Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight/Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Sony PS Vita
I sometimes watch people play rhythm games and think, “What are these godlike reflexes?"
I’m not normally a fan of rhythm games per se, but when I was told some of my favourite characters from a well-known JRPG were going to be dancing the night away, my interest piqued. Fast-forward seven hours, and there I am, trying to convince myself to go to sleep at 2am, but instead, attempting to nail Life Will Change on the hardest difficulty. It’s safe to say, I am hooked.
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight and Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, come to the PS4 and Vita in a bid to continue the story of the rogues we’ve come to know and love. Fans of Persona 4 got similar fan service with Dancing All Night, and it would have been remiss of Sega not to do the same with P3 and P5.
The main character from each game awakens in the familiar Velvet Room surrounded by their friends, and are introduced to the concept of the game, by their respective Velvet Room keepers - the enigmatic Elizabeth from P3, and the Twin Wardens from P5. You are all dreaming, but in this dream, you are expert dancers and must perform. It sounds silly, but it is a fun way of explaining why the characters are there in the first place. Let's be honest, you all came for the dancing anyway.
The crux of the game involves you timing button prompts as they travel from the centre of the screen to the outer circle. The more accurate your press, the better a rating you will get. It’s immediately intuitive with the buttons presses required being mapped to the relevant positioning on the pad. Notes come in the flavour of singular inputs, double notes, held notes, and double taps once things start to speed up. During all this, additional circles will fly out from the centre called ‘scratches’ and are activated by flicking on the right stick, giving you additional points, but not punishing you if you miss them. That may sound confusing, but thankfully there's a really soft tutorial to get you into the rhythm of things, narrated by each game’s respective fuzzy companion.
Each game is a stunning recreation of their JRPG counterparts. Each menu is lovingly designed with fans of the series in mind. Even better for those that played P3, they now get to see their favourite characters, remade in the same 3D visuals of those from P5, and they look fantastic. After spending so many hours in these worlds, it’s nice that we are able to dive back in for a little more. While not having the same story mode that Dancing All Night had, both games instead have Social Links which can be increased through playing the game. After you hit a certain threshold, a social link will be available, unlocking some interactive dialogue between the hero and friends. It brings back the fun quirky nature of the conversations from the JRPGs and serves as a nice break between the frantic button pressing action. Upon completing a social link, you unlock some extras to use in game.
Part of the fun here is dressing up your characters in various hip outfits and watching them do their well choreographed dance moves. As well as costumes, you can change smaller details like hair and eye colour, as well as adding small accessories like additional earphones or even a small red nose to name a few. Even better, it doesn’t gate some of the collectables behind the harder difficulties either, which is good for someone like me, whose skill cap isn’t fantastic. The requirements to complete some of these social links are also very fair, with, for instance Ryuji, requiring you to hit a total number of notes over-all, to Makoto who requires you to get a 'Brilliant' rating on songs, which is just above the average rating.
Now, let’s talk about those songs. Man those songs are great. P5 has one of the best gaming soundtracks in history, so the opportunity to groove along to them once again is an absolute pleasure. Across both titles, there are just shy of fifty tracks to bust a move to, including originals and remixes of some of the classics. One track in particular however, sticks out as an odd choice to include and that’s Hoshi To Bokura To which is the ending theme for Persona 5. It feels a little out of place given the slow nature of the track, and the fact that there is no dancing at all is a bit of a shame. It’s literally just the end credits, which is odd. It’s a minor point considering the rest of the set list is superb, with remixes of Rivers In The Desert and Blooming Villain delivering a head bopping experience as you try for those perfect runs.
Another thing you can unlock is the ability to apply modifiers to the songs. These will either increase or decrease your points, depending on what they do. For example, during songs, you can only string together note combos by hitting them with a perfect or great rating. Anything below will break the combo and you will have to start again. By sacrificing 15% of your points, the track can be modified so ‘good’ ratings also apply to combos. The same works the other way. You can increase your point gain by applying a challenge. For instance, normally the scratches can be ignored. Add a challenge on and the scratches will no longer be missable but as a result, you will be able to score 4% more points.
Other modes included are a ‘Perfect Run’ mode which basically shows your desired track run on auto play, with a wizard behind the scenes hitting every note perfectly. Not sure this mode is needed but it’s a nice little addition nonetheless, especially if you just want to watch the hype dancing. There is also a ‘Choreography Mode’ where you can literally just watch the characters dance. The odd thing here is that the character is on a very generic looking background. You can zoom in and out of the action but with nothing else going on - this seems a little pointless - well, unless you fancy learning some dance moves of course.
The two games can be bought separately or are packaged together with a digital copy of P4 Dancing All Night, and is well worth taking a punt if you are a fan of the series. For players not familiar with Persona, this might not have as much appeal, as a lot of the references will be lost. This is mostly for people who have played their respective JRPG counterparts and had time to get to know everyone.