time with dancing.

It is hard not to stress how great the characterization is in the game. One thing these side Persona 4 games do extremely well is nail the core teams’ voices and idiosyncrasies even when thrown into new, often peculiar situations. Regardless if they are fighting against each other, mapping ruins or dancing like Crazy Legs, the banter and points of view never seem incongruous to the characters fans fell in love with in Persona 4. Despite never feeling unfamiliar, they also never stagnate. The voices and dynamics are what fans love and expect, but there is always room for growth. This is shown when the younger members mature into more assertive, independent people — Naoto becomes more comfortable in her skin and Rise learns to take on a leadership role.
 

Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Yeah, the team is in for some fun times with these new idols.

While the overall narrative is intriguing, it doesn’t have the same impact as other Persona 4 off-shoots. The new characters are fleshed out and given some interesting quirks, but none of them are nearly as fascinating as Labrys or Sho Minazuki from the Persona 4 Arena games. As a result, it takes away a bit from the story as a whole, and the theme of bonding feels a bit heavy-handed at times. However, that isn’t to say the story doesn’t have plenty to love. The dynamic between the Investigation Team and the new characters is entertaining, and the plot does an admirable job of integrating the dancing angle into the story without it feeling too goofy or out of place (or at least no more than the team competing in a fighting tournament).

Moves in All the Right Places

It don’t mean a thing if you can’t press buttons with good timing and rhythm. Persona 4: Dancing All Night’s gameplay is simple on the surface. Notes appear during a song requiring players to press six of the face buttons (minus right and square). The notes come in three varieties: single notes, unison notes and hold notes. Unison notes require two button presses to clear, and a hold note has to be held and released. Additionally, there are scratches that appear as blue rings that can be hit for good measure but don’t affect score.
 

Persona 4: Dancing All Night

The notes switch up quickly and come at you even quicker.

Pressing the notes at the right time as they enter the timing zone yields varying degrees of scores from perfect to miss. If you’re not paying attention to timing, you’ll miss notes and adversely affect the hype gauge. Keeping the crowd hyped is the goal — regardless of finishing a song, if the crowd isn’t hype then you won’t clear the stage. The surest way to clear a stage and keep the crowd’s attention is by hitting combo notes.

Combos occur by timing button presses with the rhythm of the song to get a great or perfect score. Even if you aren’t great at racking up combos, you can still get the crowd hyped up by getting a good deal of good scores or not missing any notes. While missing notes isn’t a death sentence, it will cause the crowd to cool off and require much more effort to recover. It is possible to recover though, which makes gameplay forgiving enough to be welcoming to rhythm game newbies and challenging enough for veterans.
 

Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Combos get the crowd so hype!

A huge way to help ensure you’ll show off moves to dazzle the crowd is the fever gauge. While scratches are additional flair to give some diversity to a performance that don’t vastly affect performance rating, fever rings are huge boons. A number of these rings will appear at specific sections of a song, and clearing three of them with the right timing nets players a fever moment during the song. Every note cleared in a fever moment contributes to a combo, making this the perfect time to entertain the crowd and recover from any missed notes.

The faster the song, the more likely it’ll require quick reflexes, near perfect rhythm and a willingness not to blink. While certain songs may trip you up at first, there is a very rewarding feeling to practicing, getting the timing down and delivering an excellent performance.

Overall

Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a gem for the PS Vita. The narrative has an intriguing mystery behind it with perfect characterization of the game’s well-known characters, but it lacks the same punch as other entries in the Persona 4 series. Despite this, the dancing gameplay is addictive and provides a healthy challenge. Even if you’re not particularly into the rhythm genre, Persona 4: Dancing All Night might be able to get you on the virtual dance floor.

Persona 4: Dancing All Night was reviewed on PS Vita using a code for the game provided by the publisher.

 

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Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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PERSONA 4: DANCING ALL NIGHT REVIEW: BEARY BONDS

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall90%

GAMEPLAY9

Precise timing on button presses and wracking up combos is standard fare for a rhythm game. Veterans will be pleased with the challenge but mechanics like the fever gauge will help newcomers ease into the difficulty without failing a song.

GRAPHICS9

The visual novel section of the game utilizes great art design and subtle animations to convey the story, while the dance portions of the game have charming and lovingly animated routines of the various Investigation Team members.

SOUND9.5

Boasting a collection of memorable songs from the Persona 4 games and some excellent new remixes, the music is superb. In addition the game has spectacular performances from the immaculate Persona 4 voice cast.

STORY8.5

The narrative in Persona 4: Dancing All Night has an intriguing mystery behind it with perfect characterization of the game’s well-known characters, but it lacks the same punch as other entries in the Persona 4 series of games.