FGC #101 Persona 4 Dancing All Night

Gaze into my eyesDid you enjoy Persona 4? Yes? Great! You’re not alone! Millions of gamers worldwide enjoyed Persona 4, and Atlus, ever one to hitch their wagon to a bucking bronco and hope for the best, decided to exploit that love with a series of Persona 4 spin-offs. Persona 4 wound up with its own portable redux (which was great!), two fighting games (which were alright!), and an Etrian dungeon crawler (if that’s your thing!). Then, when it seemed like we’d finally get Persona 4: Super Yosuke World, Atlus zagged and gave us a rhythm game, because… I guess Rise is an idol, so… why not?

Now, full disclosure, I love rhythm games. From Gitaroo-Man to Guitar Hero to Project Diva, I unashamedly enjoy rhythm games, primarily because I just like pressing buttons. Tell me you never tried to complete a Sonic the Hedgehog level by only jumping to the beat. No? Alright, fine. Maybe it’s just me. Whatever the reason, I’m not lining up on a cold January evening at midnight to get the latest Parappa game (should such a thing ever exist), but I do generally enjoy rhythm games, and, one way or another, the latest releases do have a way of showing up on my systems after a while (and that “while” usually means “flash sale”).

So, as someone who enjoys Persona and rhythm games, this game couldn’t be any more obviously my kind of game without including a little blue robot. But I must never assume I am the majority, even in the face of how many Transformers movies keep getting produced. Persona 4 was popular, but it was a JRPG, which is, give or take Mario & Luigi, about as far from a rhythm game as you can get. In the interest of helping a potentially confused populace, here’s a guide: ask yourself what you enjoyed about Persona 4, and then check below for how that translates to Persona 4: Dancing All night.

Did you play Persona 4 for the Social Links?

Bad news: everything about the Social Link system of Persona 4 was dropped for Dancing All Night. With the exception of family and party members, every single social link character has been completely lost, save a “secret” cameo by a certain Velvet room resident. ElectronicaOn one hand, this saves us from having to see expert trombonist Ayane Matsunaga ever again, on the other hand, we are deprived of a world where we can watch Mistress of Death Hisano Kuroda bust a move (and maybe a hip). Considering all the Persona 4 sequels (that phrase makes my brain itch) have played fast and loose with continuity, I’m not buying the “we didn’t bring back any of these characters because they were all optional” justification. I want to see Fox the fox dance for shrine offerings, dammit, I don’t want excuses!

Did you play Persona 4 for the calendar management sim?

Sorry, but no day planning for you. The entirety of this game takes place over three days or so, and you get absolutely no choices on how you want to spend your dancing time. Come to think of it, the plot of the game involves a universe with freaky, parallel time, which seems like a mere plot contrivance, but it could have allowed for perfect, 100% completion runs for choosing exactly when to eat a snack or study while in a nega-universe. Or maybe that sounds ridiculous by even Persona standards.

Did you play Persona 4 for the Dungeons/Battle System?

Woo, yeah, this is another one in the loss column. Yes, the party fights their way through shadows creeping over a series of dungeons, but it’s done entirely via text boxes. So, yes, there’s a dungeon involved, but, no, you don’t get to I'm sorryexplore an inch of it. Not that Persona 4’s dungeons were all that great to being with… but someone had to enjoy them? Right?

As far as the battle system of Persona 4, no, nothing returns. Obviously, this is a rhythm game, but there’s no attempt to implement the tiniest bit of Persona 4’s strategy into the gameplay. Particular hits to exploit elemental weaknesses or “all out” bonuses for making proper choices are not a possibility here, and the closest we get is calling in an additional party member when you’re already doing well. Considering the “strategy” involved with that is simply “don’t suck”, I have a hard time saying there’s any remains of the battle system here.

Did you play Persona 4 for all those whacky demons/gods?

If you enjoyed filling the pages of the compendium for Persona 4, great news! You don’t have to do that again… because Dancing All Night removes that idea entirely. Playing demon Pokémon with fusions and collections and leveling and skill mutating and whatever is all completely gone, and not coming back. It’s a shame, because I’m currently imagining a compendium with various international pop stars mix and matched with random mythological creatures and… no… No, it’s too beautiful for this world. David Bowie mixed with Helios? And he has skills that increase the odds of your combos continuing? It would be nice…

Did you play Persona 4 for the main cast?

Now we’re talking… Yes! Yes, Persona 4 Dancing All Night highlights all your favorite main characters, and even is the Persona 4 spin-off that takes place the I'm shipping thisfurthest in the future, so you get to see how everyone turns out. And it turns out… no one ever changes, and everyone will forever be exactly how you remember them, because character growth is for people in other franchises. Hell, a couple of characters have to backslide a bit just so they can have the exact same revelations all over again! Hooray for familiarity!

Did you play Persona 4 for the plot?

Well.. errmm… about that… uh…..

Did you play Persona 4 for a billion words with zero substance?

There we go!

Persona 4 was, at its core, a mystery, and a pretty interesting mystery at that. It established its stakes early, set forth a distinct pattern, and then challenged the player to find and assemble all clues into the correct answer. Fight your way to the truth, stay honest, do what’s right, and you’ll “achieve” the best ending in Persona 4 by being a good detective, and a good person.

Unfortunately, Persona 4 also assumed its audience was marginally brain-damaged, so it “reviewed” the plot on a monthly (in game) basis, which often led to the characters saying the same stupid things over and over to each other. Oh, you say there’s a fog involved? I completely forgot about that, given you only mentioned it seven times in the last two hours. It… got old fast.

SHUT UPThen again, I can’t really fault the writers of Persona 4, as the game can be an eighty hour experience, and not everyone has the kind of life that would allow for that time commitment all at once. It’s a pain when you’re marathoning the experience, but it’s a boon when you’re thirty hours into the game, but only have an hour or two a week to play. That would mean you’re, what, fifteen weeks away from when you started the story? Everyone plays video games differently, and there’s no reason to penalize a player that can’t hook the game to their veins.

So, in an eighty hour game, all that talky-talk makes sense. In a game that can be completely 100%’ed inside of ten hours? Not so much.

Persona 4 Dancing All Night really, really wants to be a visual novel. This may work in a JRPG, it even can pass in the Fighting Game genre with contemporaries like Blazblue and Guilty Gear, but a rhythm game? Oh my, no. When the average “battle” is something like three minutes long and very thumb-intensive, slapping ten minutes of dialogue on either side of the experience is exhausting. Yes, you can skip all the jibber-jabber, but, assuming you’re anything like me, there’s that fear that “there will be a test on this later”, and you’ll hit a brick wall because you don’t know what choice to make. If that sounds absurd, remember that that exact thing can bar you from the proper ending in Persona 4.

And all this wouldn’t even be that bad if the story wasn’t deliberately constructed in such a manner that the same stupid beats happen rapidly (and boringly) over and over again. When one of the characters is going the distance and lampshading the issue about 40% through the game…

THEN STOP IT

You know something’s up.

Yes, Persona 4 was a very talky game, but there was substance there, and the thousands of text boxes actually added up to something interesting. Here, the plot is obvious from the first fifteen minutes (particularly if you’ve, you know, played Persona 4), which is coincidentally how long it takes to get to the first dance in the game. Guys, I understand you likely slapped together this plot because you wanted to see the P4 cast experience some actually meaningful victories, and not just fluffy “yay you beat Bowser” quick wins… but this story still manages to be insubstantial. It’s going to a fancy steak house and being served an entrée of potato chips; all that effort, and you probably would have enjoyed it more in your pajamas.

But if you like Persona 4’s plot for just the words and words and words, congratulations, here’s your game.

Did you play Persona 4 for its music?

Oh, this is another good one! This game has a lot of really great music tracks from Persona 4 for some reason. It’s almost like that’s the entire point of So weird...the game, but that seems absurd, because there’s like an hour’s worth of music here, and approximately nine hours of dialogue. Your reward for completing the game isn’t more musical tracks, it’s more story, so, clearly, this must be a story-driven game. It’s nice that they included such a wide musical variety with the story, though.

So, Is Persona 4 Dancing All Night right for you?

Bow before your teddy-bear garbed master, you’re buying another Persona 4 spin-off whether you like it or not. Don’t you want to know what happens to Risette’s singing career? No? You’re not even a little bit curious? Come on, there’s shadows, and costumes, and the Velvet room. It’s all beary interesting! Come on, give it a whirl…

FGC #101 Persona 4 Dancing All Night

  • System: PS Vita. Oddly, so far, the only exclusive Vita games I’ve reviewed are Persona 4 based.
  • Number of players: One. Actually, this game might be two players, but that would require finding another Vita owner, and that doesn’t sound possible.
  • Special Ed: Yes, I ordered the special edition of this game about six months in advance from Amazon, and, yes, I still have Golden Disco Teddy on my keychain. I am a shameless mark for any and all Persona related merchandise. I think I own like six Persona art books…
  • Favorite Track: There’s a lot of great music in this game, but none of it is as ridiculous as the expanded Junes Theme. In a way, that song had to be in there, but in another? It’s like they expanded a McDonald’s jingle to three minutes, and then based a music video on it. That takes a special kind of dedication.
  • FrogmanFavorite Coda: So every character’s persona gets a rad solo for completing a song as flawlessly as possible. Each persona has a different featured instrument, and Chie’s Tomoe is equipped with a trumpet. I cannot describe how absolutely perfectly this makes sense and aligns with every lady trumpet player I have ever known. Congratulations, Persona 4, I now concede that you understand brass sections.
  • Did you know? I actually mentioned the “Rise was supposed to be a punk” trivia in the previous Persona 4 entry, but I want to revisit it because without “Risette the idol”, it’s likely that this game would have had to find a whole new excuse for its existence. Maybe Yosuke gets bored and hooks up with a dance troupe, and the rest of the cast has to join in to save him? It would have at least been more interesting than what we got…
  • Would I play again: Yes. I might be hard on the story mode of this game, but I love rhythm games, and, when you get down to it, the rhythm game part of this rhythm game is actually pretty good. And I like the music! Just have to ignore the part of the game that obviously involved the most production time…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Legend of Zelda! Actually, ROB chose that Zelda compilation for the Gamecube, but I’m not reviewing four Zelda games at once, so we’re sticking to the original. 102 entry has the bomb. Please look forward to it!

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