A review of Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Shut up and dance

I didn’t really plan on buying or reviewing Persona 4: Dancing All Night.  “A rhythm game?” I said to myself, dismissively, when I heard about this game.  “I shall not stoop to buy such an obvious cash-in.  I loved Persona 4 and Persona 4 Golden, and Atlus knows that and they’re just trying to get into my wallet.  But I have more integrity than they think.  Just fucking release Persona 5 already, please.”

p4dancing

Then I saw a friend playing the game on his own Vita and decided I wanted it.  Because really, Dancing All Night isn’t just a toss-off – it’s really a good rhythm game.  It even tries to have a plot, and the plot almost isn’t totally stupid!  Almost.

Protagonist (now officially named Yu Narukami, though I can’t get used to it because I never called him that in my P4 playthroughs) and his Investigation Team friends are roped into joining their fellow Investigator and former pop idol Rise Kujikawa for her big comeback as her backup dancers.*  She’s re-debuting at a big concert alongside Kanamin Kitchen, a newly popular girl group with a bizarre and slightly creepy animal/meat theme.

Is it a commentary on how pop idols are treated like meat by their fans, as mere eye candy? Is Persona 4 Dancing All Night really a deep and philosophical game?

Is it a commentary on how pop idols are treated like meat by their fans, as mere eye candy? Is Persona 4: Dancing All Night really a deep and philosophical game?

As you could guess from the instant you meet them, every member of Kanamin Kitchen gets dragged into a shadow-filled world and the Investigation Team has to save them.  Protagonist’s uncle Dojima, a grizzled detective, is also on the case, and he discovers that a bunch of fans of the group are going into comas after watching a creepy video on the internet, and these people are naturally being dragged into the shadow world too.  (As a nice reference for players of Persona 3, this condition is referred to as Apathy Syndrome.  Though we already got a P3 cameo in Persona 4 Golden and a P4 cameo in Persona 3 Portable, so this isn’t really a big deal.)

The big twist about this shadow world is that, until the TV world of P4, the characters can’t fight or summon their personas through the usual methods.  Instead – no joke – they have to dance to defeat the shadows and save each pop star.  Somehow, dancing well makes the shadows happy, then they dissipate into the air and blow away.  Or something.  The game tried to explain this, but it still doesn’t make any sense.

Even in Persona dancing games you have to battle supernatural monsters that are expressions of your dark inner self

Even in Persona dancing games you have to enter an evil shadow world to battle supernatural monsters that are expressions of your dark inner self

So the story really isn’t much of anything.  Story Mode is pretty short and is just kind of there as a placeholder – as far as visual novels go it’s about as light as you can get.  But the point of this game isn’t its deep and engaging plot.  The point is getting to see your favorite P4 characters bust moves to the great Persona music that you’ve come to both love and completely get sick of after hearing it five thousand times in battle and while running around town.  Every member of the Investigation Team takes the stage at some point, and all of them can be played in Free Mode.  A new character is also thrown into the mix, and as a special treat for fans Nanako is also a playable character.  Though the whole subplot involving Nanako, a little girl, performing pop idol songs on stage in front of millions of fans is kind of weird in itself.

All that aside, the gameplay is a lot of fun.  The game makes use of three of the four button on each side of the Vita (only the -> and ◻ go unused) and players can also tap the screen to use the scratch function.  Most of the songs also allow the main dancer to pick a partner to jump in at some point if the player’s hitting the notes well enough.  Mercifully, the game offers easy, normal and hard mode versions of each song, so even if you’re total crap at rhythm games you should be able to get through it.  And the music itself is obviously great.  My favorite battle theme “Time to Make History” is thankfully in there, and there are plenty of other plain unadorned tracks from P4 together with remixes, most of which are good (though I could easily leave a few of them.)

The developers obviously put a lot of attention into the details.  Each character’s dance style really matches their character (ex: Chie does a lot of kicks/kung fu stuff, Kanji headbangs) and the other characters cheer their friends on while they dance.  (My favorite: Nanako commenting on Protagonist and Yosuke’s “bromance” when they’re paired up.)  Atlus also thoughtfully included a lot of unlockable costumes and DLC for each character, some of which are extremely fanservicey.  So if you enjoy hearing Chie complain about you making her wear a bikini while she dances, this is the game for you.  You know, if you’re into that kind of thing.

But did you expect any less?

But did you expect any less?

All in all, I have to say I’m pretty happy that I got this game.  It’s a fun diversion from my bullshit law student life. I also really like the fact that both this somewhat fluffy, fanservicey rhythm game sits in the same Shin Megami Tensei franchise as the hardcore dark Lucifer-worshipping face-breakingly-difficult Nocturne.  Though Nanako dancing to the Junes theme is pretty fucking hardcore too.

* For those who didn’t play P4, the story behind this is that Rise retired from show business to settle down back in her hometown at the ripe old age of 15, where she gets tangled up in the events of the game. Apparently Japan retires pop stars before they even reach their majority.

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Study solutions part 2: instant coffee

If you’re a dedicated reader who’s wondering why I’ve been away for five weeks, it’s because my life has been fucked with school and will continue to be fucked with work until I finally go to the grave after a lifetime working 70 hours a week for people I will hate.  It’s definitely better than starving under a bridge, but sometimes I wish I hadn’t been born into a family that demands so much of itself.

That said, I’ve also been playing Fate/Extra a bit.  It’s fun but it also has problems.  I can’t recommend it to players who aren’t already fans of the Fate series.  Maybe I’ll post a more in-depth review at some point.

Fuck you, Shinji.

Fuck you, Shinji.

Since I’m back at school, I’ve been looking for more caffeine-enhancement options.  And I’ve found that, although it definitely isn’t the best coffee you can find, instant is one of the cheapest and most convenient forms of caffeine intake available.  It’s especially good for students who don’t have any time or money to spare.  So if you’re not willing to illegally buy Adderall or Modafinil without a prescription, consider these study aids:

Untitled

1) Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Colombia Medium

I know I said “cheap” a few sentences ago, but Starbucks instant coffee, as you could perhaps guess, is not cheap.  I got a package of eight instant coffee packs from Kroger for seven dollars, which is a great deal if you usually buy coffee at an actual Starbucks but which isn’t so great if you usually make it at home.

VIA is pretty decent.  It doesn’t have so much of that weird aftertaste that instant coffee is known for, and I would even say it’s better than Starbucks’ regular “Pike Place” brew (which I don’t like, so this isn’t a high compliment.)  And at Starbucks’ quote of 130-140 mg of caffeine per pack, one of these will get your ass moving – depending on your tolerance, anyway.

That said, I won’t be buying VIA again because it’s too expensive.

2) Cafe Bustelo Espresso Instant Coffee

This is what I’ll be buying instead.  Cafe Bustelo is stocked at the supermarket (at my local Kroger, anyway) in boxes of six for one dollar each.  I can’t find the caffeine info anywhere, but it carries a kick, and it’s at least as strong as the Starbucks blend and probably stronger.

It’s also pretty good at far as instant coffee goes.  Cafe Bustelo is a well-respected brand that specializes in Cuban-style coffee.  While these packs of instant coffee aren’t going to taste the same as a freshly brewed cup at a Miami or Havana cafe, they are definitely better than the shitty Folgers/Nescafe powder you’ll find occupying the kitchen cabinets in most parts of the world.  At less than twenty cents a pack, I’m basically losing money not buying these things.  If you’re looking for a quick, cheap, and not-horrible-tasting coffee solution, I’d highly recommend Cafe Bustelo Instant.  They’re not even paying for this endorsement, I promise.  I wish they were, but they aren’t.

3) Trader Joe’s Instant Coffee Packet

I go to Trader Joe’s at least twice a month.  They have a great selection of stuff that you can’t get at most other places, like decent hummus and pita bread and good frozen food packages.  Unlike Whole Foods, a lot of their products are also affordable.  So when I saw this weird instant coffee packet on the shelves, I had to try it.

I say weird because the packet itself is a lot bigger than you’d expect.  The reason for this is that Trader Joe has put powdered milk and sugar into the packet along with the instant coffee powder.  This is something I wasn’t thrilled about, because I like to drink coffee black or occasionally with some cream – but never with sugar.  For that reason, Trader Joe’s instant coffee pack was my least favorite among the three I tried.  However, they are cheap (two dollars for a box of ten) and if you can’t stand coffee without milk and sugar, this might be the instant coffee pack for you.

Good luck with your studies/work.  As for me, I’m going to continue to be not dead and to post here as often as I can.  That’s the plan, at least.  Law school might just kill me at some point.