In a year defined by gigantic open worlds featuring one-eyed super soldiers, dashing monster hunters, post-apocalyptic wastelands and a bloke who wears black and only comes out at night, there’s something incredibly refreshing about playing Dancing All Night. The third sequel to Atlus’ hugely popular PS2 classic Persona 4, it’s a rhythm game with a new narrative as the original cast stumble upon a new case to investigate. It’s fan service, pure and simple, but that doesn’t stop it being fun, immensely enjoyable and one of few Vita games on offer that grabs you and shows incredible reluctance to let go.
You’d barely know Dancing All Night was out, such has been the complete lack of buzz surrounding its release on this continent. Maybe that’s down to its niche appeal; newcomers aren’t particularly welcome with no explanations or scene setting offered for the series’ previous events, making this a hard sell if you’re not already acquainted with this world. Still, for the initiated, DAN will be a treat. Picking up six months after Persona 4 ending, with the gang all set to dance alongside Rise at her comeback show, fellow idols (popstars) are being mysteriously kidnapped during rehearsals, pulling the investigation team back into a world filled with dangerous ‘shadows’ that can only be defeated by dance.
If that all seems remarkably convenient for the purposes of setting up a rhythm game, then yes, bang on. Given this game’s existence after two separate fighting sequels, Persona 4 Arena and Arena Ultimax, cynics have enough ammunition to suggest that Dancing All Night is just a cynical grab for more cash from a franchise that holds a certain power over people’s hearts and bank accounts. It’s a relief, then, that the game itself is actually great, and tells another entertaining, heartfelt and enjoyable story in the process. The cast itself is still one of the well-rounded and well-realised of the last decade, provoking a feeling of reconnecting with an old friend. Yosuke and Teddie’s squabbling, Yukiko’s terrible giggling habit, Chie’s pointed self-righteousness and overall disgust with tyranny of any description….it’s all still there, and there’s a decent tale to be told as you rescue the idols taken hostage by the same sort of shadows you spent all of those hours battling in Persona 4. It helps that almost the same cast back to lend their vocal talents, offering endearing enthusiasm in the face of the frequently cheesy dialogue.
The gameplay itself is easy to adjust to, yet comfortingly difficult to master. Utilising the Up, Left, Down directional buttons on one side of your Vita, and Triangle, Circle and X on the other, you tap in response to on-screen prompts, sometimes holding two at once or one for a particular length depending on the note. The occasional and utterly optional flick of the analog stick to gain the odd score multiplier comes into play, but nothing you’re asked to do is particularly complicated, and finishing songs without missing a single note doesn’t feel impossible. Items can be bought with a currency earned from hitting high scores which can make songs tougher or simpler to complete, depending on your preference, with a slew of costumes available to purchase for each character in the game’s Freeplay mode. The game’s good looking, too, with anime talking heads and cutscenes reassuringly sharp with colourful, bright menus and interfaces, but it’s the music that steals the show in the presentation stakes. The game offers up a mixture of funky, energetic and pulsing remixes to songs from the original game’s soundtrack with expanded sections and more endearingly opaque lyrics, pulling on yet another nostalgic heartstring in the process.
Dancing All Night requires a bit too much of an understanding of Persona 4’s world and its characters to stand on its own two feet as a title, which might explain why it’s been snuck out onto shelves like a parent trying to quietly vacate a room with a sleeping toddler. Fans of the series won’t need much convincing, however; this is another enjoyable trip with a great bunch of characters backed up by a solid, enjoyable rhythm game. It’s unlikely to win millions of hearts and minds, but it’s highly likely to plaster smiles all over the faces of those who fancy one more adventure in Persona 4’s world.
Midlife Gamer Rating: 8/10 Format: PlayStation Vita Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Iwan Lehnert purchased a copy of Persona 4: Dancing All Night for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of five days. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.