We’ve seen four games so far carrying on the Persona 4 legacy. Five, if you want to argue Persona 4 Golden’s expansion is so formidable and story-altering that it should perhaps even be counted as separate from the original game. Yet with Persona 4: Dancing All Night, we get a game that parallels the encounters of the original adventure, despite being a rather unconventional, rhythm-centered spin-off.
The story acts as a perfect compliment to the original Persona 4 storyline and proves that the themes present in the first game aren’t limited to one installment. Acceptance of one another and ourselves, forging bonds with other people, and growing as an individual is vital to our success both in real life and in the games. With the original Persona 4, the Inaba Investigation Team is all young. Even after accepting their shadows, they still have moments in their side-stories with Yu that show they’re coming to grips with their identities.
In Persona 4: Dancing All Night, the students have become the masters. Each character feel as though they are becoming more sure of themselves and set on the path to possible futures in the Persona 4 Arena installments. Characters like Chie, Yosuke, and Naoto seem to be settling on futures for themselves. With this final entry, we get to see Rise coming back into her own as an idol, and perhaps even a potential future for Nanako as well.
But even more important is, we see these characters we’ve grown with in Persona 4 and Persona 4 Arena really step up and assist others. The Investigation Team is learning as they go along in the first game, and it shows. With the fighting games, the Persona 3 cast appearing offer a vision of what characters like Yu, Naoto, and Chie could become. The Inaba characters are capable in Persona 4 Arena, but the Persona 3 agents are more prepared. With Persona 4: Dancing All Night, we see characters like Yu, Rise, Yosuke, Naoto, and even Kanji creating strategies. They divide and conquer, according to capabilities. When faced with characters having issues accepting their true selves, their conversations with the victims are more insightful than their first few rescue attempts in Persona 4.
It helps too that Persona 4: Dancing All Night really focuses on the story. As entertaining as living the daily life of Yu and dungeon crawling is in Persona 4, people are coming to this line of Shin Megami Tensei games for the tales they tell. With Persona 4 Arena, there was so much cross-over action that we didn’t get to focus on the Inaba cast. Equal time had to be devoted to the Persona 3 cast as well, especially since Labrys’ story needs to be told. It did show how well the visual novel medium worked for telling one of these tales, however, and Persona 4: Dancing All Night does a good job of telling a story that feels almost as meaty as the original game.
What people might most appreciate, however, is the humor. It’s one of the hallmarks of the Persona line. While all Shin Megami Tensei games carry a certain amount of gravitas, the age and nature of protagonists in Persona keeps people from being too bogged down. Persona 4: Dancing All Night works because the characters are high schoolers, who behave as teens would. The idea that they’d have to dance to fight enemies is okay, because we’ve seen so many corny “dance battle” movies and TV episodes to make the scenario plausible. Persona 4 excelled in unexpected laughs from the moment Yu, Yosuke, and Chie found themselves in the Shadow World and, rather than express some insightful thought about the situation, Yosuke declared he had to pee. We get that with Persona 4: Dancing All Night too, from the in-dance commentary to Nanako’s Junes dance actually being made relevant to the story.
If Atlus does decide to really, truly, 100% end the Persona 4 story this time, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a perfect place to stop. Not only does it provide a bookend to assure us that yes, everything is fine after Persona 4 and Persona 4 Arena, but it also shows character growth and progression of individuals we’ve grown to love over the past few years. We see that they’re capable of handling any situation with Shadows, even unorthodox ones and maintaining their bond of friendship. It’s a good time to say goodbye.
…Unless Atlus decides they want to add an older version of Nanako to the cast of Persona 5. We’d all be super fine with that.