- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 18 November 2015
- Written by JOHN MORANO | STAFF WRITER
Let me start off with a little disclaimer: I have a bias for video games from the Persona series. I first encountered the Shin Megami Tensei series (and its Persona spin-off) in my senior year of high school. Since that time, I’ve paid close attention to both series, with Persona specifically becoming my favorite videogame series. As a little background, Shin Megami Tensei is a series centered on the occult and the ending of the world. Players fight to control the fate of these worlds (for better or for worse) by taming and controlling various creatures from folklore, religions and mythologies ranging from a Unicorn to Thor to Jack Frost. In some ways, it’s like a more adult version of Pokémon (much, much more adult). Shin Megami Tensei titles normally feature deep and mature plot points with branching storylines. Characters live and die depending on the choices you make, and in some cases, your decisions will literally have world-ending consequences. Actually, in some games, you may even choose to end a world deliberately. If you like moral conundrums, the occult and playing god, this series may be for you.
Now we get to the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series, a spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei series, which has surpassed its parent series in popularity. For the purpose of this story, I will only be referring to titles from Persona 3 forward (the preceding titles were much more similar to other Shin Megami Tensei titles). Persona is the Latin word for mask, and a psychological term created by Carl Jung for a sort of social mask that people wear. Think of how your personality changes in different circumstances/company and how you might behave around friends as opposed to family—those different sides of your personality are called personas. Persona games are heavily influenced by Jungian psychology, and in more than one game, you actually sit through lectures on the subject.
Now, with that background out of the way, we make it to Persona 4: Dancing All Night, the latest spin-off in the Persona series (which, so as to be perfectly clear, is itself a spinoff of the earlier mentioned Shin Megami Tensei series). Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a rhythm game, so the turn-based combat gameplay mechanic of core titles has been replaced by rhythm-style game play. This means that music plays in the background and the player performs various actions in time with the music. In the case of Persona 4: Dancing All Night, these actions are button presses and screen touches prompted by on-screen instructions. Several years back, this genre of games was very popular and titles like Dance Dance Revolution and Rock Band were best-sellers, although now they are somewhat more niche. Like the other spin-off titles, Persona 4: Dancing All Night has a story mode. This is a visual novel, with the story being told through voiced text, shown with character drawing displayed over backgrounds, and occasionally a rare cutscene.
If I had to sum up Persona 4: Dancing All Night in a word, it would be cheap (and I’m not referring to its $50 price tag, which is above average for a vita game). Other words to consider are disappointing, unrefined, and distasteful.
I’m not going to spend much time discussing the plot, as it simply doesn’t merit it. Long story short, you’re playing as the cast of Persona 4 and working to save a group of female teen-idols from shadows. Combat is removed from the game, and instead you need to “express yourself to the shadows through music.” The game is shameless fan service, and the premise is more or less saving a group flirty, scantily clad celebrities by dancing. The theme of these celebrities is edible meats (one is compared to a cow, another to a pig). If you do decide to pick up this game (which I strongly would not recommend), don’t do it for the plot. At this point, if I call Persona 4: Dancing All Night’s plot a joke, I’m being generous (many would call it an offensive joke).
As for the story’s length, it’s simply too long. I’ve heard people say everything from 10-40 hours, and it likely depends on how quickly you read and how good you are at rhythm games. There are also other modes to explore, but given my own experience, I can’t imagine these modes will have any takers. All I know is that it already feels like I’ve been playing this thing forever (around 15 hours probably) and I am deeply averse to playing it further. I’m personally at the point where I would rather eat my game cartridge than finish playing it (it’s probably easier to digest than the plot it feeds you).
As I said earlier, I’m biased towards Persona games. If Persona 4: Dancing All Night was a 7/10 game, I’d give it an 8/10 (as I did for Persona 4: Arena Ultimax). However, I have difficulty seeing this game as a Persona game (going forward, I’m going to try to forget that it exists). Persona 4: Dancing All Night is an empty shell, a low quality rhythm game that’s had some Persona music and graphics put over it to make it sell. I feel like there’s nothing here for me to show favoritism to, and that this is a 5/10 game. I felt that I had to check review scores prior to writing down my own score, as I’ve never given a score this low before. Despite Persona 4: Dancing All Night having above average cumulative scores at metacritic, several major outlets were quite critical of it, so I feel comfortable with this score. Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a shadow of the series that spawned it (make that a Jungian shadow for all you psychology majors out there).
image taken from gematsu.com