Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review - Persona 4: Dancing All Night | Step Up

Persona 4: Dancing All Night feels like a reunion.. well, not like those awkward high school reunions that you’ll eventually turn down. The game gives out a nostalgic vibe of familiar friendship and silliness from your time spent in the original Persona 4. Developed by Atlus and the team behind Hatsune Miku: Project Diva for the PS Vita, we return to the P4 universe once again in an unexpected way: A rhythm game. Who would’ve thought, eh?

Catching Up
Dancing All Night is set after Persona 4’s fighting game spinoff; P4 Arena and its sequel, P4 Arena Ultimax. Rise Kujikawa - teen idol and fellow team member - returns to showbiz after a long absence and has asked the P4 team to assist her as backup dancers for the “Love Meets Bonds” (LMB) event. Meanwhile, a rumour of people disappearing after viewing LMB’s website at midnight caught the team’s attention, and unfortunately enough, members of a collaborating idol group recently went missing. Well, you know what that means! We’re bringing the band back!

Following the steps mentioned in the rumour, the team was then transported into a closed dimension called “The Midnight Stage”, which is eerily similar to the TV World in Persona 4. Shadows return as well; not as adversaries, but.. audiences? Long story short: a whole lot of dancing is involved to defeat the Shadows and whatever else is kidnapping people into this bizarre world. You may be baffled by the plot, but hey.. it works in a Persona kind of way.

Controls are pretty straight forward in Dancing All Night, and you may find similarities with Project Diva in most ways. Despite the game’s emphasis on the term “dance”, its all-in-all a rhythm game which requires you to accurately press corresponding buttons prompted on screen. Blue and “Fever” rings will occasionally appear on screen prompting you to flick either one of the Vita’s analog sticks. Blue rings grant bonus points, while Fever rings fills up your special gauge. These rings are totally optional, thus missing these won't give you any penalties. Once the special gauge is filled up; you’ll enter Fever Mode, where a dance partner will join you and you’ll earn extra points for a limited time. Characters will summon their Personas after each dance, but they serve nothing more than just eye candy finishers than anything else in game.

Switch it
There are two primary modes in Dancing All Night: Story Mode and Free Mode. Story Mode presents itself in a visual novel style format, following our heroes’ attempt to solve The Midnight Stage case, with the dance gameplay included as battle segments. Honestly, the story can be a bit draggy in the beginning, so expect a lot of story presentations before you actually get into a dance gameplay.

Free Mode allows you to play out any song with your choice of difficulty. Each song is specifically assigned to a character, but allowing you to choose whomever to be your dance partner for Fever Mode. After completing each dance track, you’ll unlock more playable songs and earn cash for purchasing costumes, accessories and items in the in-game store. Note that store items can only be equipped by your characters in Free Mode.

Tune in
Persona 4 is also widely known for its catchy soundtrack, and Dancing All Night is no short of these. Original songs from P4 and its spinoffs return, along with some original tracks and remixes made specially for the game. The remixes are kind of a mixed bag; some songs are memorable with added beats and funkier tunes, while some others are quite bland. That said, the collection is still good enough to warrant me to acquire the soundtrack regardless. I might actually dance to them myself.. if nobody’s watching.. 

All Night Long
Its without a doubt that Dancing All Night is catered for fans and especially for those who loved Persona 4, yet it still packs a load of fun for being a rhythm game. The story is considerately good in Persona standards, with its great cast of characters and dialogue. Even after completing the story, you’ll find yourself returning to the game by jumping into Free Mode to replay your favourite songs and to unlock items for your characters. For those itching for more; extra songs, costumes and characters (Marie, yay!) are available as free or premium DLCs in the PlayStation Store. As a fan myself, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a worthwhile addition to my PS Vita library.

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