TL; DR(eview) - Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a fun, if inconsistent, rhythm game featuring great remixes of the Persona 4 soundtracks but the story drags and doesn't reach the depth of Persona 4 Golden.
On my way to PAX East last week I decided to finally sit down with Persona 4: Dancing All Night. As a huge fan of the characters and story of Persona 4 Golden, I was interested to see one last story featuring the Inaba crew.
Diving into Story Mode first, I quickly became a bit bored by how front-loaded the game was with text-driven story. Much like Persona 4 Golden, it took quite a while before the actual gameplay began to unfold. So eventually, I just hopped out of the story in order play through a bunch of songs in the game's Free Play mode.
The rhythm aspect of the game has you controller one of the various characters as they dance through great renditions of the Persona 4 soundtrack. The button prompts consist of simple taps in time with the music on one of six buttons (Up, Left, and Down on the left D-pad or Triangle, Circle, and Cross on the right side). Occasionally, the game will invoke slightly more complicated triggers where you might have to hold and release buttons in time or hit two mirrored buttons in sync (Up and Triangle, Left and Circle, or Down and Cross). Lastly, occasional rings will appear that signify a record scratch that can be triggered by moving either of the dual analog sticks.
Depending on your timing, you're moves will be ranked Perfect, Great, Good, or Miss as you build up your combo and score. Unfortunately, this was one of the games weaknesses as there was vast inconsistencies where sometimes a Good wouldn't affect anything, but other times it would break my combo, ruining what might have otherwise been a "Full Combo" run of a song. Additionally, I often found there to be so much going on during the dancing scenes that the button prompts were occasionally lost amongst all of the noise onscreen. Neither of these broke the game in any way but they did detract from what otherwise might have been great sessions.
The reward for playing through songs, in both Story Mode and Free Play, was money that could then be spent on Extra Costumes, Accessories, and Bonus Items. The first two were purely cosmetic in nature but the Bonus Items could alter the gameplay by adding extra effects to a song in exchange for more or less points and cash. For example, if you turn on the item that causes the button prompts to disappear, you'll be rewarded with a positive multiplier that will net you a higher score and extra cash at the end of the song. Or if you turn on the item that allows any button to count towards a prompt instead of the correct one, the multiplier is lower and you'll walk away with less cash. This can lead to a great risk versus reward system if you're interested in exploring it and the items are stackable.
Eventually after playing through nearly every song in Free Play, I returned to play through the Story Mode. Sadly, I was still let down here. While it was great getting to spend time with these characters again, I found the story to be a little too tedious and was continuously just skipping ahead to get to the next song.
The Inaba team gets caught up helping Rise with a comeback concert of sorts and have all agreed to help her by serving as background dancers. They're quickly introduced to a group of other Idols within her label that may or may not be the competition. Soon after, those Idols are pulled into this game's version of the Shadow World. But unlike Persona 4 Golden's TV world, in this game acts of aggression are forbidden in the Shadow World so the team must fend off the Shadows by dancing to reveal their true feelings and save the other Idols.
As a fan of Persona 4 Golden there were some great true-to-character moments and I appreciated the dynamics that arose when the Inaba crew split up and had to identify who could lead the non-Senpai team. The game also does a great job of giving each character a focus on different song genres, be it Naoto tackling the games jazzier songs, Kanji attacking the harder rock tunes, or Teddie, in his Elvis-like bear costume, strutting through the games more "lounge singer" numbers.
All in all, I had a great time revisiting these characters and the actual gameplay of tapping the buttons in rhythm was great fun. But a lackluster Story Mode never really got me invested in the plot or the new characters introduced and some inconsistencies in the scoring marred an otherwise great experience.