We've waited a while for this. Okay, so since its original PlayStation 2 release back in 2009 (for Europe) we've received a re-release (P4 Golden on Vita), 2 fighting games and the Persona 3/Persona 4 dungeon crawler crossover Persona Q, but this one, Persona 4: Dancing All Night, has always felt like its a little further away from release than we'd like. Well, not any more as its out now, but does it live up to that wait?
Well, um, kinda. Persona 4 fans will get a kick out of seeing their favourite characters again, but unfortunately it still feels like a bit of a let down and this is down to a handful of reasons. But first we'll start off with how the game plays. If you didn't already know, Dancing All Night has removed almost all signs of its JRPG roots, instead the focus here is placed squarely on Shoji Meguro's excellent soundtrack, its probably the praise the soundtrack received that led to the games development and after nigh on 90 hours with Persona 4 Golden I can hardly blame them. The jist here is that another shadow realm has opened up, and something within is once again playing upon peoples insecurities, however fighting doesn't doesn't do any harm in this realm, dubbed the Midnight Stage by the cast, instead we take a jump into Rise's world and the cast have to dance their way to uncover the mystery put before the reformed Investigation Team.
This is all played out in a similar manner to the Story mode that accompanied both Arena games, and it can feel a little text heavy, with characters often repeating what's been happening a number of times before the action moves on and you're thrown into the actual gameplay. Said gameplay revolves hitting the directional and face buttons in time with the music, matching the required input at exactly the right time to get a variety of ratings dependent upon accuracy. There are also icons that require you to flick one of the Vita's analogue sticks, these aren't essential but do increase your combo and allow you to launch Fever mode, which all adds up to increasing your score at the end of the round. None of the tracks are particularly difficult on the games Normal difficulty setting, even for someone with very little rhythm such as myself, although they cam get punishingly difficult when played in the games solo mode when you increase that difficulty.
Unfortunately, the game doesn't really do Meguro's excellent soundtrack justice, a lot of them are remixes of the tracks you know and love from Persona 4 but they just don't really seem to translate well to this kind of game. The lack of visual input does little to help matters either, the performances of Yosuke, Teddy, Rise and co aren't affected by how well you're doing, so aside from a small UI element at the top of the screen, theres very little to indicate when your performance is going down the toilet other than seeing the “Miss” text pop up whenever you miss an input.
It's nice and all seeing the gang back together, as a fan of the series that was enough for me to get something from the game, its one of those casts of characters that are just enjoyable to spend time with, and the writing for their relationships is almost as good as it ever was (although the overall level of writing, much like with the Arena games, isn't at as high a standard as it has been with the RPG releases, in fact Teddy, once again, suffers most here), its just unfortunate that Persona 4: Dancing All Night feels exactly like the fan service product that I hoped it wouldn't be.