Well, damn! I was not expecting to enjoy this game as much as I did. If you’re a fan of the Persona 4 characters and their story, just go out and buy it and jump feet first into the story mode. Rise Kujikawa has a new voice actress, and it has spurred a lot of stupid discussions in online forums. Basically, Laura Bailey (who played an awesome Rise and does great voicework for many projects) had a scheduling conflict and needed to be replaced. Is it a permanent switch? Who knows at this point? She’s an Atlus staple VA, and will be back for other roles for sure. My feeling on the issue is that Ashley Burch does a fine job of playing a more mature Rise. More than a handful of months have passed, and she’s gone back to her career as an idol. I think of it as though the summer with Yu and the gang helped her mature and refocus on her life as a pop star. I didn’t for a moment feel like she didn’t play Rise properly, but I could tell right from the start that her voice had changed.
Now that we’ve got that sorted out, the story mode is very chatty. Don’t expect to be getting out on the dance floor too much in this mode. If you are dying to play a rhythm game and love the idea of the Persona 4 cast in one, just jump straight to Free Dance mode. It starts with a song for each of the characters and you unlock some more by completing each of them. I took my Playstation TV to my local fighting game scene one Saturday and we literally played free mode for 7 hours straight. Up until that point, I had been dreading playing the story mode because I previously watched someone play the beginning of the game in Japanese while translating it for streamers. I knew it would be an excruciatingly long introduction before I got into the meat of the game, but I later found out how and why the dance “battles” are happening. To sum it up, there is someone doing something with the midnight channel once again, but this time anyone who watches it goes into a coma-like state. A few people have gone missing, but it’s not until some people close to Rise disappear that the story really kicks in. It’s at that point where the gang from Persona 4 decide to tempt fate and see if they can somehow get sucked in and investigate what’s really happening. After some strange events, they find themselves “inside” and on a stage with shadows all around, watching them when some creepy music starts playing. The gang freezes in their tracks and can’t fight, but someone figures out that if they dance, they can move and after getting their groove on, they can muster up the strength to summon their personas who all play different instruments and when they rock out, they destroy the boss that was playing the music. That’s not entirely accurate, but I don’t want to spoil more than I already have. The bottom line is that once you can get past the ridiculous premise for the cast to be dancing, the story is actually quite enjoyable. I actually set my game to auto and turned up the volume because literally every line is spoken dialog except what the main character is thinking to themselves. My only gripe is that while on auto, the game doesn’t stop when there are unspoken words. If you’re not watching the screen, as I found myself often doing, you might have to stop and look to see what they’re saying. That could just be me, but it did bother me enough to mention it here.
So you’re not really into Persona, but you love the music genre and you want to know if you should pick this up? To answer that, I have to ask if you like the handful of Persona 4 songs out there. If you like acid jazz, specifically the style of Persona 3/4, then you will find a really good rhythm game here. To briefly explain the mechanics, icons come from the center of the screen and fly toward one of six directions; upper right, right, lower right, upper left, left, and lower left. Each one of these have a button icon on them. On the right side, they are triangle, circle, and cross while on the left, d-pad up, d-pad left, and d-pad down (You can also use the touch screen, but I’d advise against it). In addition to these notes, there are blue rings that get larger. You can score those by flicking either analog stick. These are bonus notes that build up a fever meter. There are also fever rings that are multi-colored. For every three of those that you get, you will activate fever mode. While in fever, you don’t fail as easy from missing notes and you get more points for the notes that you do hit. Usually, a partner will jump in and dance with you in fever mode as well. It’s a neat mechanic that really is more enjoyable for the other people in the room watching you play as you’ll be busy focusing on the notes. I said that the blue rings aren’t necessary for completing a song, but they are integral to getting high scores and completing the harder modes. Their main function on easy and normal difficulties is to distract you, but if you just ignore them, they won’t be much of a distraction. I recommend just getting used to them and pushing on to hard mode faster. It gets really fun on hard. Oddly enough, the hardest mode, All Night, doesn’t feel much different from hard. Both modes are merciless on the player for missing a note.
I really enjoyed playing this game and I look forward to the Miku DLC song. I am a bit disappointed that you cannot select a character and use them on whatever song you want. Instead, the songs are character specific. Some people don’t want to hear Nanako talking about Junes and her “Big Bro” constantly. Others just want to watch Rise jiggle her bits in her slutty idol gear. P4D is a fantastic game that I didn’t expect to be on the level of other rhythm games, but it’s solid and challenging. There is a slight lack of songs, and I feel that the DLC content is a bit expensive for what you get, but they are great additions if you enjoy the music of the Persona series.