Monday, 7 December 2015

Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Are you a Persona 4 fan? Chances are the answer is 'yes', if you're reading this (and if you're not reading this, how the hell do you know what I'm asking?). The thing is, Persona 4 is like something hideously addictive such as heroin, crack cocaine, or onion ring crisps. The developers are well aware of this, which is why we've had Persona 4, Persona 4 The Golden, Persona 4 Arena, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, and now – finally(?) - Persona 4: Dancing All Night. It's no lazy fan exploitation, though. This is a dancing game with a ten hour story mode, for feck's sake.

Developed by Atlus and out now for PS Vita comes Persona 4: Dancing All Night. Let's talk about the story for a while, because it's going to be the primary attraction for fans (and by a remarkable coincidence, helps to pad out a review about a game that's essentially nothing but QTEs). I'm going to assume you're familiar with the story of Persona 4 because I tell you what, this game sure as hell does. What I will say briefly is that so far as games that tell their stories in a 'visual novel' style go, Persona 4 is arguably the best there is and you should go play it immediately. Even if you already have.

Anyway, with all that TV world malarkey over and done with, Rise is free to concentrate on her big comeback tour. She's somehow roped Yu and the rest of the gang into dancing lessons so that they can briefly back her up at the festival she's sharing with new idol group Kanamin Kitchen. Of course, things rapidly become somewhat more complicated than that. People start getting sucked into a new world full of Shadows which becomes known as the 'Midnight Stage', and naturally our faithful Investigation Team end up in there too. The only way to fight your way through is through the medium of... dance! Yes, I know it sounds bloody stupid, but bear with me. Those dance lessons mean everybody's suitably prepared (what a coinkidink!), and so they boogie their way through to uncover the villain behind the supernatural kidnappings. Worth mentioning, too, that the identity of the mastermind is hidden well for most of the story.

The dancing itself is as simple in concept as any other rhythm game. Hit the appropriate button when an icon passes over the target shape, with points awarded each time according to how precise your timing was (unless you earn the dreaded MISS). The Vita's quite well suited to this, with the directional buttons and face buttons a nice comfy distance apart and facing each other directly. It is however the music, of course, which ultimately makes or breaks play in a game such as this.

I'm not the sort of person who usually listens to game music in their spare time, but the Persona 4 soundtrack has been known to find its way onto my mp3 player. I love it. The Dancing All Night songs are mostly remixes of the Persona 4 soundtrack and, while they're good... they're not as good as the originals. There are a few completely original songs, including a jazz number that sits amusingly at odds with the pop/electropop vibe of the rest. Overall it's a nice collection of choons to be honest, even if it is sometimes as cheerful as somebody on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

While Easy and Normal difficulties offer loads of lighthearted fun, I must confess that cranking the difficulty up to Hard was simply too much for my poor, bloated, thirtysomething thumbs. I felt as graceful and in control as an arthritic sloth falling through the sky. Whilst on fire. There's one more difficulty to unlock too, which I can only presume demands you play with a blank screen. So, a must-buy for (a) Persona 4 fans, and (b) masochists.

Persona(4)lly, I think it's great. 4/5.


Luke Kemp

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