Can you imagine the step?
Persona 4 originally came out in 2008 on the PlayStation 2, and yet it has an expanded re-release and multiple spin-off games. Obviously, Atlus struck gold with the loveable cast of characters in Persona 4, and fans just want to spend more time with them in any kind of game. That includes the music/rhythm genre with the release of Persona 4: Dancing All Night. True to its name, Dancing All Night features the cast of Persona 4 participating in choreographed dance sequences, and it's the kind of goofy fun I expect from Atlus. I didn't know I want to dance to the Junes theme song as Nanako, but now that I have, there's no turning back.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night isn't just a game in which characters like Chie and Kanji dance to catchy tunes. It's a game in which characters like Chie and Kanji dance to catchy tunes for narrative reasons. Dancing All Night features a story mode that stretches a good 6-8 hours and provides a backdrop for the seemingly silly dance premise. Rise (pronounced "Ri-se") is primed to make her pop star comeback at the Love Meets Bond festival, so she enlists the help of her Investigation Team friends as backup dancers. Kanamin Kitchen, a J-Pop group full of young girls, also plans to perform at the festival… until they get kidnapped and find themselves in a strange place reminiscent of the shadow world in Persona 4. It's up to the Investigation Team yet again to solve the mystery, but they must dance their way to the truth this time.
I appreciate the effort to craft a narrative around the dancing themes, but Persona 4: Dancing All Night focuses far too much on the true self aspects of previous games. The original Persona 4's writing shines because it mixes in those moments of self-discovery with fun banter and genuine humor. Though it has its moments, there's less banter and humor in Dancing All Night, and the overall narrative suffers because of it. Then again, I did enjoy seeing the Persona 4 cast team up again one last time. I'm not sure I'll ever get tired of Chie making fun of Yosuke or Teddie trying to seduce all the women in his life.
The actual dancing is the star of Persona 4: Dancing All Night, and it largely makes up for the uneven narrative. Each dance/song features a series of inputs on the left and right sides of the screen that correspond to the D-pad and triangle, circle, and X buttons respectively. Occasionally the game will throw rings at the screen as well, which require a flick of the analog stick. Though the rings don't affect combos, fever rings allow players to enter fever mode where scores go up exponentially and other characters join in on the dance. The group dances are incentive enough, as Nanako teaming up with her “big bro” for a dance might be the most adorable video game moment of 2015.
Most of the songs in Persona 4: Dancing All Night provide a solid challenge on normal difficulty, and the harder difficulties get particularly crazy. I bow down in worship at any player who can complete songs on the unlockable “All Night” difficulty level. The game includes 27 tracks, which falls on the short side of things for music/rhythm games, but I enjoyed just about all of them. The soundtrack includes Persona 4 tracks and a series of remixes, some of which trump the original versions. In addition, each song comes with its own specific dancer. It's a shame Dancing All Night doesn't allow players to select different characters for each track, but the game offers customization options in other ways.
In Free Dance mode, players can select different outfits and accessories purchased from the shopping screen with in-game currency. The shopping list includes simple outfits like high-school uniforms and summer clothes, but there are also more extravagant costumes in the game. I should note that a few of them venture into creepy territory. Hearing Rise say, “Sure, I can do some fan service,” as she puts on a suggestive Santa costume makes me shudder, but other costumes stand out as ridiculous in a fun way. Let's just say I constantly put Teddie in his quiz costume and Naoto in a Sherlock Holmes-esque detective outfit, and I don't regret it at all.
The combination of fun rhythm gameplay, impressively choreographed dances, and costume variety make Persona 4: Dancing All Night a worthy addition to the Persona 4 universe. It offers a strong challenge for players and even includes in-game items to make individual tracks easier or harder depending on skill level. The narrative falls short of other games in the franchise, but at least it features the familiar faces that fans have come to love. Now put those familiar faces in wacky costumes and watch them dance for their lives. Ya know, Persona-style.