Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Persona 4: Dancing All Night (PS Vita) Review

One of the year's most anticipated "niche" games this year has to be Persona 4: Dancing All Night.  It takes the cast of Persona 4 and places them in a new genre of games... rhythm dancing!  And rest assured, it is definitely a Persona game.  The story mode is very heavy on dialogue and character interactions.  The first chapter is probably the biggest example of this, as there is a lot of dialogue and two short tutorial stages that teach you to play the game.  The following chapters still have a lot of story, but it's not quite as skewed against the gameplay.  If it matters to you, the game's story is in canon with the original Persona 4, and strangely enough, Arena Ultimax (the fighting game).  These poor kids have dealt with a lot of weird stuff... so what's next, an MMO cooking game?

It isn't really a problem that the game is so story heavy, I just didn't expect it.  It makes a decent dichotomy, letting you rest between all the quick finger work of the rhythm stages with relaxing dialogue sections.  I will admit that during the first chapter I commented "dancing all night, more like talking all night!"  Eh?  Eh?  Heh heh...eh... I'll let myself out.

Anyway, on to the gameplay.  As with most rhythm games, you must time your button presses when the note/symbol reaches the designated point.  You can get a rating of Miss, Good, Great and Perfect depending on how close it is when you push the correct button, and getting several in a row will count as a combo.  There are also Scratch and Fever rings, which you activate by hitting either analog stick/nub thing on the Vita.  I felt like those always came up faster than the notes, even if they didn't.  These can be ignored if you want, but it is really beneficial to at least hit the Fever ones.

A good shot of the screen layout and some costumes!
If you hit enough of them by certain points of the song, you will activate Fever Mode.  These sections will have the chosen partner for the song come out and dance with you.  Also, hitting a Good note will not break the combo during this time.  If you miss too many notes, the song ends.  It's also easy to be focusing on one side of the screen and miss a note on the other, so make sure you are looking to see what the next note is.  Hitting notes on Easy and Normal difficulty isn't too bad, but it can get tough on Hard... which makes sense.

Instead of hitting the designated buttons to hit the notes, you can alternatively touch the screen in the appropriate place.  I found this much harder, so I stuck with hitting the buttons.  I also tried the game on the Playstation TV.  It worked, but the game is harder to play on a big screen.  The problem with sometimes missing a note on the other side of the screen becomes much harder on a 50" TV versus a 5" screen.  The Dualshock 3 worked perfectly fine for all button inputs though.

Going through the story mode wasn't very hard.  Thankfully, I did not have to repeat any stages.  There is also a Free Mode that has all of the songs (most have to be unlocked by playing other songs in Free Mode) and a difficulty selector for each one.  I can do all of the songs on Easy and Normal, but the Hard ones are... well, hard.  Practice makes perfect after all.

But if you don't have time for that, there are unlockable items you can purchase with the money you earn in game.  These items can make the songs easier or harder and apply modifiers to the score and money you earn from them.  It's a really nice system to make the harder difficulties more accessible, or to make them devilishly hard so you earn some bragging rights.

That's not true, I beat a song on hard...
That's not all you can buy with the money though.  Each character has a few costumes and accessories that can be purchased for use in their songs.  Although, that brings up one disappointment I had in the game.  Each song only has the one character that can be used on them.  I get that it's because the dance matches up to the song, but I think it would be cool to use your favorite characters in your favorite songs.  You can unlock a few different partners to show up during the Fever time, so there is that.  Also, there are some DLC songs, but these do not have dancing in them.  You still hit the notes as normal, but there is a video playing in the background.

Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a fun game.  While it is an entirely different genre from the original Persona 4, it still fits, thanks to its dialogue-heavy story mode.  There is a good selection of songs to play and very customizable difficulty.  I think fans of Persona will get enjoyment out of the game and listening to the music.  It reminds me of Theatrhythm in that respect, as it is a competent game, but also a great excuse to listen to some good video game music.

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