As you may know already, I hated the original Persona 4, but when I finally figured I’d try it again with Golden I fell completely in love with it and it still remains one of my top favorite games and JRPGs to-date – so I like to try the spinoffs they keep milking from it. With a pretty shit experience from Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, I had a hard time getting myself interested in any of the other related games – however, Dancing has always been one that caught my eye. It took awhile, but I’ve finally been able to play it recently thanks to being the only person who uses Gamefly still.
Obviously, Dancing All Night is rhythm game with the P4 cast and music – mostly heavily remixed versions – from the original OST. In the way of gameplay it’s a typical “push the right button when the thing goes to it” style rhythm game, but it definitely lacks the polish of something like the top-tier of the genre like the Project Diva franchise. The layout and design isn’t great and both sort of helps you keep track of what is going on while also making it near impossible to track at other times – it’s just a circle with the buttons to press on the edges, which results in much less “flow” to the commands appearing on the screen as you get in other similar games. In Diva they just kind of go from one to the next in an intelligent very easy to grasp sort-of wave throughout each song across the screen. Here…it’s just sort of jumping from place to place near randomly a lot of the time with little time to notice where the next button press even ‘spawns’ and where it’s headed on more difficult songs.
Part of that problem comes from the fact it’s on a handheld. Not only is the screen smushed and small (though very nice quality, the Vita screen is still fantastic) compared to a giant TV that lets you monitor everything more easily, it also has your hands cramped in a claw grip due to the size. That would make ANY rhythm game more difficult, and it definitely applies here.
Another issue I have which luckily isn’t for all the songs is that a few have kinda bad timing to them. It’s often off pretty far for something like this, like a quarter or half of a second or so at certain parts of those few songs and it makes them terribly fucking frustrating because the problem is you actually playing to the music – as a rhythm game is meant to have you do – and the beats are off from the actual tempo/rhythm/beat in a way that makes no sense and makes it impossible to time right. It’s not whole songs, nor is it most, but it’s there and it pisses me off when it ends up happening. Every game of this genre has a few songs with that problem, but DAN has a pretty limited track list so it’s a little more noticeable here – I will say it’s mostly the shitty jazz tracks that have the issue so luckily you won’t want to play those ones often anyway.
Maybe my biggest issue with the game is that you don’t get to pick who the fuck you play as for any given song even outside of the story mode – it’s just who they decide, and you can sometimes unlock partners to pick from but even then its very limited. It’s a terrible fucking decision because one of the biggest replayability factors in something like this is the ability to do things like dance as whoever you want along with other customization aspects. I’d love to do every song as slutty-Naoto or, honestly, probably more often as the most adorable little Nanako with her bopping-about style of dancing who definitely steals the entire show with just how goddamn cute she is. Instead, they just get to be in the select songs that the developers decided on, or as guests in a few others.
On top of all that stuff, they completely spit on Marie by having songs that are ONLY IN GOLDEN in this, but not Marie. Even if you buy her DLC she only appears in that one single song (much like the velvet room lady is only in her song), but something like Snowflakes which is only in Golden and during the extra content that isn’t in the original game is in the game without the character it exists for. It’s kind of shitty, not even scummy as I’d appreciate being able to pay money for Marie and use her in every song – but that’s not even a choice! Hell, she’s the most suited for a game like this based on fashion sense alone. In fact the whole DLC situation is very confusing – Marie only exists for her song as I said, but also I couldn’t find anything about Adachi who I’m pretty sure is supposed to be DLC for at least a song too?
Now, all that aside – I actually really like P4DAN. It’s not a perfect rhythm game but it’s really fun and addictive which is a huge factor for the genre, and seeing the pretty near-perfect P4 cast busting out their moves to quell a bunch of shadows is pretty great and doesn’t really get old. MOST of the songs don’t suffer too much from anything aside being often way more difficult than you’d expect, and while the set list isn’t too long it’s all pretty good in the context of the game. I really like some of the remixes, but most I only can enjoy while playing the game – sort of like how I feel about the entire Revengeance OST, so while I wouldn’t go buy the OST it definitely has some good music to play to and a few that are even good for listening on their own.
I also really love the ‘fever’ moments in songs when your partner comes in and dances with you, it always feels good and cool even after you’ve seen it plenty of times. The same goes for the end of each song having the main dancer summon their persona and them playing a short solo bit on their specific instrument.
As for the story; for some reason, just like P4 Arena Ultimax, they went with putting 30 minute long visual novel scenes in-between 4 minute songs and it’s kind of a bit fucking much. I will say the story is actually pretty good, something I think they could have used for a real full new game and not wasted on a spin-off – though in the final chapters it does tie into the familiar shadow world of P4. It features the full main cast of P4, Nanako, Dojima, and some new characters that are the focus of the plot. It goes way too long so I ended up kind of skimming very quickly through big chunks, but even then I enjoyed it and it seemed pretty well thought out – if you’re more patient than I am I think it’d be worth going through at a proper pace.
I love visual novels but I don’t come to a rhythm game to read one, sorry. There is also a pretty good twist that I don’t think Persona (definitely not 3+) has actually done, of course in the end it turns into ACTUALLY IT WAS AN EVIL GOD but right before then there’s something I hadn’t seen coming at all that worked really well. It’s pretty cool seeing Dojima actually do his fucking detective work for once as well, as he’s a major player in the story (though sadly never dances, though you can dress up the MC as him which is pretty fucking good too).
The final ‘battle’ is actually really cool too – it not only has the entire cast (first in pairs, then all together), it even has Izanagi-no-Okami show up to jam out at the end. It felt like the closest you could get to the big moment in the real game in something about dancing.
The voice acting, sadly, is pretty bad. Almost nobody from the original game nor Golden is here with very few exceptions, and aside Matt Mercer who is incredibly talented and sounds more like Troy Baker than Troy Baker does, the rest don’t nearly match their original voices nor fit the characters at all. It’s kind of just a bunch of nobodies gathered up and thrown into a recording booth at the last minute. Even Chie, who is the same voice actress as in Golden – infamous for making Chie sound like she had Downs – is somehow markedly worse here. You might think it doesn’t matter too much, but you hear the characters speaking throughout all the songs and also if you play the story mode it’s nonstop voiced dialogue for, again, like half an hour chunks.
With all the good and bad, I still have to say that Persona 4 Dancing All Night definitely dabs its way into your heart – even if nobody in it dabs because it wasn’t ‘invented’ yet. It brings back some good nostalgic emotions for your time spent with the original game through the old music and the cast getting to take on another mystery, the gameplay is pretty solid even if it isn’t perfect and is too hard sometimes, it’s addictive, it’s cute, it’s got a pretty good story, it looks really nice, and it’s just fun. I like rhythm games and I fucking love P4G so I can’t help but really like this even with its flaws. It’s definitely worthwhile if you’re into Persona 4 and it’d probably be pretty alright as an alternative to Miku games if you’re into the rhythm genre and want something different than playing Black Rock Shooter a millionth time. While Persona 5’s dancing game would be fine if it was the same as this, I do hope they’ll have learned some things and tightened it up a bit more for an even better experience – but it’ll for sure be worth looking into either way based on this one. It also better have someone fucking dab so hard they break through to the meat dimension.