As a longtime fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series since the mid-1990’s, I’ll admit to getting a glorious case of the heebie-jeebies about Persona 4: Dancing All Night as soon as I heard it was in the works. However, as Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax showed after I dragged myself kicking and screaming into both games and loving them, a little funky is a LOT of fun.
When the opportunity arose to check out a review code for P4: DAN, on went my finest disco wear with the hope that I didn’t look too foolish on that digital dance floor. Thankfully, the game doesn’t disappoint where it counts and even the most jaded non-music game fan of the franchise will want to slide somewhat electrically into their favorite game emporium on September 29, Vita in hand to snap this one up.
Being very lousy at rhythm games is a curse I’ve not yet overcome (and man, have I tried!). So let’s say I’m thankful the game has a Beginner Mode for the terminally uncoordinated as well as a Standard Mode for rhythm veterans. Sure you can hop right on into Free Dance Mode and bust a move like there’s no tomorrow.
However, there’s a must-play Story Mode that’s really solid, packing in familiar elements from the franchise and wrapping that tap-happy gameplay into things quite excellently. The moderately goofball plot gives a bunch of P4 characters a good enough reason for taking dance lessons to be believable, but prepare to suspend any remaining disbelief as you cut loose and cut the rug. The game’s also got a serious side to it and it’s a case of the dev team at Atlus’ P-Studio perfectly blending everything together so well.
The plot has the members of the Investigation Team from P4 chosen to be in a TV commercial promoting an upcoming school music festival. Of course, everyone needs to dance in the ad, but most of the teens have zero dance skills. Fortunately, all that time fighting monsters in P4 and fighting in general in the Ultimax games has made everyone limber and eager to learn how to step to whatever beat comes their way. Of course, things get all weird when members of the dance group start vanishing and it’s up to the Investigation Team to take a break from their dancing practice and get dancing in the dark against some evil shadows who can shake their groove thing like there’s no tomorrow.
The tutorials (which can be skipped) are excellent, unlocking as you complete each one and allow anyone to get into the swing of things fairly quickly. The game uses every button and stick on the Vita plus the touchscreen, so paying attention to those arrows and flashing circles becomes second nature. The initial simplicity of tapping out key commands gets bumped up with colored rings that add bonuses and allow for some special moves and other fun stuff to take place. As with other music games, there’s an audience to keep entertained by pulling off the best moves possible. Make them cheer and you rack up points galore. Stumble a wee bit too much and your Dance Fever turns into a case of Game Over disease.
As you can see, the game looks fantastic and that animation is about as good as it gets in terms of motion-captured dance moves. My sole gripe with the game so far? It seems that Atlus wants to skew younger and hipper with this title so Margaret gets in the game at some point, but poor old Igor isn’t anywhere to be found. Horrors! No, seriously. I’m surprised that as of yet, Atlus hasn’t seen the great humor potential in adding that old buzzard to the mix. And before you even think I’m crazy, it sure worked out fine for Six Flags theme parks back in the day. Yeah, I bet you fall off something laughing if you remembered that old ad or maybe haven’t ever seen it before now.
Anyway, my kooky advice for Atlus aside, I’d say what’s coming will be a big smash with the right group of gamers. Persona 4: Dancing All Night will ship out via PSN digitally and in two cool retail packages. There will be a Launch Edition ($49.99) with a free Vita Skin and 10 bonus wallpapers in a collectible box, and a Disco Fever Limited Edition ($79.99) that includes what’s in the Launch Edition PLUS this awesomeness:
A P4D-themed PS Vita pouch (previously only available in Japan)
a North American exclusive embossed Teddie keychain.
Two CD’s of Shoji Meguro’s music from P4D (classics, remixes & new songs) and
bonus song DLC “Never More”
Two sets of DLC outfits (Gekkoukan High School uniforms & summer break outfits).
In addition, there will be some free Swimsuit DLC for a limited time post launch as well as a bunch of paid DLC song packs you can nab once the game drops. My own rhythm game non-skills are certainly improving, which is a good thing. Expect a full review of this one once that embargo is lifted. So far, P4: DAN is turning out to be a real hit of the non-sleeper variety.