When Persona 4 Dancing All Night was announced, I knew I was going to buy it. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad, it was a spin-off based on one of my all-time favorite franchises. I own every Shin Megami Tensei and Persona title, and I wasn’t about to let that change. Luckily for me, Persona 4 Dancing All Night was a really fun game, and built the Persona stories I love around a rhythm game that featured a lot of my favorite characters. The Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight were honestly pretty surprise announcements for me, but ones I am very grateful for. For the rest of this review, I’ll be referring to them as the “new Persona” dancing games, because they are a mouthful to type out.
While both new games in the series can be played individually, they honestly work better as a pair. At one point in the story for Persona 3 Dancing, it sort of clicked how the two connected, and another point in Persona 5 Dancing all three titles in the franchise connected. It was a smart move to connect the titles even with all the gameplay changes. In some ways, they seem like a step forward for the series, but in other ways a step back.
Persona 4 Dancing All Night for example features a fully fleshed out story. The narrative in that game felt very Persona, while these two Persona Dancing titles dial that back. Here, in both titles, the respective Velvet Room attendants have transported the protagonists from each title to the Velvet Room to participate in a ball. Each of these Persona Dancing titles are based around these Velvet Room attendants trying to one-up the other. As sisters, shouldn’t they? That’s what sibling rivalry is all about.
That being said, it really feels like a step back in the world of Persona. The stories on display are generally more in depth, and even Persona 4 Dancing had the group defeating shadows through their dancing. There’s none of that here. They’re dancing just to dance. More narrative in both titles would have been nice, even though the focus is on the rhythm gameplay. Where both Persona Dancing titles feel like step back in narrative design, they do feel like a step forward in traditional Persona social link development.
As players complete various objectives, like reaching “x” total combos, or having characters wear different costumes, various characters see an increase in their social link level. Every time a social link increases, it gives an insight into what each character is doing in between dancing. Usually this involves them training, but other times they interact with other characters. After social link 6 (out of 10 for each character), players will be able to explore their rooms and find hidden cards that unlock new accessories to customize characters during dances. The social link challenges cover a pretty wide gamut of customization in these Persona Dancing titles, and will require players to play through a lot of the songs a few times, or equip a bunch of modifiers to switch up gameplay.
The accessories and costumes range from mild to outrageous. They can be small things like a pair of glasses or headphones, or large changes like bikinis. It’s funny too, because if you make one of them wear a swimsuit onto the stage they will act outraged about having to wear that while dancing. It’s a small detail that doesn’t amount to anything, but it’s a nice nod from developers to how ridiculous it is.
Gameplay is pretty standard, and identical to Persona 4 Dancing. Notes will rotate outwards around the screen to dictate the inputs players need to press. The modifiers are where things get interesting. For the most part, none of the requires are necessary. A few trophies require them, and some of the social links require them as well, but unless players are going for the platinum trophy or trying to complete social links, they can basically be avoided. There are support modifiers that assist, or challenge modifiers to make things more difficult. These can range from a support modifier that won’t break a combo with a “good” rating on input, to a challenge modifier where notes fade in or out, making things significantly more difficult.
While support modifiers decrease end result score, challenge modifiers increase that score. I personally found the challenge modifiers more interesting, because even on normal mode almost every song is ridiculously easy. Things ramp up a bit on hard mode, but nothing was unbeatable even my first time through. An unlockable final difficulty mode was more difficult than both normal and hard mode combined, and after completing a song or two, I avoided it.
The track list on both titles is pretty decent, with a large number of songs on both Persona Dancing game to cover. Like I mentioned before, get used to playing these songs, because most songs will end up getting played a few times. I expected to like the Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight tracklist more, because I loved the soundtrack for Persona 5. However, the jazz style of that soundtrack made the rhythm portion of gameplay more difficult, and the Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight soundtrack worked better for gameplay.
Anyone who has played Persona 5 knows what to expect from a visual standpoint. All the characters are well animated and colorful, and the environments are taken straight out of their respective games. More than anything, it just makes me want a full remake of Persona 3 because of how well the redesign on those characters were.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night was the spin-off nobody asked for, but surprised most. Persona 3: Dancing in Starlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight were the sequels we weren’t expecting, but are a great follow-up to the initial outing. Enhancing the social aspects Persona is known for is a smart move, as it lets players build relationships with other characters, but dialing back the story makes these sequels feel like a step back from a narrative design point. The core gameplay hasn’t changed here, and anyone who enjoyed the Persona 4 Dancing gameplay will have a lot to love here.
Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight launch December 4th for Playstation 4 and PS Vita. This review is based on a PS4 copy of the game provided by the publisher. Pre Orders are still available here.