Persona 4: Dancing All Night

for Playstation Vita

Patterning

The songs are more enjoyable when there is a regular pattern you can repeat. Ideally, the pattern structure would match the structure of the music as closely as possible, with small variations sync'd to the music.

Some of the songs do this quite well, but others seem a bit too scattered for their own good. Maybe this was done to get the difficulty up, or maybe some were sequenced before others and the team doing the sequencing was more experienced by the time they did the later tracks.

It is more enjoyable to master a very difficult pattern, which is then repeated many times, than to memorize a less difficult one that lacks repetition.

Rhythm Input

My first impression was that the game would benefit from some input quantization in time, so that if you were a small amount off the beat it would correct it. I would revise that though and say that the immediate feedback is a more satisfying choice (it's very possible there is some quantization going on, but it's subtle.)

Another choice would have been to have heavier quantization on the "easy" level tracks, but I think this would ultimately work against itself since it would provide an unpleasant and unexpected sensation when you move on to more difficult levels.

I find using the touch screen as input, and the thumb sticks as "scratch" is vastly more satisfying than using buttons as input, because it lets you play the vita as a small drum. I wish the thumb scratching had been procedural somehow, so that the specifics of how the control sticks were moved affected the scratching itself.

It can be difficult at first to play with the touch screen, in particular you need to hit the screen with a certain amount of energy. I feel like this was the original intent but it may have proved too difficult or frustrating for players in testing, so button controls were added. I noticed on the day 1 patch an option to scratch with the shoulder buttons was added.

Worth noticing is that the "hit" sound effect is slightly different in sound when you hit "PERFECT"

Patterning II

I wish somehow that the patterns would also adhere to musical elements in some way. Using the touch screen, each song could have it's musical elements mapped to a unique region, perhaps even of varying size. So for instance, a large circle at the bottom left could be used for on-beat kick drums in a particular track, whereas smaller buttons up top could be used for hi hats. Not every note (of course!) would be sequenced this way, but patterns could be built up by looking at the most important or noticable sounds and mapping them. This has the added benefit that the process of creating the patterns would then consist of 1- create a list of the most important sounds for each track, 2- develop a layout for these sounds, and 3- sequence them in the varying difficulty levels, testing and adjusting. This approach seems to me like it could be incredibly satisfying. If the layout was still essentially circular it would still work with the (successful) model of notes coming out from the center, though differently-sized and assymetrical trigger layout woud require something a bit different for sync'd notes.

Spatiality

The dungeon (Midnight Stage) segments do not work that well in story mode. Persona 4 had automatically-generated dungeons which were explored level-by-level but nonlinearily; this idea is interpolated here using static backgrounds meant to evoke a similar mazelike atmosphere. The problem is that this creates the impression of the entire midnight stage as being just a few rooms abstractly placed together. This is compounded because it leaves little for storytelling to bounce off of. As a result the story segments that take place in the dungeon feel less interesting.

The real world doesn't suffer from this, and can create a much better sense of space by moving the story from location to location in (what seems to be) a large nonlinear space.

Even though both segments in actuality are 100% linear, the real world segments are imagined as being nonlinear, and are much more interesting for it.

I feel the designers must have noticed this and felt the same way when they finally looked at it, but it seems like something hard to correct for once so much of the game has been produced. It might explain why the last (and most interesting) chapter of the game takes place mostly in the real world.

Spatiality II

I do wish there had been actual navigatable areas as in Persona 4 but this is obviously a scope issue.

Still I love the idea of a similarly-themed rhythm game but with navigatable areas. I can imagine dungeon sequences where the dungeon itself has a repeating track, and enemy-encounters are spontaneous and scored somehow on consecutive hits. So for instance encountering an enemy would not start a song, but merely pop up the rhythm pads to the existing background music.

The sequencing would be the same for each dungeon level (so the player would improve as the dungeon level progressed) but possibly would increase in the note density andor turnsdamage could be based on consecutive notes hit, with different enemies to dance against having different strengths.

Extras

The "free dance" mode is satisfying and the way it interacts with "shopping" (as far as costumesaccesories go) is compelling. Once you add in the option to select a dance partner for each track, it plays off the strengths of the motion captureetc. as seeing the characters dance in other costumes is a lot of fun. Costumes were a great part of Persona 4 but here it's even more enjoyable as you see them up close.

I haven't tried the game-altering accessories and somehow don't really want to; I just want to master the songs. I feel like these accessories could be appreciated a lot by other players, though.

Story

The story is well-conceived. I'm really glad that the new main character "Kanami" was so well thought-out, and that they didn't just stick to focusing the plot on the original cast. Her friendship with Nanako is really the highlight of the entire story, to me.

Ms. Ochimizu is another great new character as is Kanami's manager, who was extremely well written.

Because there is no way to render the characters interacting with each other, there are "action texts" which describe what's happening at different moments. These are not very effective, unfortunately. They also give insight into the main character's thought process at times. This can feel like over-explaining. I imagine these were written because the designers would have otherwise used character animation to show what's happening (e.g., if the player needs to understand that the group is running over to see if someone is OK.) However I can't help but wonder what the story mode would feel like if they were just ommitted completely.

The branching story timeline and chapter select menu work very well, too.

Personal Status

As of the time of this writing I've only finished two tracks on "hard". I wonder if it will be possible to finish all the tracks on hard without resorting to button control input.

I have finished the story mode.

I have mostly finished Persona 4 (P4G on vita) so there were no spoilers or new characters. But I'm looking forward even more to going back and completing P4G, which I played most of the way through two years ago. Even though I haven't finished P4G completely, Dancing All Night felt like a really excellent follow-up, and an ideal way to do a sequel without diminishing the original game in my imagination.

My favorite track right now is Heartbeat, Heartbreak, the Towa Tei remix.

I pre-ordered and paid $60, which is unusual for me but I don't regret it.

I am looking forward to Margaret, and hope that Dojima and Ms. Ochimizu are available as dancers. I wonder if they are unlockable or will be available as DLC. I will probably buy whatever DLC comes available.

Persona 4 is certainly one of my absolute favorite games, and the only Persona (or SMT) game I have yet played.

I plan to finish Persona 4 and then after a break play Persona 3 (P3P) on Vita.

1:25 AM October 17, 2015


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